Keeping you up to date on federal and state policy changes and other news from the world of cannabis.
A new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal showed daily use of any type of cannabis rendered a user three times more likely to have an episode of psychosis, compared to those who’d never used cannabis. This increased to five times more likely for daily use of high-potency cannabis, defined as products containing more than 10% THC. While researchers caution the study does not prove causality, it bears noting that in the U.S. the average potency of cannabis flower can be as high as 20%, while extract-based products for vaping pens and for dabbing can be as high as 70%.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) finally plans to expand the number of marijuana growers for federally authorized cannabis research, but only after medical researchers filed court papers asking a judge to compel the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to act. Facing a deadline to respond to the court filing, the DEA said it would look into approving up to 33 federal marijuana growing licenses—applications that have been “processing” for up to three years, with no explanation for the delay. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are questioning what’s been taking the DEA so long. The DOJ issued a statement saying it plans to propose new regulations that would help govern the new program, as well as process applications.
A former criminal statute in New York—responsible for hundreds of thousands of arrests over the past four decades, according to state data—has been overturned and as of August 12th, new legislation officially lowers the penalty for marijuana possession of less than one ounce to a maximum of $50, and downgrades the offense to a violation similar to a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal charge. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York has been softening the rules and penalties related to marijuana possession over many months and has even created a process for erasing certain past offenses—aiming to remedy the disproportionate burden under previous state regulations for communities of color.
Scientists have discovered that there’s something about chocolate that interferes with the testing of marijuana edibles and their potency. In research presented at the American Chemical Society conference, the study’s principal investigator, David Dawson, reported how changing the amount of sample in the testing vial (measuring, say, potency for California’s labeling laws) would determine whether the sample passed or failed, “going against what I’d consider basic statistical representation,” said Dawson. His best guess is that it has to do with chocolate’s fat content, considering THC is fat soluble, too. If this is the case, it has implications for more than just THC-infused chocolates, but for a variety of edibles and other cannabis products. Researchers are looking into whether other cannabinoids like CBD have potency test challenges as well.
As legalization of marijuana sweeps the country, so does the debate over what to do about the disproportionate harm criminalization has done to communities of color. One non-profit, Code for America, is working to reverse this trend—by taking software they developed on the road, to automate, analyze, and expunge criminal convictions still awaiting their day in Illinois state court. The organization recently cleared more than 65,000 low-level marijuana convictions in San Francisco, CA, and now heads to Cook County (which includes Chicago), to work on overturning what could be upwards of 800,000 minor, but previously criminal, marijuana convictions. Illinois is the 11th state to pass recreational marijuana legislation and the latest to offer clemency for prior offenses.
Even though budget analysts have several U.S. states to use as models to guide revenue projections for states considering recreational marijuana legalization, the markets are so new and volatile, it seems evident that predictions are hard. “There’s little data that forecasters can rely on,” says Alexandra Zhang, a co-author of a new Pew Charitable Trusts report on marijuana tax revenues. Numbers can fluctuate wildly from state to state, as a once-illegal market transitions into legitimacy, the report notes. In Nevada, the first six months after legalization saw tax revenue jump 40% more than expected. But in California, the supply didn’t meet demand, the black market kept rolling, and the market was much slower to get established: 6 months after legalization, tax revenues were 45% below projections.
Sarah A Lybrand is a writer specializing in lifestyle, health, finance, cannabis—and fun. She’s written for Bust, Juno, Yahoo, MarketSmiths and Toast Media, among many others.