Medical Cannabis in Georgia: Federal Policy Effects on State Industries

Under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Controlled Substance Act (CSA), drugs are classified into five distinct schedules depending upon their acceptable medical use and their overall potential for abuse or dependency. The DEA currently lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which the CSA defines as drugs having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It appears, however, that the DEA may soon reconsider its current Schedule I classification of cannabis.

This article considers how the DEA’s potential reclassification of cannabis potentially could affect Georgia’s medical cannabis industry. Specifically, the article discusses: (1) how Georgia medical cannabis distributors would operate within this new regulatory framework; (2) how this change would affect registered Georgia patients who are either currently purchasing medical cannabis or are planning to do so; and (3) whether this reclassification would cause big pharmaceutical companies to enter Georgia’s medical cannabis market, and if so, how.

The DEA’s Reclassification of Cannabis Would Likely Affect the Regulatory Framework of Georgia’s Medical Cannabis Industry

On April 2, 2019, Georgia became the 34th U.S. state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use when the Georgia Legislature passed House Bill 324 (“HB 324”), which recently took effect on Monday, July 1, 2019. In Georgia, medical cannabis is defined as a “low-THC oil” that contains 5% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive chemical in cannabis that causes a “high.”

Georgia State Flag

If the DEA reclassifies cannabis, the regulatory framework of Georgia’s medical cannabis industry under HB 324 would likely be affected. For instance, depending on how the DEA elects to reclassify cannabis, low-THC oil products manufactured and sold in Georgia could become subject to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) costly, complicated and time-consuming drug approval process. Then, any low THC oil products that the FDA approves will be subject to federally mandated quality, efficacy and potency standards for FDA-approved drugs. Also, any federal standards that stem from the DEA’s reclassification of cannabis will trump any conflicting provisions in HB 324 or any other conflicting rules, regulations or procedures established by the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission (GAMCC), the seven member state agency responsible for promulgating and implementing the state-based rules, regulations and procedures necessary to produce and distribute low-THC oil in Georgia, and the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy (Pharmacy Board). However, even if the DEA reclassifies cannabis, the following state regulatory framework established by HB 324 will remain unaffected:

  • The GAMCC will likely continue to oversee the state’s medical cannabis industry.
  • The following two different types of dispensary licenses issued under the legislation will still likely remain: retail outlets (issued by the GAMCC) and pharmacies (issued by the Pharmacy Board).
  • Licensed dispensaries will still likely not be located within a 1,000-foot radius of a school or church, and licensed production facilities will still not be located within a 3,000-foot radius of a school or church.
  • Pharmacists who dispense low-THC oil will still likely have to review each registered patient’s information on the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database to confirm that they have been diagnosed with one or more of the 17 approved conditions and diseases. The legislation does not require retail outlet dispensaries to review patient information on the PDMP database or employ a pharmacist to dispense the drug.
  • Registered patients will still likely be prohibited from vaping low-THC oil or inhaling it by any other electronic means. The legislation does not expressly prohibit the use of other, non-electronic delivery methods of low THC oil such as pills or nasal spray.
  • All licensed dispensaries (and all licensed production companies) will still likely be subject to an “on-demand” inspection when requested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the GAMCC, the four-member Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee (MCCOC), or local law enforcement. The GAMCC and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency (GDNA) will also still likely be able to conduct one, annual inspection of dispensary locations. And, upon request, licensed dispensaries will still likely be required to immediately provide a sample of their low-THC oil for laboratory testing to the GBI, GAMCC, MCCOC, GDNA or local law enforcement.
  • All licensed dispensaries (and all licensed production facilities) will still likely be required to utilize a GAMCC-approved seed-to-sale tracking software.
  • All licensed dispensaries (and all licensed production companies) will still likely be prohibited from advertising or marketing their low-THC oil products to registered patients or the public. However, they will still likely be allowed to provide information about their products directly to physicians, and upon request, physicians will still likely be allowed to furnish the names of licensed dispensaries (and licensed production companies) to registered patients or their caregivers.

The DEA’s Reclassification of Cannabis Would Likely Affect the Availability of Low THC Oil

To date, approximately 9,500 Georgians are registered with the state’s Low-THC Registry, which allows them to purchase low-THC oil from licensed dispensaries. Since the legislation’s passage, the number of registered patients has increased significantly and continues to steadily rise. If the DEA reclassifies marijuana, this patient number will likely increase at an even faster rate because the public will likely perceive reclassification as an acknowledgement by the federal government that marijuana possesses health and medicinal benefits. If that occurs, statewide demand for low THC oil could quickly outstrip the supply.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
Image: Georgia National Guard, Flickr

Under HB 324, the GAMCC is tasked with ensuring that the state has a sufficient number of retail outlet dispensaries across the state to meet patient demand but is limited to issuing only six production licenses. As the number of registered patients continues to grow, the GAMCC may be forced to recommend amendments to the statute allowing it to issue additional production licenses to increase the state’s supply of low THC oil, and depending on how many additional patients are added to the state’s Low-THC Registry, the GAMCC may also have to issue additional dispensary licenses to keep up with patient demand by relaxing the geographic limitations on locating dispensaries.

Thus, the DEA’s reclassification of cannabis likely would affect the amount of low THC oil available to registered patients in Georgia.

The DEA’s Reclassification of Cannabis Would Likely Cause Large Pharmaceutical Companies to Enter Georgia’s Medical Cannabis Market

Large pharmaceutical companies typically manufacture, market, sell and ship their products on a national and international scale. Given cannabis’ current status as a Schedule I drug under the CSA, these companies have largely steered clear of the burgeoning medical marijuana industry because of the inherent risk of violating federal law. If the DEA reclassifies cannabis, that risk will be diminished greatly, and the companies therefore will likely decide to enter the market by acquiring existing medical marijuana companies with established national or state-level medical cannabis brands.

If the DEA reclassifies cannabis, Georgia’s medical cannabis market will likely be affected in multiple ways.Depending on how the DEA reclassifies cannabis, low-THC oil in Georgia could be subject to stringent federal standards, including the FDA’s complex and expensive drug approval process. Georgia medical cannabis companies will likely not be accustomed to complying with such federal regulations. Large pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, are very accustomed to dealing with the federal government, including FDA drug approval. So, if the DEA reclassifies marijuana, pharmaceutical companies will likely view reclassification as a tremendous opportunity to enter the Georgia market by leveraging their experience and institutional knowledge dealing with federal law to acquire or partner with a licensed Georgia cannabis company that has an established brand of low -HC oil.

Entering Georgia’s medical cannabis market won’t be easy, however, because HB 324 prohibits licensees from transferring their licenses for five years and requires that the original licensee be a Georgia business. But, HB 324 does not prohibit them from selling their businesses, which necessarily includes any licenses the business owns. Purchasing a licensed Georgia medical cannabis company requires payment of a production license business transfer fee. The fee for the first sale of a business with a Class 1 production license is $100,000 and the fee for a Class 2 license is $12,500. The fee for the second sale is $150,000 for a Class 1 production license, and $62,500 for a Class 2 license. The fee for the third and fourth sales is $200,000 for a Class 1 production license, and $112,500 for a Class 2 license.


If the DEA reclassifies cannabis, Georgia’s medical cannabis market will likely be affected in multiple ways. Specifically, depending on how the drug is reclassified, the regulatory framework for medical cannabis companies likely will change to include both state and federal requirements, potentially including the FDA’s complex drug approval process. Also, the amount of low-THC oil available for registered patients to purchase likely will be diminished precipitating the need for the GAMCC to modify the statute to allow for issuing additional production licenses and relaxing the geographic limitations on locating dispensaries. Finally, large pharmaceutical companies likely will attempt to enter Georgia’s medical cannabis market by purchasing existing, licensed Georgia companies that have established low-THC oil brands.

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North Dakota Offers Path to Pardons for Low-Level Marijuana Convictions

With support from the state’s Republican governor, North Dakota moved on Wednesday to allow thousands of individuals to potentially wipe their slate clean of low-level marijuana convictions.

The state’s pardon advisory board unanimously approved the policy change, clearing the way for those residents to apply for a pardon for such convictions and emerge with a clear record if they avoid committing a crime for the next five years. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, both Republicans, support the move.

“By destigmatizing these minor and, in many cases, distant offenses, we can give individuals a second chance at a successful, healthy and productive life,” Burgum said in a statement on Wednesday.

Burgum, who is in his first term after winning election in 2016, added that the new policy could “address our state’s workforce shortage and grow the economy,” given that such convictions have proven problematic for many individuals applying for jobs. 

“There are a lot of North Dakotans who have this issue,” Stenehjem said, as quoted by the Associated Press. “The burden shouldn’t be something that person has to carry around forever.”

Stenehjem said that, should the pardon get approved, the policy “totally removes a conviction; totally removes guilt.” As many as 175,000 North Dakotans who were dealt such convictions could be eligible under the new policy. The new policy makes the process more streamlined and less burdensome than it is currently. Individuals seeking a pardon will now be able to fill out a one-and-a-half page application online completely free of charge. The deadline for the first round of applications is August 10. 

Stenehjem supports decriminalization for pot, but remains opposed to legalization for recreational use. In May, Burgum quietly signed a bill into law that relaxed penalties for small amounts of marijuana possession. Under the new law, those busted for the first time for possession of up to a half an ounce of marijuana or paraphernalia will face a criminal infraction, rather than a misdemeanor. The punishment carries a fine of as much as $1000, but crucially, no jail time. 

Those facing subsequent charges could face up to a year of jail time, however. Those new provisions take effect on August 1. The Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group, said the reclassification was “ far from ideal, but it is a substantial step in the right direction.”

North Dakota opened its first medical marijuana dispensary earlier this year, and there are plans for more to open soon. The changes could represent a demarcation point in how the state deals with marijuana. The state has long taken a stringent position on pot use. In 2016, according to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, North Dakota ranked sixth in the nation in per capita arrests for marijuana possession.

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Tilray Imports Medical Cannabis Oil In Bulk To UK

Tilray has managed to successfully import its first bulk supply of medical cannabis oil into the UK.

It was a Tilray product, in fact, that was not only confiscated at the border last year – but subsequently sparked media outrage over the denial of the same to one Billy Caldwell, an epileptic child. It was not the only outcry nor was Billy the only child endangered. And the British people, in fact, finally signalled that they had lost their stiff upper lip on this one last year.

All of this despite lingering and significant problems ever since. Not to mention an intriguing and well-timing market entry for Tilray right after things have been heating up on cannabis reform in Parliament of late.

The Tilray product, which will be imported from its new production facilities in Portugal, has already been distributed in other European countries, including Croatia and Germany.

tilray-logoWhat is significant in other words, is that the UK is starting to allow bulk orders in through customs- and they are coming not from Canada, but from Europe. Even if it is a Canadian company’s brand on the same, for now at least.

Tilray of course, is not the only company engaged in a race to get imports into the country. Right after Christmas last year, Canopy/Spektrum announced the same plans. Wayland has clearly been angling for a British outpost for some time. And of course, more locally initiated groups, including European Cannabis Holdings, have been working to initiate easier access to British markets for well over a year. Let alone more locally grown interests and pursuits now clearly lining up for market entry.

But this announcement, coming so shortly after all the recent activity on cannabis reform and calls for trials in the UK, clearly means that the doors are now opening fast for the largest players angling to get in.

Bottom line? Look for the biggest Canadians with an already established European presence, to begin making similar announcements this summer.

Being “Available” Is Only The First Hurdle

One of the biggest problems facing not only the “industry” but patients in the UK, much like elsewhere, is that doctors do not know or want to prescribe cannabis and cannabinoid medicines- and for reasons stemming from fear or ignorance about medical efficacy to insurance coverage.

Medical cannabis, in all its forms so far, however, is also highly expensive and out of reach for most unless they obtain an NHS approval (or as in Germany, statutory health insurer approval) to actually obtain the drug. And then have a place to obtain it.

This basically counts out everyone who cannot pay out of pocket and cannot find a willing doctor to sign them up via onerous and ongoing paperwork. And that, of course, is the majority of the sick people in the room.

It is this basic conundrum, which the bigger Canadians have yet to solve themselves (and it is becoming more of a recognized issue in the U.S. in the days, presumably, before the 2020 election which will hopefully set a timetable for federal reform) that has been in the room for the last two years thanks to Germany.

Image credit: Flickr

It is even more of an issue in the UK. Especially with a renegotiation in Britain’s diplomatic and trade relationship with the rest of the world.

That includes, as of mid-July, a downright, undiplomatic spat between the White House and Whitehall right now over leaked comments from the British Ambassador to Washington – and about matters of competency far from cannabis. Although of course, this issue is in the room.

For that reason, the Canadian as well as the European connection to imports right now (from not just Portugal but Holland) on the medical side of the ledger, spell an intriguing fall for not only cannabis, but the real shape and direction of British politics- and by extension- British trade.

Patients Are Taking It To The Streets And To Parliament

As much as patients have so far partnered with the big Canadian companies in the attempt to get the borders open, this is not the only game in town. Dutch imports, from Dutch companies, are already showing up in the UK (see Bedrocan). And both British and Irish growers are getting in on early action, even if for now “just” on the CBD side.

Furthermore, it is clear that patients are playing a large role in making sure that they are being heard, even to the point of putting pressure on doctors. In an extraordinary admission at the parliamentary level during the last week of June, lawmakers conceded that the British public was taking matters into their own hands. And furthermore, that the change in the law had led to clear expectations that were not being met.

Namely, British patients are literally demanding medical cannabis by prescription from their doctors.

And much like in Germany, with a mandate for coverage, the government is being forced to listen, and as best as it can in a severely crimped and politicized Brexit environment, respond.

While cannabis reform is hardly the Guy Fawkes, in other words, in a tinder match environment that British politics certainly is right now, it might be a kind of spark that drives a much wider conversation in the UK about current events.

Specifically the survival of a system that is poised to provide not only access to cannabis but comprehensive medical care beyond that, even for the old or chronically ill.

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Environmental Sustainability in Cultivation: Part 3

Part 1 in this series went into a discussion of resource management for cannabis growers. Part 2 presented the idea of land use and conservation. In Part 3 below, we dive into pesticide use and integrated pest management for growers, through an environmental lens.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962, is often credited with helping launch the environmental movement. Ten years later, VP Edmund Muskie elevated the environment to a major issue in his 1972 Presidential campaign against Richard Nixon. 57 years after Ms. Carson’s book, we’re still having the same problems. Over 13,000 lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto and last month a jury in Alameda County ruled that a couple came down with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because of their use of Roundup. The jury awarded them one billion dollars each in punitive damages. Is there a safer alternative?

“Effectively replacing the need for pesticides, we use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which is a proactive program designed to control the population of undesirable pests with the use of natural predators, a system commonly known as “good bugs (such as ladybugs) fighting bad bugs”, states the website of Mucci Farms, a greenhouse grower. While this applies to cannabis as well, there is one major problem with the crop that isn’t faced by other crops.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring- often credited with starting the environmental movement of the 20th century.

While states are moving rapidly to legalize it, the EPA is currently not regulating cannabis. That is in the hands of each state. According to a story in the Denver Post in 2016, “Although pesticides are widely used on crops, their use on cannabis remains problematic and controversial as no safety standards exist.” Keep in mind that it takes a lot more pesticides to keep unwarranted guests off your cannabis plant when it’s outdoors than when it’s in a controlled environment.

We’re accustomed to using endless products under the assumption that a range of governmental acronyms such as NIH, FDA, OSHA, EPA, USDA are protecting us. We don’t even think about looking for their labels because we naturally assume that a product we’re about to ingest has been thoroughly tested, approved and vetted by one of those agencies. But what if it’s not?

Again, cannabis regulation is at the state level and here’s why that’s critical. The budget of the EPA is $6.14 billion while Colorado’s EPA-equivalent agency has a budget of $616 million. According to the federal budget summary, “A major component of our FY 2019 budget request is funding for drinking water and clean water infrastructure as well as for Brownfields and Superfund projects.” In short, federal dollars aren’t going towards pesticide testing and they’re certainly got going towards a product that’s illegal at the federal level. That should make you wonder how effective oversight is at the state level.

What impact does this have on our health and what impact do pesticides have on the environment? A former Dean of Science and Medical School at a major university told me, “Many pesticides are neurotoxins that affect your nervous system and liver. These are drugs. The good news is that they kill insects faster than they kill people.” Quite a sobering thought.

“We have the ability to control what kinds of pesticides we put in our water and how much pesticides we put in our water.”Assuming that he’d be totally supportive of greenhouses, I pushed to see if he agreed. “There’s always a downside with nature. An enclosure helps you monitor access. If you’re growing only one variety, your greenhouse is actually more susceptible to pests because it’s only one variety.” The problem for most growers is that absent some kind of a computer vision system in your greenhouse, usually by the time you realize that you have a problem it’s already taken a toll on your crop.

Following up on the concept of monitoring, I reached out to Dr. Jacques White, the executive director of Long Live the Kings, an organization dedicated to restoring wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, you can’t monitor access to a river, but you certainly can see the effects of fertilizer runoff, chemicals and pesticides into the areas where fish live and eventually, return to spawn.

“Because salmon travel such extraordinary long distances through rivers, streams, estuaries and into oceans they are one of the best health indicators for people. If salmon aren’t doing well, then we should think about whether people should be drinking or using that same water. The salmon population in the area around Puget Sound is not doing well.”

We talked a bit more about pesticides in general and Dr. White summed up the essence of the entire indoor-outdoor farming and pesticides debate succinctly.

“We have the ability to control what kinds of pesticides we put in our water and how much pesticides we put in our water.”

If you extrapolate that thought, the same applies to agriculture. Greenhouse farming, while subject to some problems not endemic to outdoor farming, quite simply puts a lot fewer chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.

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Cannabis and Mental Health: Schizophrenia

About 1.1 percent of the worldwide population is diagnosed with schizophrenia. According to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, schizophrenia is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, affecting 3.5 million people. 

The mental health condition can erase people’s memories of their days, past and even their reality. The SRDAA states that person must have at least two of the following symptoms to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, with one of the first three listed being one a person is suffering form:

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  5. Negative symptoms

Cannabis consumption tends to be a debated topic surrounding most mental health conditions today. This is particularly true with schizophrenia. Some believe that cannabis can lead to increased psychosis, a common symptom in schizophrenia. Meanwhile, others believe that may not be the case just yet. 

Dr. Alex Dimitriu is a double board-certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine. In response to this article, Dr. Dimitriu explained what the effects of psychosis are like on a person. “Psychosis is defined as having false beliefs (often called delusions) and seeing or hearing things that are not real (hallucinations). In a psychotic state, people may appear disorganized, confused, paranoid, almost as if they were tripping on something (like LSD, or magic mushrooms).”

He also expanded on how THC is a mild hallucinogen that can lead to short-term schizophrenia but should not be long-lasting. “Believe it or not, to some degree or other many users of cannabis have experienced the “psychotic” like effects of the drug. Fortunately, this is short-lived, usually lasting hours. Most commonly, this is seen as the paranoia – thoughts like “are people watching me?” “am I going to get in trouble with the authorities?” or, “I think I’m having a panic attack and should maybe go to the ER?”

Dr. Amy Baxter, CEO of Pain Care Labs, felt differently about cannabis use and its potential to affect people. She wrote that while cannabis can be useful in a myriad of conditions from cancer to PTSD, the dopamine pain receptors targeted can lead to mania and psychosis when overstimulated. Dr. Baxter elaborated, “In fact, 10-15% of people get paranoia and hallucinations (psychosis symptoms). With certain genetic backgrounds, even a single use of cannabis can lead to a 10x greater risk of lifelong schizophrenia.”

She also recommended a 2017 review of cannabis through the centuries, noting its recommendation for more research. 

Dr. Jordan Tishler is a Harvard graduate and doctor with his own practice and research and works with CannabisMD. He noted that cannabis use is used at higher rates by people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Dr. Tishler added, “This has lead to the association of cannabis use with development or worsening of these illnesses. It’s entirely unclear whether cannabis is causing these problems or the problems lead to cannabis use. Obviously these are very different situations. Studies that try to solve this riddle are very mixed, some appear to show causation, others do not.”

Unlike other articles in this series, no patients came forward to share their experience with High Times. That said, many testimonies online detail individual experiences. From the medical professional perspective, while often short-lived, Dr. Dimitriu noted that come symptoms can worsen when using cannabis. He recalled a patient in their 20s who experienced paranoid thoughts, didn’t go to school and slept on the floor to avoid electromagnetic waves. He also noted a 50-something-year-old patient who started hearing voices after smoking a potent strain. 

Dr. Tishler also offered up an example they encountered. In this case, a 65-year-old patient suffered from severe and constant physical pain and unresponsive to traditional medicine. The patient also had suffered from 40 years of mental health issues, dating back to her 20s. He explained how they came to a suitable treatment plan using cannabis.

“Ideally, we’d avoid cannabis for her, but her pain is debilitating, unresponsive to prior treatment, and her acute psychosis was long ago. In this case, I was able to devise a care plan with her vast mental health team to monitor her daily (as they were already doing) such that if cannabis made her worse, we’d know rapidly.” 

He said that he “did lose sleep over her case,” but the issue worked out in this case. He also offered a counterexample. “I’ve had cases where, despite careful consideration, they did poorly and were thankfully noticed quickly.”

With such varying outcomes and the severity of the condition, Dr. Tishler recognized that cannabis could be the cause of psychosis, or increase the illness. Therefore, it is wise to avoid using cannabis if there are any signs of any such symptoms. He also addressed the problem with this solution. “The problem, of course, is that it is hard to foresee these illnesses until they strike. Since these illnesses tend to occur in late teens and early young adults, this is part of the reason for suggesting that these people avoid cannabis.”

The other responding physicians agreed with this approach. Dr. Baxter called using cannabis with this mental health condition “extremely risky.” Meanwhile, Dr. Dimitriu expanded on other substances people with schizophrenia and other conditions may want to consider avoiding. 

“Certainly true with uppers – whether it is amphetamines like Adderall, or methylphenidate – Ritalin, even caffeine and energy drinks – these meds can increase levels of dopamine which can worsen agitation, and the symptoms of psychosis. Classic psychedelics should be definitely avoided – like LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT, and so on.”

While THC appears to be a cannabinoid medical professionals would not recommend in most schizophrenia patients, some are discussing the positive benefits of CBD. 

Dr. Bill Code is a cannabis expert concerning mental conditions, including schizophrenia. His book, Solving the Brain Puzzle, addresses cannabis use. He explained how CBD led to “considerable benefit” with psychosis and schizophrenia. He came to a decision after reading a French study of high potency CBD and its equivalence to modern antipsychotics “without the rough side effects.”  

Dr. Dimitriu expanded on why CBD may prove to be an effective anti-psychotic. “CBD has been shown to have numerous medicinal benefits – as a pain reducer, an anti-convulsant (anti-seizure), a sleep inducer, and has been shown to lower anxiety levels,” he said while adding that additional studies are required. He mentioned a 2012 investigation of the effects of CBD as an antipsychotic for further reading.

In the end, just with any condition, the choice falls on the patient as long as they are of a sound mind to do so. “This is not always an easy decision…careful planning and monitoring is essential to being able to avoid problems or [react] quickly if they do arise,” said Dr. Tishler.

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When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Debunking Cannabis Insurance Myths

For all of today’s growing acceptance and legitimacy with cannabis, the reality is that today’s operators – whether growers/producers or dispensary operators – still face risks in running their businesses. If, in the old days, a customer got deathly ill from cannabis contaminated with something from somewhere during the distribution chain, oh, well. But now that there’s a legal system of checks and balances; there’s recourse when issues arise.

The problem is that the business is so new that most people don’t know what they don’t know about mitigating those risks. And that, unfortunately, extends to many in the insurance business who need to be doing a better job helping put the right protections in place.

One grower bemoaned to me at a cannabis trade show, “I sure wish I could insure my crops.” What? “You can,” I told him. His old-school ag broker didn’t know any better and didn’t do him any favors with his ignorance. But it brought home the point: We have to start treating cannabis like the real business it is.

Reviewing the existing insurance policies of today’s cannabis businesses uncovers some serious gaps in coverage that could be financially crippling if not downright dangerous should a claim be triggered. Retail dispensaries, for example, are high-cash businesses, making banking and trusted employees a must-have.Today’s cannabis businesses need to understand there will be risks but they are a lot more manageable than in the old days. 

And a close eye must be cast to lease agreements for hidden exposures, too. We know a Washington state grower that had no property insurance on its large, leased indoor growing facility. The company’s lease made its owners, not their landlord, responsible for any required building improvements. It was one of a variety of serious exposures that had to be fixed.

Today’s cannabis businesses need to understand there will be risks but they are a lot more manageable than in the old days. Rather than find themselves under-insured, they can start by learning what they probably have wrong about insurance. Dispelling three of the most common myths is a good place to start.

Myth #1: Nobody will insure a cannabis business.

Not remotely true. You can and should get coverage. Think property and casualty, product liability, EPLI and directors and officers, employee benefits and workers comp. Additionally, you should be educated on what crop coverage does and doesn’t cover. Depending on your business’ role in production and distribution, you might also consider cargo, stock throughput, auto, as noted, crime and cyber coverage. It pays to protect yourself.

Myth #2: If my business isn’t doing edibles, I don’t have to worry about product liability insurance.

The reality is that product liability may be the biggest risk the cannabis industry faces, at every level on the supply chain. There’s a liability “trickle down” effect that starts with production and distribution and sales and goes down to labeling and even how the product is branded. Especially when a product is an edible, inhalable or ingestible with many people behind it, the contractual risk transfer of product liability is an important consideration. That means the liability is pushed to all those who play any role in the supply chain, whether as a producer or a retailer or an extractor. And all your vendors must show their certificates of insurance and adequate coverage amounts. Don’t make the mistake of being so excited about this new product that you don’t check out the vendors you partner with for this protection.

Myth #3: Any loss at my operation will be covered by my landlord’s policy.

As the example I cited early illustrated, that’s unlikely. Moreover, your loss might even cause your landlord’s insurance to be nullified for having rented to a cannabis business. It’s another reason to examine your lease agreement very carefully. You want to comply with your landlord’s requirements. But you also need to be aware of any potential liabilities that may or may not be covered. Incidentally, even if your landlord’s policy offers you some protection, your interests are going to be best served through a separate, stand-alone policy for overall coverage.

These are interesting times for the burgeoning legal cannabis business. Getting smart – fast – about the risks and how to manage them will be important as the industry grows into its potential.

The post When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Debunking Cannabis Insurance Myths appeared first on Cannabis Industry Journal.

Cannabis, The Divine Feminine: A Talk With Cannabis Sensuality Coach Carli Jo

The idea of ‘wellness’ has gone through many fads over the years. Some insist on solely ingesting organic foods, others hire personal trainers, hike religiously, go on yoga retreats or juice cleanses. This has shifted into a greater awareness on mental health. Therapy, mental health days, meditation, reiki, and the like are emerging as modalities to center, find calm, and heal.

In a world where people are often too scared to call out of work because the needs of their companies supersede those of their wellbeing, there is a mad dash to find something, anything, to manage the rollercoaster that is our western society. While there’s no issue with any of these pursuits, the fear is waking up one day and realizing that you’ve left a key component out of the equation.

Taoists, whose core views center around living in harmony with the universe, believe that when people engage in sexual intimacy, all parties must fully enjoy it to gain benefits of Qi, otherwise known as life force energy. When this energy subsides, according to them, so do we. Sex, Love, and Relationship Coaches aren’t a new concept, but the evolution of their work is finally dipping its toes into the spotlight. The work explores the innermost parts of ourselves that feel blocked, paralyzed and need healing. Parts stuck in old narratives are nurtured through breath work, meditation and guided self pleasure, generating self love, and a sense of permission and acceptance for your sexual nature.

It is the belief of Carli Jo, a Cannabis Sensuality Coach, that cannabis can be a fantastic tool in this work. It unlocks the creative center and makes people aware of what they really enjoy, and let go of the shame that holds them back. “Cannabis is a tool in a sexual toolbox,” she says, “just like a vibrator, a dildo, or lube”. 

Courtesy of Carli Jo

High Times: What is sexuality?

Carli Jo: Sexuality is our line to humanity, the way you view yourself, your body, your relationship to others. People like to think it’s an innate quality, that you should just know how to have sex, and it’s just not the case because our whole society was built [by] puritans. This information is out there but it’s not readily available in a positive, celebratory way. 

HT: So what is a sensuality coach?

Carli Jo: I focus on helping couples get their sexual needs met. We all have a different pathway to turn on and arousal and you can’t know what that is until you learn it. Prior to two years ago, I only knew there were sex therapists but my limited definition of that was someone who worked with sexual abuse, trauma. There are two sides of the sex coin, there’s pain and pleasure, it’s a very thin line. Many people focus on the pain but as a Sensuality Coach I’m focused on the pleasure.

HT: When did it really start coming into prominence and what do you think was the need to make that switch from sex therapy in terms of pain and sex coaching, focusing on pleasure?

Carli Jo: People have been doing my work for thousands of years. Look at Tantra. It’s just becoming more mainstream because look at mental and physical health. It wasn’t long ago that organic wasn’t a common word. It wasn’t long ago that people made fun of working out. We’re at the dawn of an evolution in sexual health, where people are starting to understand how sexual health is really impacting you emotionally and physically. I truly believe that when we start to feel sexuality in our individual lives, everything starts to heal. 

HT: Who are the people coming to you for help and what are they looking for? 

Carli Jo: Some come to me with a solid foundation, they have the love, trust, respect, they see the importance of having a good sex life, and they want to expand. Most of us have a deep sexual desire that’s never been met. Either we don’t recognize it because we think it’s weird so we repress it, creating shame. The other, are couples who are so out of their sexuality that their relationships are hurting. One school of thought when it comes to sex coaching is that we need to fix the relationship first then get into sexuality. I believe on working on sexuality first. In a lot of relationships, what we’re really craving is that feeling of being seen, loved and held. There’s nothing on the planet like being in your full sexual expression and getting your sexual needs met with the person you love. 

HT: How did cannabis come into the mix? 

Carli Jo: In 2017, before I was sex coaching, I got invited to a Cannabis Feminist women’s circle. I had never experienced such a thing, but it was in those circles where I started to develop it all. I learned why we call it cannabis and not marijuana and that cannabis is a plant representation of the divine feminine. I was around women who were so empowered, so in their right with their consumption, lawyers, mothers, entrepreneurs, the whole mix. It was when I attended a live training for my Sex, Love and Relationship Coaching (SLRC) certification that I learned just how powerful cannabis was for others expressing their sexuality as well. 

In my SLRC training I spent a lot of time in self pleasure. I had had a year long intention of wanting to be present in my body. Every time I tried to connect to my pleasure I’d get knocked out of myself and my partner, I’d shut down, get in my head. I was on my fourth day of doing this hour long Tantra practice and I remembered I had this joint, and decided to intentionally bring it into my practice. It was the first time in my life I was really able to be in my body. For me, cannabis showed me what was possible.

HT: How is cannabis a representation of the divine feminine?

Carli Jo: This has been taught to generations of witches, women herbalists: if you’re consuming cannabis you’re smoking the female plant, you’re bringing the divine feminine into your body. 

HT: So what do you say for people who get paranoid when they consume?

Carli Jo: I have one word for that: intention. I notice for myself that when I’m mindlessly consuming, my heart races, there’s anxiety. I walk my couples through a consumption ritual so they’re grounded and present with the why. Why are you bringing this into your experience? Into your sexuality? So mine for one year was to be present, yours could be to get out of your head, it could be to have multiple orgasms, it could be anything.  

Julia Shepley

HT: What if your intention is just wanting to sleep better at night?

Carli Jo: It can be anything. It’s easy to grab your vape, but take a couple seconds to hold what you’re consuming in your hand, ground, get the why. Then microdose, go low, go slow. Take a little and see how you feel. I had a couple where the guy said he used to smoke all the time when he was younger and he couldn’t do it anymore because he gets so paranoid. He was open to having a cannabis coach walk him through consumption, so I paired what I thought would be best for him. When I asked him how it was he said he low dosed and had no paranoia or anxiety and was fully present in his body. 

HT: Is there a similar risk to that of some illegal drugs, where there’s a concern that if you have sex while consuming, it will ruin the sober experience? 

Carli Jo: That school of thought is crap. It’s not the drug giving you the good sex, it’s your body, your mind. If you’re on ecstasy and having amazing sex, all that is, is information that your body is capable of having amazing sex. It’s the same school of thought when women tell me they’re hung up on some guy because he gave her the best orgasm. That guy was a facilitator in the experience but it was her body. If you create it with one person you can certainly create it with yourself or with other people. 

HT: What makes you decide to consume when you’re about to get intimate?

Carli Jo: Cannabis is an aphrodesiac, it’s also a vasodilater, it sends blood to the genitals, but also to the frontal lobe, which is our seed of creativity, and sex and creativity go together. My partner and I strive to create intimacy, so we bring cannabis into the bedroom. We have a whole ritual around it, we set our intentions, consume, then we have playdates. Recently we ended up naked, getting the giggles for 30 minutes, and we just decided that that was our sex.That’s intimacy, it doesnt have to be penetrative. 

HT: What do you say to couples who have been together a while, had a great sex life for the first half of their relationship and are currently not connecting much, in or outside the bedroom? Why does that happen and is it possible for them to find it again?

Carli Jo: It’s definitely possible, it goes away because they stop making it a priority. We do all these things, feed the dogs, the kids, pay the taxes, and then go into sexuality. It gets put to the end of the list. My most recent mentor, Miss Jaiya, talks about the 5 Stages of Sexuality, which are really important to what you just asked, because that couple you’re describing is in a state of resting. 

HT: And they’re somewhere they might be stuck?

Carli Jo: The 5 Stages are resting, healing, curious, adventure, transformational. These stages are ever changing, we’re never “stuck” in one. Whenever I ask a couple which they think they’re in, I explain and they identify right away. When you give people language for what they’re going through, it instantly starts to allow acceptance. People stop thinking they’re broken. Your sexuality can continue to get better as you get older as long as you keep celebrating and accepting it. If we were raised in a society that celebrated their sexuality, imagine where we would be! 

Miss Jaiya, the creator of the Core Erotic Blueprint™ types found most people fit into one of five categories. The first is Energetic, turned on by anticipation, tease. The second is Sensual, turned on by all five senses being activated. The third is Sexual, turned on by penetration, nudity, orgasm. The fourth is Kinky, enjoys the taboo, and the fifth is a Shapeshifter, turned on by all and wants it all, encompassing all five of the Blueprints™

It is my belief that we all encompass aspects of each however, the majority relating strongly to one or two. Understanding the Erotic Blueprint™ gives people language for how their sexual desires and turn ons work. Taking what I learn about each individual’s unique path to turn on and their challenges paired with their Erotic Blueprint™, we can discuss how cannabis can aid in spiritual and sexual growth. For instance, Sensuals have a hard time getting out of their head in sexuality. 

Cannabis, specifically THC, induces the impairment of short-term memory, which is suitable for staying present during sex. More information is coming to light on the benefits of pairing sex and cannabis but for now, using this system is the perfect roadmap for determining how and why cannabis effects us on the both the mind and the body.

HT: Do you think people carry that integration once the cannabis wears off?

Carli Jo: Yeah because, like Bob Marley says “it reveals me to myself”. Meditation does this, yoga can do this, there are so many things in life that can help us see our essence, the true core of who we are. It doesn’t go away after you stop meditating, that awareness is still there because our bodies hold so much wisdom.  Cannabis is just a gateway for deeper insight.

Courtesy of Carli Jo

HT: How do you determine someone’s Erotic Blueprint™?

Carli Jo: First we determine by discussing then by going into the body. That’s where your answers lie. For instance, you could tell me you have zero Kinky but when Kinky touches/sensations are applied, your body reacts. It’s a somatic experience so I’m watching for that physical indicator. There are many different and fun practices to determine one’s Erotic Blueprint™.

HT: How long does it take to figure out?

Carli Jo: The more I work with people, the faster I start to see and hear it. The session where we determine the Erotic Blueprint™, we do it based on touch, each type and person prefers to be touched differently.  When working with couples we spend three hours determining one partners’ Erotic Blueprint™, then switch to determine the other one. 

HT: Are you using cannabis during this process? 

Carli Jo: Depends. Some sessions and couples lend themselves perfectly with pairing cannabis, others do not. Sometimes we infuse cannabis into the session and other times I give it to them as homeplay. Practices and exercises to continue their growth outside of the session.

HT: How do you bridge the gap if there’s something one partner likes but the other partner doesn’t? Is that something that cannabis is helpful with?

Carli Jo: This is where understanding the Erotic Blueprints is so important. Learning your partner’s unique pathway to pleasure gives more patience and acceptance. We play touch games in our sessions where we use a scale of 1-5. 1 being “never do that again” and 5 being “highly orgasmic”. We celebrate highs and lows because regardless, we’ve uncovered something. Once we determine the Erotic Blueprints™, we learn how to feed one another in order to feel fully satisfied. 

I help you create a body map for yourself and your partner so you know where on yourselves is preferred to be touched. This is where cannabis can add a fun, creative way to explore. This work is not just  for partners, I encourage the whole world to take time to learn their unique sexuality!

You can learn more about Carli Jo’s work at Send a message with the subject: HIGH TIMES for a complimentary call to learn more about your Core Erotic Blueprint™.

The post Cannabis, The Divine Feminine: A Talk With Cannabis Sensuality Coach Carli Jo appeared first on High Times.

What Was Said at Today’s Congressional Hearing on Federal Marijuana Law Reform

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing today on the impact of marijuana laws in America.

Despite the wave of cannabis progress, and products, sweeping the country coast to coast, marijuana arrests rose in America last year for the second year in a row. Are we generally down from the most horrifying arrest numbers seen when prohibition was at full blast? Yes. Are communities of color still impacted the most by cannabis enforcement? That’s going to be a big yes. The committee noted in announcing the hearing that of the 660,000 arrests for marijuana last year, 600,000 were for simple possession.

The Committee leadership was hoping to give the reps taking part an opportunity to consider the wider issues around the importance of reforming marijuana laws in America.

The subcommittee was chaired by congresswoman Karen Bass. Bass noted that since the time President Nixon declared a war on drugs, people of color have been hit the hardest. African Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people.

“Part of the devastation has been we criminalized a health problem.” Chairwoman Bass noted,  “While we poured millions of dollars into incarceration, we did not put adequate resources into drug treatment. Bass noted while legalization is the direction many places are going, we need to make sure there is a plan to use a piece of the money to help folks with substance abuse issues.

She doesn’t automatically believe that legalization will result in a decrease in the disproportionate arrests of people of color, especially African Americans. “But I do hope those who use the disproportionate arrests as part of their campaign for legalization are just and concerned and active if the disproportionate arrests continue after legalization,” Bass noted.

Bass called the hearing a moment to address the urgent reforms so obviously needed around cannabis.

Rep. Tom McClintock from California served as the acting ranking member for the republicans. He immediately called marijuana one of the few issues they might be able to get everyone in Congress to agree on. “It doesn’t require endorsing cannabis, quite the contrary,” McClintock said noting the psychological issues some are prone to and urged all to make sure kids aren’t getting their hands on it, “But it ought to be crystal clear to everyone that our laws have not accomplished their goals.”

McClintock told a tale he heard from a police officer. The officer said if he gave any two kids from any town across America $20 each and told one to get booze and the other to get pot, the kid buying the pot would always come back first. McClintock said they know where to get it because the dealer’s entire business revolves around breaking the law, “and have trouble finding the booze because the dealer’s whole business revolves around not breaking the law.”

McClintock says people will worry about young people using marijuana in excess, “but excess is a trait of the young and you learn with experience. And against this, we have to weigh how many young people have had their lives ruined by a marijuana conviction that’s followed them the rest of their lives.”

McClintock dove in further on the impact of the war on drugs, comparing it to the crime wave of alcohol prohibition. “People growing radishes don’t kill each other over territory,” he said.

“The majority has decided to play the race card at today’s hearing, we should have only one race in our free country, the American race. The left does enormous harm every time it tries to divide Americans along racial lines. The fact is our marijuana laws have badly served all of us as a nation and this realization could be used to bring us together rather than tear us apart.” McClintock said, despite the chairwoman pointing out African American men being 3.7 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana use compared to their caucasian counterparts.

McClintock said it was time to reform these laws that had failed, and, “Shame on those that would use it to inflame racial tension.”

Rep. Jerry Nader, who chairs the full House Judiciary Committee, jumped in saying he agreed with most of what McClintock said until he got to the claims of the left attempting to inflame racial tensions. Nadler noted on the proven racial disparities of enforcement, “to point that out, to see that, is not to inflame racial divisions. It’s to point out a fact of life and to try and cure it.”

“I’ve long believed the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” said Nadler, the most powerful member of the full judiciary committee. “The racial disparity in enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake with serious consequences.”

Nadler said marijuana should be viewed as an issue of personal choice and public health.

Representative Jerry Nadler

“The collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana possession—and even sometimes for a mere arrest—can be devastating.  For those saddled with a criminal conviction, it can be difficult or impossible to vote, to obtain educational loans, to get a job, to maintain a professional license, to secure housing, to receive government assistance, or even to adopt a child.”

Nadler spoke of those exclusions creating a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans with a conviction. “This is unacceptable and counterproductive, especially in light of the disproportionate impact that enforcement of marijuana laws has had on communities of color,” he said.

Nadler’s counterpart on the full judiciary, ranking member Rep. Collins, was waiting on deck to follow.

Collins reminded the room he had called on Nadler to take a wider look at conflict between state and federal marijuana law. And they would need to go far beyond the scope of this hearing to make federal progress. Later Collins noted he was a co-sponsor of The STATES Act that would give states the room to dictate their own marijuana policy, but he said the will of those places that want to keep it banned should be respected.

Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Maryland, kicked off the testimony. In January, Mosby made waves announcing her office would no longer be using resources to prosecute marijuana possession. She then moved to vacate thousands of convictions from her office dating back to 2011.

Mosby said the reason she was there is because there is no better illuminator to the failure of the war on drugs than Baltimore. She spoke of how a city so close to our nation’s capital and so critical to its founding led the nation last year in homicides, rising opioid deaths, and is one of the most segregated and impoverished cities in the nation.

“Meanwhile, Over 20,000,000 Americans have been arrested for violating marijuana laws that have imposed legal, social, and economic debilities and marginalization of every basic survival necessities [sic] of life,” she said, “For those not only convicted but also those incarcerated. From housing, healthcare access, immigration, employment, mobility, education, financial aid, and even voting.”

Mosby said whole communities have been ravaged losing whole generations of mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, and daughters. She said making it worse is the fact data backs that this dark reality hits poor and black communities the hardest.

“In the city of Baltimore, black people are six times more likely to be arrested for simple possession. And while many hoped decriminalization would offer a respite to communities of color, flagrant racial disparities continue to exist,” said Mosby before noting in Washington D.C., blacks were 11 times as likely to be arrested for public marijuana consumption than whites.

Mosby said she came to the hearing for three reasons. The first is her refusing to accept the status quo any longer. Second is she refuses to be complicit in the devastation of poor black and brown communities or defend the obviously racist policies. And finally, because it is the right thing to do. 

Physicians David L. Nathan and Malik Burnett also testified. Nathan is the Board President of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and represents hundreds of physicians. Burnett is an advocate and entrepreneur working to move U.S. drug policy from a criminal justice framework to one focused on public health.

The final expert Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine was invited to testify at the hearing at the request of the Committee’s Republicans.

“We have a long way to go with respect to reversing the harms caused by marijuana prohibition and need to begin the process as soon as possible,” Levine said, “The question before this Subcommittee and before Congress is whether there is a willingness to advance a bill to the President’s desk that will immediately address nearly all of the issues I have raised.”

Levine went on to note that with strong bipartisan support for legislation like the STATES Act, it is possible during the current session of Congress to take major steps toward respecting state cannabis laws, protecting workers, and advancing a more secure, vibrant, and equitable cannabis industry. “We hope that Congress will take advantage of the opportunity,” he said. 

Advocates were excited to see the conversations being pushed at the hearing on both sides of the aisle. NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri weighed in following the hearing.

“After nearly a century of prohibition, it is clear this policy has been an absolute failure and a national disgrace,” Altieri said, “All we have to show for the war we have waged on marijuana is the egregious harms it has wrought upon tens-of-millions of our fellow citizens. Congress must act swiftly and begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana.”

Altieri said the only real federal solution to this problem is the full descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. “This would allow us to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to the illicit market and allow state governments the opportunity to pursue alternative regulatory policies, free from the threat of federal intervention or prosecution. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people,” Altieri said.

The National Cannabis Industry Association also weighed in on the hearing.

“It is imperative that we recognize the disparate and ongoing impact of marijuana prohibition on people of color and the barriers it creates for them to take part in the burgeoning legal cannabis market,” said NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith,“Congress should quickly move toward policies that allow legitimate businesses to supplant the illicit market and promote racial equity in the cannabis industry. Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act is a cornerstone of that process.”

You can watch the Q&A portion of the hearing here.

The post What Was Said at Today’s Congressional Hearing on Federal Marijuana Law Reform appeared first on High Times.