Ex-Juul Labs Executive Says Company Knowingly Shipped A Million Tainted Pods

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Juul Labs executive who was fired earlier this year is alleging that the vaping company knowingly shipped 1 million tainted nicotine pods to customers.

The allegation comes in a lawsuit
filed Tuesday by lawyers representing Siddharth Breja, a one-time
finance executive at the e-cigarette maker. The suit claims that Breja
was terminated after opposing company practices, including shipping the
contaminated flavored pods and not listing expiration dates on Juul
products.

The lawsuit does not specify the contamination issue or
how it occurred. Lawyers for Breja declined to elaborate on the issue
Wednesday.

A Juul spokesman said in a statement that the claims
are “baseless” and that Breja was terminated because he failed to
“demonstrate the leadership qualities” required for the job.

Juul,
the best-selling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., has been besieged by
criticism amid an explosion of underage vaping. The company faces
multiple investigations by federal and state officials as well as
lawsuits by families of teenagers who claim they became hooked on
nicotine through the company’s vapes.

Breja worked in Juul’s
global finance department less than 10 months. The lawsuit, filed in the
Northern District of California, seeks damages for lost salary, bonuses
and Juul stock, which it values at more than $10 million.

BuzzFeed News first reported the lawsuit.

Breja
describes a “reckless” and “win-at-all costs” culture at Juul,
primarily driven by the company’s former CEO, Kevin Burns, who was
replaced in a management shake-up last month.

Breja says he
learned in March that some batches of nicotine solution used in the
company’s mint pods had been contaminated. Breja claims that company
management shipped roughly one million pods affected by the issue and
failed to issue a recall or public announcement.

Juul’s spokesman rejected Breja’s account saying the company “determined the product met all applicable specifications.”

When
Breja protested the decision to ship the pods, the lawsuit alleges, his
supervisor at Juul reminded him that “stockholders would lose
significant personal wealth should he make his concerns public.”

The
lawsuit alleges that Burns “berated employees” to ramp up production of
mint-flavored pods, a move that “compromised quality control measures.”
The focus on mint came after the company voluntarily pulled its mango,
fruit and other candy-flavored pods out of retail stores, under pressure
from health authorities.

The lawsuit alleges that Juul’s outside
consultants assured the company that mint “given its fruity flavor,
would make up for any lack of sales of other flavored pods.”

“You
need to have an IQ of 5 to know that when customers don’t find mango
they buy mint,” Burns told employees, according to the lawsuit.

Breja
claims he was wrongfully terminated the week after raising his concerns
about the contaminated mint pods. Because he had worked at the company
for less than a year he did not receive company stock that his lawyers
claim would be worth “eight figures at its current valuation.”

In
an earlier conflict with Juul management, Breja says he urged executives
to add expiration or “best by” dates to the flavored pods.

The
lawsuit claims Burns rejected the idea, stating: “Half our customers are
drunk and vaping like mo-fo’s, who the f— is going to notice the
quality of our pods.”

Juul’s website states that its pods are intended for use “soon after purchase.”

Last
month Burns was replaced by K.C. Crosthwaite, a former executive for
Altria, the Big Tobacco firm that owns a 35% stake in privately held
Juul.

In the last two years, the San Francisco company has become
the principal target of a nationwide backlash against e-cigarettes, with
parents, politicians and health advocates blaming the firm for the
recent vaping craze among young people.

According to the latest
government survey, more than 1 in 4 high school students reported using
e-cigarettes in the previous month, despite federal law banning sales to
those under 18.

In a separate health issue, federal officials are
investigating more than 1,600 cases of lung damage linked to vaping,
including nearly three dozen deaths. Many patients said they vaped THC,
marijuana’s intoxicating chemical, but officials have not yet implicated
any single product or ingredient.

Juul has made a series of
voluntary concessions in an effort to weather the firestorm. It’s halted
advertising and suspended sales of its fruit and dessert flavored pods.
The company continues to sell mint, menthol and tobacco flavors.

The
Trump administration announced plans last month to remove virtually all
vaping flavors from the market, leaving only tobacco.

But public
health advocates are concerned the administration could back away from
its plan to ban mint and menthol, the most popular flavors among youth.

Last
month more than 50 health groups, including the American Lung
Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, sent a letter to
first lady Melania Trump urging the administration to follow through on
its initial proposal.

“If the goal is to remove the e-cigarettes
that are most attractive to youth, any proposal that ignores mint and
menthol flavors falls short,” the groups stated.

By Matthew Perrone

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Ganja Gourmet: How To Wake ‘N’ Bake With Cannabis Coffee

Adding an MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil to your morning cup o’ joe is rumored to provide a more sustained energy boost than regular caffeinated coffee. And consuming whole-plant cannabis extract is a health-conscious decision for many reasons, not the least of which is simply to feel good. Coffee with a spoonful of cannabis-infused coconut oil combines the best of these modern discoveries as my new favorite energy boost hands down.

Coconut oil happens to be both high in MCTs and ideal for infusing with a cannabis concentrate like Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), an edible cannabis-oil extract created by Canadian medical-marijuana activist Rick Simpson. RSO is an orally consumable cannabis oil that’s my go-to for low-heat recipes as it’s an accessible and potent whole-plant extract with activated THC. Just mix warm coconut oil with RSO, then add the right amount of your infused oil to a cup of hot coffee or tea to enjoy a delicious, buzzy treat!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. liquid sunflower lecithin
  • 1/4 tsp. activated-THC or CBD RSO oil
  • Freshly prepared hot coffee or tea

Directions

Melt the coconut oil and then whisk in the liquid sunflower lecithin and RSO oil. Pour the mixture into an airtight glass container and mark it clearly as “Infused With Cannabis.” Measure out as desired per cup into hot coffee or tea. (I use about two teaspoons for each eight-ounce cup.) The concoction keeps for up to a week.

A note on potency: I used 200 milligrams of 70.5 percent activated-THC RSO oil, for approximately 141 mg THC total. The recipe makes 12 servings of about 11.75 mg of THC per two-teaspoon serving. Always take it easy with edibles and allow at least one to two hours after consuming to gauge your personal dosage preference. You can always eat more, but you can’t eat less!


Originally published in the June, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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National Political Action Committee Pushing For Cannabis Legalization In Montana

Momentum could be building for the legalization of recreational weed in Montana. That’s because a local group working for cannabis reform in the state has just received big time backing from advocacy groups.

If the efforts in Montana succeed, voters could see legalization on the ballot next year. However, with all that said, there is still a long ways to go. That includes getting initial approval for the proposal and then gathering enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

National Support for Local Efforts

Right now, the charge to legalize recreational weed in Montana is being led largely by a group called Coalition406. Currently, the group is spearheading two separate ballot initiatives. Both of them would impact cannabis laws in the state.

So far, the group has been operating more or less on its own throughout Montana. But now, the group said it has received national support.

Specifically, Coalition406 just announced that it is partnering with national marijuana advocacy organization New Approach PAC. New Approach is based in Washington, D.C. and has already been a big player in legalization efforts in places such as California, Maine, and Massachusetts.

In addition to partnering with New Approach PAC, Coalition406 also said it has received support from the Marijuana Policy Project.

Moving forward, Coalition406 will now go by the name New Approach Montana. And along with the new name, the group has voiced renewed confidence in its mission.

“I have every faith that these are gonna pass,” Pepper Petersen, political director of Coalition406, told Montana Public Radio. “There seems to be an inevitability coming from the federal government. So let’s do something in Montana that we own, rather than something that D.C. hands us.”

Two Legislative Proposals

Currently, Coalition406—now with its national backers—is working to advance two legislative proposals.

The first one deals explicitly with cannabis. This one, called the Marijuana Regulation Act, would legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis for adult use in the state.

The second proposal is not directly about cannabis. But its implications would directly impact what legalization would look like in Montana. It has to do with the legal definition of an adult in the state.

Currently, a person 18 and older is considered an adult. But if weed becomes legal, that would change to 21. To address this, Coalition406 is also putting forth a proposal to amend the state constitution so that adults are defined as those 21 years and older.

At the moment, the group is still finalizing the wording of these proposals. Additionally, they still need to get initial approval for the proposals. If the proposals get the necessary approvals, the group can start gathering signatures of support.

The proposals will only show up on next year’s ballot if Coalition406 gets enough signatures. But with new backing, the group plans to devote much more funding to advancing its ideas. Specifically, Petersen said the group could be on the verge of spending more than $3 million on campaigning efforts.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Montana voted against a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.

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The Economics of Ex-Im In Europe

You have read the press releases. You may have heard about such ideas at a recent cannabis conference in and around the EU of late. Or you may have encountered new distributors coming into the game with a German presence and a decidedly interesting ex-im plan that sounds a bit, well, off the map.

No matter how geographically creative some of these plans are, the problem is that many of these ideas literally do not make economic sense. Either for the companies themselves (if not their investors), and certainly not for patients. Not to mention, truth be told, the looming price sensitivity issues in the European market that North Americans, for starters, seem to still just be waking up to.

Some Recent Examples….

Yes, exports from Denmark have been much in the news lately (including into both Germany and Poland). Truth be told, however, this makes about as much sense, economically, as importing ice to eskimos. Why? Denmark, for all its looser regulations and less-uptight approach to the cannabis discussion generally, is one of the most expensive labour markets in Europe. Fully automated production plants are one thing, but you can build those in other places too. Especially warmer climates, with lots of sunshine. German production, as it comes online, will also make this idea increasingly ludicrous.

Who on earth got on this bandwagon? It seems that the enthusiasm in the room began when Denmark began to import to Germany (where the disparities in wages in production are not so noticeable). However, lately, several Canadian companies with a Danish footprint have been eying Poland of late.

And on that particular topic – there are many who are doing the math and trying to figure out, as the alternatives get going, if even Canada makes much sense, or will in a few years.

Low Wage Markets With Sunshine Are Hotspots For European Cannabis Production

Like it or not, the European market is extraordinarily price sensitive – namely because it is not “just” consumers called patients picking up the tab but health insurance companies demanding proof of medical efficacy.

That starts, a bit unfortunately, with understanding wage economics across Europe. The warmer the climate, in other words and the further east on the map, wages drop precipitously. That is “good” for an industry looking to produce ever cheaper (but more compliant) product.

It is also good, at least politically, for countries whose elected leaders are being forced to admit that cannabis works, but are less than copacetic about encouraging local production. See Germany for starters, but places like Austria, Poland and most recently France (which has just embarked on a first of its kind medical cannabis trial).

Here, no matter the temporary buzz about Denmark, are the places that cannabis production makes sense:european union states

Portugal: The country is a newcomer in the cannabis discussion this fall, although in truth, the seeds of this reality were sown several seasons ago when Tilray began to build its production plant in the country in 2017. They are far from the only company who has seen the light, and these days, farmers are getting hip to the possibilities. Especially if they are already exporting crops throughout Europe.

Spain: The industry that can afford GMP certification is getting going, but everyone else is stuck in a limbo between pharmaceutical producers and the strange gray market (see the patient clubs in Barcelona). That said, political groups are beginning to discuss cultivation as an economic development tool, if not sustainable food and medication strategies.

Greece: The weather is warm, and the investment climate welcoming. Of all the countries in the EU, Greece has embraced the economic possibilities that cannabis could bring. How that will play out in the next years to come is an intriguing story.

Italy: The southern part of the country in particular is ripe for cannabis investment and it’s full of sunshine. However, as many have noted, organized crime in this part of the world is a bit fierce and starts with the letter M.

Malta: The island is a comer, but does importing cannabis from here really make economic sense? There are trade routes and economic treaties tying the island both to the apparently Brexiting British and Europe. Why not, right? Just remember that along with labour, transportation costs are in the room here too.

And Just Outside The EU…

The country now (sort of) known as North Macedonia and struggling to get into the EU if France would just get out of the way is also going to be a heavyweight in this discussion for years to come. Wages, of course, will increase as part of EU membership, but in general, this country just north of Greece is going to play a highly strategic role in exports throughout Europe.

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Poland Gets Cracking (Sort Of)

One of the surest ways to understand that you are entering not just another country, but what is called an “emerging market” is when you travel from Germany to Poland by train.

There is only one “intercity” option from Berlin Hauptbahnhoff – a far cry from the modern, internet-connected, fast ICE trains that go West. This line is run by the Poles. By the time you reach Warsaw five hours later, however, it is clear at least some parts of this country are booming. The skyscraper construction in the center of town rivals London and Berlin.

Like every emerging market, there are vast disparities in wealth and income, if not opportunity here. And into this discussion, now is coming the entire cannabis discussion. Visiting, as an American, in particular, one is reminded of a city that could be East Berlin 15 years ago.

As a cannabis journalist, it feels, from this perspective, like every American state in the 1990’s. Reform is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. But not quite realized yet, except for a few elites. Beyond such realities which are common in the world of cannabis, how very, well, Iron Curtain.

The difference of course, these days, is that the conversation next door in Germany, as well as other places, is finally forcing the Polish government to face reality. But it is clear, from interviews with activists and patients in particular, as well as the nascent newcomers from abroad testing the cannabis waters, that this fight is not going to be easy on the ground.

Then again, when and where has it ever been?

The Patients….

As always, real reform and market opening is driven by the sheer numbers of sick people who brave arrest to gain access to the plant. Some do it for themselves. Many do it for their children (of all ages). An elderly, boomer couple who talked to Cannabis Industry Journal about their ordeal also see it as a form of justified struggle. And Poles are no strangers to that, far from the cannabis kind.

That ethic is much in the room among the nascent industry that is also struggling to find respect. The Polish side of the discussion is looking at hemp. And growing THC illicitly, just like elsewhere.

But the budding movement here is highly organized, including on the business end, with hundreds of thousands of members. How this translates into a legal industry (besides media and hemp products) is of course, still up for grabs.

That is very much in the minds of those who brave the struggle daily. The patient collective in Warsaw is also highly organized – providing free and non-profit product to those most in need. It is an impressive operation. And further one that is increasingly distrustful of foreigners seeking “market share.” If not the already floating “suits.” Just knowing how to speak Polish, as the activists are, at least realizing, is not a guarantee that they will not be dealing with cannasharks only interested in their contacts and mailing lists. Patients over profits is a phrase you hear a lot here. This has nothing to do with not wanting to support a legit, safe industry. But when you are poor, you find ways to improvise. Including getting your medication.

The Foreign Companies…

Aurora and Canopy Growth are already in the room and there are other Canadians lining up to follow. However, these two are the only ones so far who have been able to get their products registered locally and even then, availability is still in the offing.

european union statesThese are also highly expensive products. And do not begin to compete with producers now eying the Polish market from North Macedonia and the rest of Eastern Europe.

The foreign companies, in other words, are already broadly falling into two camps. North American curiosity seekers (at this point), and companies, mostly from the East and South, who are looking to Poland to be the “next Germany.” Especially because their product is so price and geographically convenient.

A Battle For Poland’s Emerging Market

It is clear that at least the Canadian companies are already lining up against more home grown and patient interests. Just as what happened in Germany and the rest of Europe so far. And not even on purpose, but more on matters of price.

Like other pre-commoditized markets, the Polish industry is still trying to be (relatively) equal and fair, as much as there is a huge amount of positioning already just below the surface. Everyone is tired of struggling. Dreams of cannabis riches are enticing just about everywhere.

Of course, add to that, patients are dying here, and that always sets the tone – especially when only the richest and lucky few can afford to access the drug through legitimate channels. Face pain, unpleasantness or death or buy in the black market? For the Polish industry on the forefront of the debate, in other words, the stakes are high, the government is moving glacially, and those on the ground are organizing to meet the winds of change.

Foment for another kind of Green Perostroika? Perhaps.

There will, almost certainly as a result of these forces, be a call for a Polish bid – and further one that allows for local producers to enter the medical market.

But the bottom line is that this strange, and exciting and certainly new market is going to be as volatile, and wild west as any in Europe for the immediate future. Expect interesting things, if not more of the same.

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Golfing High: Tips For Toking Up And Teeing Off

By Jason Wilson

While attitudes about marijuana are shifting as more and more states recognize its myriad benefits, there are still plenty of obstacles for tokers—particularly those who wish to consume cannabis while on the golf course. While alcohol is popular and widely imbibed when golfing, cannabis has yet to be accepted by the sport. In fact, enemies of pot inhabit the links all around the country. From antiquated clubhouse rules to overzealous prohibitionists, there’s a lot to consider before teeing off high. If you’d like to play a more elevated game without ruffling any polo shirts in the process, here’s what you need to know.

Familiarity

Knowing how you respond to the psychoactive compounds in marijuana is critical to having a good time when the round comes. New or casual consumers overdoing it with a heavy dose could be in for an incredibly unpleasant ordeal. The most common effects from over-consumption are confusion, paranoia, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and difficulty with motor control. Add in an obligation to hit a tiny ball in a specific direction for a specific distance within a reasonable amount of time, and you have a near-impossible task. Figuring out a dosage and method of ingestion that works for you, prior to the round, will help you stay cool at the tee box.

Forms of Ingestion

Edibles

The least-detectable and longest-lasting form of marijuana ingestion also carries the most risk for adverse effects. You don’t need to look too long on the internet to find edibles-misadventure stories ranging from heavy couchlock to time/space distortions for hours at a time. Many of these tales begin with cookies or brownies made by some generous friend or some misconception about how much of a store-bought 100-milligram candy or chocolate to eat. The rule is to allow time for the compounds to enter your bloodstream so you can feel the full effect, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and can last for more than five hours.

How to golf on edibles: Know your dosage and consume the treat about 30 minutes before your tee time. This will allow you to get saddled up at the pro shop and two or three holes out before the full effects are felt, which, with the right dosage, will be gradual, enjoyable and just about over by the time you reach the 19th hole. Have something in your stomach prior to eating the edible to lengthen and soften the high.

Pros: Undetectable, long-lasting.

Cons: Care needed when dosing, difficult to adjust dose mid-round.

Vape Cartridges/Concentrates

Vape pens are another hard-to-detect method that carry the added benefit of allowing the user to regulate their dose while playing. Vaping is convenient, portable and stealthy (most pens are generally indistinguishable from nicotine vaporizers). Regulation is key and, unlike with edibles, entirely possible during play. If too much concentrate is consumed and the user starts to feel too stoned, they can simply sit out a hole or two to “respond to a work email” or “deal with some family stuff” while the high dissipates. The biggest drawback to vapes is the price. A quality vape pen typically costs over $100, and the cartridges are extra (and hard to come by in illegal states). But if you have the option and don’t mind spending the extra cash, this is the way to go for a convenient and carefree under-the-influence golfing experience.

How to golf with vape pens: Charge the device, fill the unit and consume at your leisure.

Pros: Hard to detect, allows for regulating dosage.

Cons: Price, availability.

Combustion/Flower

The most common and celebrated form of marijuana consumption is also the most restrictive, wasteful and time-consuming use of the plant on the golf course.

Even to the uninitiated, a burning joint or blunt has a distinct smell that is easily identifiable and, depending on what kind of people you’re paired with or playing near, might be a source of contention, particularly if you’re in a state with criminal repercussions for possession and/or public consumption.

The most damning argument against combustion on the course, though, is wind. Depending on the quality of your roll, there’s a chance that a blunt lit at the tee box will be half gone by the time you get to the fairway, with only a quarter of its smoke passing through your lungs. Even on windless days, a moving cart will eat a fatty, and soon you’re left with a nub you can’t remember spending enough time with. Additionally, rain and course sprinklers are problematic. After all, a water-dampened doob will take a few hours to dry out and be useless for the remainder of the round.

Lastly, combustion takes some time to get going and to stamp out neatly. When it’s your turn to swing and you have to select a club, find and put on the glove, and choose direction and shot shape, that loss of time can lead to rushing, which is no help to either your high or your game.

While there’s a lot working against recommending combustion, it would be irresponsible to ignore its draw. For many, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as smoking a joint!

How to golf with combustion: Don’t use pipes, bowls or bongs. Nothing gives you away faster than brightly colored ceramic under an overturned fist thumbing at the sparkwheel. The one exception to this rule is the one-hitter/dugout combo. With a combination of stealth and speed of use, the one-hitter has an edge over its counterparts in public consumption. If you’re determined to use a bong on the links, do so when you have the place to yourself.

Try to manage time, as some moments are better to spark up in than others. For instance, after hitting your ball and putting it in good position, you’ll likely have a chance to toke. Your group will have to hit, find their balls and hit the second shot before you, leaving several minutes for some puffing. Remember to look for moments in which indulging won’t slow play.

Protect the smokables from water. Until it’s time to light one up, keep the joint or blunt in a waterproof package. Sandwich baggies work well in a pinch, but for fuller protection, plastic snap-lid containers are ideal.

Play with a group of friends for a stress-free round. Like-minded, pot-friendly buddies not only make the experience fuller and more enjoyable, but they’ll also watch your back.

Manage the burn of your smokes. A good rule to follow is that if it’s lit, it’s being smoked. I have a tendency to let a burning joint or blunt sit between my fingers while I take my time with it, but doing so on the course is extra wasteful. If it’s lit, it should be getting smoked. If you want a break from it, put it out neatly.

Observe the wind. If in close proximity to unfamiliar players, lighting up is still a possibility. All that’s required is self-awareness. Feel the wind direction, position yourself downwind from the players and light up while staying vigilant for changing wind direction. People are generally focused on other things during a round and, unless you draw attention to yourself, will likely ignore whatever it is you’re doing in their periphery.

Pros: Cheap, cool, effective.

Cons: Smokes itself, easily detectable, damaged by wetness.

Smoking With Strangers

Although golfing high with friends is great, sometimes the lone wolf in us wants that solitary experience. You look for tee-time vacancies on the course’s webpage, call the pro shop to confirm a start at a slow time and arrive to a nearly empty parking lot with a smile on your face and weed in your bag. You walk in, pay, grab your starter ticket and turn to leave only to hear, “By the way, you’ll be playing with [some square who is also pissed about having to play with somebody else].”

“I’d rather play by myself,” you protest.

“Sorry,” says the clerk. “Two asses in every cart.” His off-color candor doesn’t lighten the reality of your crumbling plan. He puts a radio to his mouth and lets the starter know someone is on the way. The guy you’re paired with is 80. He’s got a military insignia on his hat, a blue-line flag on his shirt and dark shades.

“You like taking your time,” he says without turning toward you. “Typical.”

“Nice to meet you too,” you say reflexively as he slams on the gas before you can fully sit down. Your afternoon of ease and elevation has become a generational pissing match, and you’re filled with regret. But you know what? You’re a goddamn trooper. You’re not going to let some old codger ruin your day in the sun. You’re going to smoke that weed in your bag, and you’re going to get away with it. Here’s how.

Keep smokes hidden but accessible. While the pack holding the supply of good stuff should be kept in your bag, the blunt you’re smoking should be on you—unseen but easy to retrieve. You want immediate access when an opportunity presents itself. Pockets are not ideal unless you have a plastic snap-lid container to protect them from crumbling. My preference is to keep my smoke wedged between my hat and ear. Another possibility is in your sock if you’re rocking shin-climbers. Feel free to get creative here.

Walk out to your ball. Insist on your partner pulling up to their ball while you walk out to yours. Not only will this satisfy any need for one-upmanship they might possess, it will also give you plenty of time and distance to spend with your smokes. Stay aware of where they’re at and, when you hear the cart approaching, tap out your smoke and put it back in its hiding spot. Much of this technique depends on ball placement off the tee, but it can be modified to fit the situation. If your partner outdrives you, hit your second shot, grab the club for your third and say you’ll walk up as they’re hitting their second. If you outdrive them, grab your club for the next shot and walk out if the difference in distance isn’t too great. If you hit a bad shot that would require some looking through rough, great! Grab a few clubs from your bag that might be useful, insist that they go hit their shot and light it up when they drive away.

Greens get it done. When it’s time to chip and putt, players generally have a fair amount of space between them. Take your time assessing the lie, scrutinize the hills and valleys of the putting surface, take some deliberate and thoughtful practice swings, and puff that spliff the entire time. If your partner is trying to rush you, ignore them. Assessing the shot is vital to hitting a good one, ultimately taking less time.

For those in the know, golf and marijuana are a mighty duo. Independently, they relax, comfort and remind us there’s more to life than what occupies our day-to-day experience. Together, they can make an already enjoyable experience an absolute escape and pleasure, if done with care and consideration. Take these tips and swing away.


Originally published in the October, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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Stoned Conversations: High Maintenance’s Ben Sinclair & Author Etgar Keret

Ben Sinclair, co-creator of HBO’s High Maintenance, sparked a joint on his balcony with author Etgar Keret to promote Etgar’s new book of stories Fly Already. They had a funny expansive chat about mistaken identity, stoner labels, plus the funniest and saddest pot stories Etgar has ever experienced. 

I Love Your Show HIGH TIMES, Whoever You Are

Ben Sinclair: I guess I’m supposed to ask you some questions for free.

Etgar Keret: I should leverage my answers in a way that will give you ideas for your show.

Ben Sinclair: For my show High Maintenance, which people call High Times all the time. They say, “I love High Times. Can I get a picture?” And I say, “Okay, but what’s my name?” And they don’t know my name.

Etgar Keret: Really?

Ben Sinclair: Yeah. They say, “I’m such a big fan. Can I get your real name?”

Etgar Keret: Your real name. (laughter) Yeah.

Ben Sinclair: This is us smoking a joint together.

FLY ALREADY And Boris Johnson’s Hair

Ben Sinclair: You have four pot stories in your new book Fly Already. Why so many pot stories?

Etgar Keret: When I smoked pot … I don’t function very well, so I outsource everything. Let’s say I have to buy something in the store. I give the guy my wallet and I say, “How much is it?” He says, “Three dollars.” So he takes three dollars (out of my wallet) because I’m too stoned. So far it’s worked.

Ben Sinclair: You let people coddle you.

Etgar Keret: I become very trusting. People are very nice to me when I’m stoned. They’re not as nice when I’m not stoned.

Ben Sinclair: Me too. I sometimes smoke pot to change the way people react to me, not just to change the way I feel about the world, but I know that sometimes I’ll come in reeking of weed, and people have a different expectation of what kind of time we’re about to have. 

You know how Boris Johnson messes up his hair before going out there? He wants everyone to think he’s a buffoon. I feel like sometimes pot helps with that. Not to say Boris Johnson is a good politician or anything, but he has gotten far for having such messed-up hair. You know what I mean? 

Trippy Dudes & Stoner Labels With Ben Sinclair

Ben Sinclair: My experience has been… people really want to put ‘nonfunctional stoner’ to me. They want to make me seem all tripped out and weird — and I am a trippy guy, and I am weird, but that’s not because I smoke. Smoking sometimes amplifies it, but I was already a tripped-out dude. I think people just like putting people in a box so when you … I have to go get more [weed]. Wait one second. 

The Saddest Pot Story By Etgar Keret

Ben Sinclair: What’s your saddest pot story?

Etgar Keret: I had a reading in Montreal, and this guy I know there said, “After the reading, I’ll take you for a drink.” We go to this bar and the guy says, “Is there anything you want?” 

I said, “Can you get me a joint?”

The guy is uncomfortable and says, “Wow, you know, me and my girlfriend just split up a few days ago. I moved to another apartment, and I left the pot in her place.” I say, “It’s cool. It’s okay if I don’t have pot.” 

After five minutes, he says, “Goddammit, I’m calling her. I’m calling her now.” He calls her, comes back, and you can see he’s really, really depressed. He says, “I called her, and she said that I can’t come pick the pot up because she’s with a guy. “

Ben Sinclair: Uh…

Etgar Keret: So she said she’d leave it for him in the postbox. And this guy is really, really sad now, because he knows his ex girlfriend is with another guy, and he’s going to her home, and it feels kind of awkward, you know? When he gets there he doesn’t know if he wants to go and take it, but then he says, “I have to go take it because if I don’t, and I asked her to put it there, I come off as an asshole.”

So he takes it. He comes to the car and says, “Okay, let’s go to my place.” We drive and he’s really, really sad and I feel really bad. We go into his apartment, and it feels uncomfortable, you know? He rolls the joint, and then he says, “Okay, we have to go down now to smoke it outside, because I can’t smoke in the apartment.” 

It’s the fifth floor. We just walked here. I’m not going down five floors. “It’s okay, let’s sit. Let’s not smoke.”

He says, “What do you mean not smoke? I called my girlfriend, and I had to go there in the fucking rain and you have to smoke it now.” And I said, “Yeah, I don’t want to go down five floors.” He said, “I know what to do. We’ll open the window and you smoke from outside of the window.” I said, “Yeah, but the window’s a bit high” So he said, “I’ll hold you from your feet, and you smoke it outside.” I said, “I don’t want the joint.” He said, “You’re going to smoke the joint.”

I said, “Okay.” And in the end, my body is half out the window, and he’s holding my feet, and I’m smoking this joint. And then as I’m smoking it, it begins to hail like somebody throwing stones at you, and this guy holding my legs is so sad, you know? And this was the saddest joint I smoked.

Etgar’s Funniest Pot Story 

Ben Sinclair: What’s your happiest pot story? 

Etgar Keret: I’ll tell you my funniest pot story. When I published my first book, they started asking me to do readings. I was waiting downstairs, and they came with a van to take me there. We go 200 meters, and (the driver) asks me, “How am I driving?” I say, “You’re really good. From my point of view you’re doing a good job.” 

We take a right and he says, “You like how I took the right?” I said, “Yeah, it was fine.” Then, at some stage he says to me, “You know what? I’m stressed, I’m stressed.” And I say, “Why are you stressed?” And he said, “Because it’s my first day on the job, and I don’t want to fuck up.” So I say, “Look, it’s also my first day at the job. It’s my first paying gig, and I also don’t want to fuck up. Everything’s going to be okay.” And he says, “I have an idea. I got some pot. I’ll roll us a joint. We will smoke it, and it will make us more mellow.” I say, “It’s better that I don’t smoke because I’m supposed to speak very soon,” and the guy says, “C’mon, this stuff is really mild. You won’t really feel it.”

I say, “You smoke it all.” He says, “No, I can’t smoke it all. If I smoke it all, I start getting paranoid that you’re a cop.” So I say, “You know what? I’ll just take one puff.” I take one puff, and it feels good so I take a few more puffs. I feel it. I can’t move my body. I’m totally frozen. I can’t move any nerves in my body, and then he stops and he says, “Okay, we reached the venue.” I kind of challenge myself, and am able to move my body to get out of the car. 

As I get outside, I see that you have to walk up these very steep stairs and I say to myself, “I can fall, so I’m not taking any risks,” and I go up the stairs on all fours. As I reach the top step this woman who’s the host says, “What are you doing?” She wants to shake my hand, but I feel like if I take it I can fall so I stand up and shake her hand, and it’s kind of beautiful. 

She introduces me, and I get on the stage. I open the book. I look at the page, and I can’t read what’s written because I’m stoned. The pages are like oily stains. They get bigger and smaller. It doesn’t make any sense. You really can’t make anything out of it.

Then, I remembered my brother told me that if you eat something very sweet it takes the high down. So I say, “Excuse me, does anybody have a granola bar or some chocolate?” This woman says, “I baked a cheesecake, and I live across the street.” I say, “Would you mind bringing some of this cheesecake?” She said, “sure,” and she went. I waited on the stage until she came back. It was very long. And then she returned with the cake, cut it into pieces, and offered it to other people, but nobody ate it. Then, I took the tray and I sat on the stage and ate all the cake. When I finished eating the cake I opened the book and I could read the letters.

But I don’t feel like [reading it] so I start talking and I give this monologue. I finish talking and everybody’s clapping. I say, “Thank you.” They go to their cars, and this guy says to me, “What are you, crazy? You’re crazy. You’ve been talking for three hours.”

Ben Sinclair: That was like a super stoner story.

Etgar Keret: Yeah.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Michigan to Start Taking Applications for Adult-Use Cannabis Businesses Friday

Regulators in Michigan will begin accepting applications for licenses to operate businesses in the state’s coming adult-use cannabis market on Friday. The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency will accept applications for several different license types on its website beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, November 1.

The agency expects to begin issuing adult-use licenses to companies that are already licensed to grow, process, test, and retail medical marijuana as soon as late November, according to media reports. But once those licenses are issued, it will still take months for recreational cannabis to reach consumers, according to Joe Neller, the co-founder of medical marijuana producer and retailer Green Peak Innovations, which has permits allowing the cultivation of 18,000 plants and operates four dispensaries in Michigan.

“If the state takes all of the 90 days afforded to them by law to review our application and grant us a license, then we could start producing that adult-use product,” Neller said. “It does appear the state is going to make us begin those plants basically from seed or clone, so that would take another six months to grow the product, harvest it, pas[s] testing, package it up and get it into market, so anywhere from six to nine month[s] from Nov. 1 is how we’re modeling it.”

Application fees for adult-use cannabis licenses run $6,000, whether or not a permit is eventually issued. Once a license is issued, annual renewals, starting at $1,000 for cannabis event organizers and ranging up to $40,000 for large cultivation and processing operations, are also required. Applicants are also required to carry $100,000 worth of bodily injury and liability insurance.

Medical Cannabis Businesses Given Head Start

Until 2021, only organizations that are currently licensed to operate medical marijuana businesses will be permitted to apply for licenses required for the largest adult-use cultivation and processing facilities. Robin Schneider, the executive director for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said those provisions were written into the ballot proposal that legalized recreational cannabis so that medical marijuana businesses would be able to get a head start in the adult-use market.

“We knew that we needed to have the support of the medical licensees as we were moving into election day, and so that was done on purpose to ensure that their investments were protected,” she said.

Applications for businesses in the retail cannabis supply chain including cultivators, processors, testing labs, and transporters will be accepted. Other license types available include cannabis event organizers, temporary events, and onsite consumption establishments.

Regulators are unsure how much demand there will be for the state’s adult-use cannabis business licenses. When licensing for medical marijuana operations began in 2017, far fewer applications were received than authorities anticipated.

“We were anticipating a big turnout when medical started and it was more a trickle, but we’re preparing for all possibilities,” said Michigan Regulatory Agency spokesman David Harns.

The agency plans to release preliminary data on the applications it receives beginning Friday evening.

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USDA Announces Hemp Regulations

This morning, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. The program, as stipulated by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, will establish a regulatory framework for hemp production in the country.

Secretary Perdue made the announcement in a YouTube video titled “USDA’s Hemp Policy.” Later in the week, an interim final rule formalizing the program will be published in the Federal Register, according to the USDA’s website. “The rule includes provisions for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve hemp production plans developed by states and Indian tribes including: requirements for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced; testing the levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol; disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements; and licensing requirements,” reads the press release. “It also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own approved hemp production plan.” The interim final rule will go into effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register, which should be by the end of this week.

You can find a preview of the rule here. The agency has also developed guidelines for sampling and testing procedures, which you can find here. Those documents are meant to provide more information for hemp testing laboratories.

You can watch the YouTube video and read the announcement he made below:

Hello everyone, as I travel across this great country of ours, I hear a lot about a strong interest in a new economic opportunity for America’s farmers: the production of hemp. Which is why today I am pleased to announce the USDA has published the rule establishing the US domestic hemp production program. We said we’d get it done in time for producers to make planning decisions for 2020 and we followed through. We have had teams operating with all hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers who want to participate in this program. As mandated by Congress, our program requires all hemp growers to be licensed and includes testing protocols to ensure that hemp grown under this program is hemp and nothing else. The USDA has also worked to provide licensed growers access to loans and risk management products available for other crops. As the interim final rule, the rule becomes effective immediately upon publication in the federal register. But we still want to hear from you. Help us make sure the regulations meet your needs. That’s why the publication of the interim final rule also includes a public comment period continuing a full and transparent rulemaking process that started with a hemp listening session all the way back in March 2019. At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets. And I encourage all producers to take the time to fully educate themselves on the processes, requirements and risk that come with any market or product before entering this new frontier. The Agricultural Marketing Service will be providing additional information, resources and educational opportunities on the new program. And I encourage you to visit the USDA hemp website for more information. As always, we thank you for your patience and input during this process.

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North Coast Analytical & North Coast Testing Accredited to ISO 17025:2017

According to a press release published earlier this month, the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) announced the accreditation of both North Coast Analytical Laboratories and North Coast Testing Laboratories to ISO 17025:2017 for cannabis testing.

Both labs are located in Streetsboro, Ohio, becoming A2LA’s first accredited labs in the state. North Coast Testing does cannabis testing for Ohio’s medical cannabis industry, whereas North Coast Analytical does testing for the hemp industry.

Carolyn Friedrich, Ph.D., scientific director at North Coast Testing, says they are excited to help ensure the safety of patients for Ohio’s medical cannabis program. “We are extremely proud of the work of our entire team in rapidly developing and implementing a comprehensive quality management program that can give all participants in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program confidence in the quality and safety of products tested in our laboratory,” says Friedrich.

Nick Szabo, laboratory director at North Coast Analytical, says A2LA went “above and beyond at every step, we greatly appreciate their efforts. Our accreditation by A2LA is a testament to our ability to meet the most rigorous quality management standards in analytical testing of hemp products, and a vote of confidence in our team’s ability to perform at the highest levels.”

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