Keeping you up to date on federal and state policy changes and other news from the world of cannabis.
Fall River, Massachusetts, Mayor Jasiel Correia was arrested on charges he conspired to extort $600,000 from at least four different business owners in exchange for licenses to set up marijuana shops. The FBI and the IRS were involved in the investigation, and at least two others, including the mayor’s chief of staff, were charged. In a separate case, Correia has been accused of filing false tax returns and defrauding investors to bankroll a lavish lifestyle.
U.S. health officials repeated their plea for people to stop vaping until they figure out why vape users are coming down with serious respiratory illnesses. Over 450 possible vape-related cases, diagnosed as lipid pneumonia, have been reported so far as officials scramble to investigate reports coming in from 33 states. Three deaths have been reported to date.
Washington state joined New York and California with its ban on hemp-derived CBD in food and beverage products. Unlike marijuana, CBD is not regulated under Washington state law. The US Department of Agriculture, which regulates the hemp industry, is working hard to spread the word that CBD as a food additive has actually never been legal under state law, despite the law’s haziness. And while CBD will still be fine for topicals like lotions, and edibles will remain available and sold through state licensed cannabis dispensaries, grocery stores, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants that carry non-compliant products will need to start discontinuing their inventory, or could face penalties.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have been working on a tool to detect the main psychoactive component in pot, THC, on the breath, and developers say the device could be ready for mass production in months. What isn’t ready for prime time—and where researchers are stalling out—is deciding what the machine’s numbers mean when it comes to a person’s actual impairment, particularly behind the wheel (in other words, the same debate fought over alcohol breathalyzers for decades). Devices such as a THC breathalyzer have much potential in aiding law enforcement in keeping impaired drivers off the road. But scientists say that when it comes to knowing exactly what “impaired” means, there’s still a long way to go.
Though it’s still unclear what’s causing the severe respiratory illness plaguing vape pen users across the country, updated information emerging from the New York State Department of Health (NYDOH) points to vitamin E acetate, a form of vitamin E, as the suspected culprit. The illicit additive started showing up in blackmarket vape products back in late 2018, and has since been blamed in 361 confirmed or suspected cases nationwide, as well as two deaths. The NYDOH warns that it’s too soon to rule out other contaminants—of which plenty have been found in illicit products in the past—including pesticides, solvents, synthetic cannabinoids, and other toxins.
One of the proposed regulations released in July by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) would require cannabis delivery vehicles and personnel to be equipped with recording devices, based on law enforcement’s concern that criminals might target delivery workers. Opponents say consumer privacy should be a top concern, especially since private citizens risk breaking federal law for any transaction involving marijuana.
Changes to state policy, as well as expanding marijuana access, have given rise to the normalization of marijuana use among pregnant women in the U.S., along with many other misconceptions about the drug’s safety, researchers say. According to government numbers released back in June, about 7% of pregnant women in 2016-17 admitted to using cannabis in the past month, compared to about 3.4% in 2002-03. Currently, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug among pregnant women in the country, used to treat some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea from morning sickness. However, doctors warn that exposing a fetus to marijuana could cause low birth weight and developmental problems.