When the novel coronavirus first necessitated business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders to prevent its spread in the U.S. this past March, it was unclear exactly what the ramifications would be for those working on promising state legalization efforts. Priorities, understandably, turned to mitigating the pandemic. However, in most states, cannabis cultivators and dispensaries were deemed essential and, with new regulations and social distancing measures, allowed to remain open.
Four months later, there is some progress to note. As this issue goes to press, advocates in Arkansas and Nebraska are approaching their early July deadlines to gather enough signatures for ballot initiatives that, if passed, would legalize adult-use cannabis consumption and sales in Arkansas and a medical program in Nebraska. (Editor's Note: Arkansas did not collect enough signatures; Nebraska surpassed its goal.) Arizona advocates have enough signatures but continue to collect more to ensure that the about 238,000 needed are verified to qualify for an adult-use legalization initiative voters will decide on this fall.
A campaign in Montana met its signature requirement to get two adult-use cannabis legalization initiatives on the November ballot, one that legalizes the plant and establishes a system to regulate and tax products, and another that sets the legal age minimum to purchase and consume cannabis to 21.
In New Jersey, voters will consider an adult-use legalization measure—put on hold in 2019—while NJ CAN 2020, comprising a group of cannabis advocates, is working to complement the state’s tax and regulation language by expanding on how the system would operate and prioritizing social equity programs.
States are also continuing to approve measures to improve access for patients and customers while keeping them safe during the pandemic. Some Maryland patients can apply for and renew certifications via telehealth services, and dispensaries across the U.S. could (and in some cases, were mandated) to move to delivery and curbside pickup during the early weeks of shutdowns, convenient services that continue. Additionally, New Jersey approved home delivery for its medical program in late June.
Some state tax revenues are looking grim as a result of widespread business shutdowns and lost income, and tax revenues from the essential cannabis industry looks all the more appealing. At the same time, protests over police killings continue across the country and have placed an urgent focus on racial injustice and social equity; and with expungements, pardons and social equity programs major components of legalization programs throughout the country, reform efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize cannabis are being seen by many in a new light. In June, for example, Nevada officials passed a resolution to pardon low-level cannabis convictions, and the New Jersey Assembly passed a decriminalization and expungement process bill that, as of press time, has moved to the state Senate for consideration.
Legalization offers the opportunities to create jobs, jump-start decimated economies, replenish depleted state tax coffers and begin to rectify ineffective laws criminalizing possession that were unequally applied.
As long as voters and lawmakers remember that, there is much to be hopeful for in the November elections and beyond.
Since legalizing medical cannabis in June 2018, Oklahoma regulators have taken a hands-off approach that lets the free market naturally decide the optimum number of operational businesses, while other new markets, such as Illinois, are attempting to create a closely controlled market.
This lax attitude extends beyond business licensing into patient applications. More than 7% of Oklahoma's population is enrolled in the medical program due to a lack of state-approved qualifying conditions. Patients only need a doctor's recommendation to join the state’s registry.
By comparison, Illinois has seen marginal growth since launching adult-use sales in January, in part due to market restrictions enacted by the legislation the governor signed. Even though adult-use legalization has made products available to Midwestern residents this year, the Illinois market’s total sales are only just matching those from Oklahoma's medical-only program, according to research from Brightfield Group.
Major limitations on Illinois' medical-market enrollment, including a restrictive qualifying conditions list and a fingerprint requirement, constrained participation in Illinois’ program until 2019 changes were implemented (e.g., Gov. J.B. Pritzker repealed the fingerprint requirement). At the same time, Illinois has granted roughly 40 times fewer dispensary licenses than Oklahoma as of June 12. Illinois’ medical program was designed to be highly regulated, depressing patient participation—less than 1% of the state's population is currently enrolled. As the state implemented adult use, regulators delayed allocating additional licenses until well after the program's inception. These licensing decisions stunted Illinois' growth by not allowing the supply to grow to meet demand.
As a result, Oklahoma's medical program sales are only slightly behind Illinois' totals despite only having a third of the population. Product selection in Illinois is lacking, and products are generally twice as expensive as they would be in Oklahoma due to supply constraints (~$65 for an eighth of flower in Illinois compared to ~$30 in Oklahoma). A bulk of Oklahoma's 9,266 business licenses are held by small local companies, while Illinois has a higher relative level of multi-state operator (MSO) presence.
Oklahoma has some of the lowest barriers to entry for dispensaries and producers (the state requires a $2,500 application fee, a fraction of the cost in other states) and lacks a vertical integration requirement, which sets up a boom for industry firms. The low barrier to entry has allowed interested residents with little capital to jump in.
With its plethora of licensed businesses, the Oklahoma market is encouraging greater competition, and Brightfield Group research shows the state has successfully driven down prices for customers and continues to attract new license applicants. Oklahoma might be a good case study for regulators weighing the impacts on local and state revenue against the creation of a sustainable marketplace.
Andy Seeger is the cannabis research manager for Brightfield Group, where he performs quantitative and qualitative analyses of the U.S. medical and adult-use markets.
Debby Goldsberry of Magnolia Wellness Responds to Robberies That Occurred Amid Protests
“While we don’t like being targeted like this, we get it. Our sympathies lie with the protesters and people of color who have been way too long targeted by law enforcement.”
^ Debby Goldsberry, a long-time cannabis advocate and owner of Oakland’s historic Magnolia Wellness dispensary, responded with empathy to her store being the target of multiple robberies between May 31 and June 1, during protests against police violence spurred by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. She said she was targeted not by protesters nor looters, but by a group taking advantage of a police force that would not be able to respond quickly during the protests. Source: Cannabis Dispensary magazine
Cannabis Found at the Judahite Shrine of Biblical Arad
“This is the first time that cannabis has been identified in the Ancient Near East; Its use in the shrine must have played a central role in the cultic rituals performed there.”
^ Eran Arie from The Israel Museum in Jerusalem issued this comment about a recent article from the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University that reported traces of cannabis were found on an 8th century BCE shrine comprised of two limestone monoliths. The findings suggest that cannabis was deliberately used as a psychoactive during cult practices in biblical Judah. Source: Taylor and Francis Group/ Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University
Canopy Growth CEO Predicts U.S. Federal Legalization in 2022
“My view is we will have something akin to federal permissibility, maybe in 2022, possibly 2025 at the outside. That’s regardless of who’s in the White House.”
^ David Klein, CEO of international cannabis company Canopy Growth, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada that he expects the U.S. market will open up to cannabis as soon as 2022. He added that as more states legalize the plant, it “puts a little more pressure on the federal government not to make criminals of people operating legitimate businesses.” Source: Yahoo Finance Canada
Plant physiology: Medium to tall plant. Zowahh produces bulky, rounded buds with heavy, swollen calyxes. She has a decent stretch, with few side branches. She often takes on a shape resembling a tall Christmas tree, with a dense, heavy central cola.
Average yield: Expect average yields of 700-plus grams per square meter or 2 ounces per square foot once Zowahh has been dialed in to an indoor environment. (Greenhouse tests have not yet been run on Zowahh.)
Flowering time: Karma Genetics lets Zowahh plants run for 70 days for best results. Although faster phenotypes may show up, the most desirable plants are closer to the 70-day maturation mark.
Ideal light-intensity setting: Karma Genetics usually runs Zowahh plants indoors at 600 to 750 watts/meter. It can handle full sunlight without any issues, and is more forgiving, vigorous and productive than the Zkittels parent.
Ideal cultivation environment temperature: For the best flower structure and terpene profile, Zowahh prefers slightly lower temperatures as terpenes and resin glands start to form in flower. The best bud and terpene development are found at 25 to 26 degrees Celsius (77 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit). However, it’s more important to build a healthy, productive plant at higher temperatures than to artificially push temperatures too low, which can lead to root problems and nutrient buildup in the root zone. It’s a balance that has to be dialed in for each grow area.
Ideal cultivation environment relative humidity: RH should drop slowly throughout the crop cycle. 60% to 70% during vegetation, dropping slowly to 45% to 60% through flowering. The fastest growth is seen at slightly higher RH during transition into flower.
Water needs: Zowahh has a fairly standard water usage curve throughout the cycle for its physiology. It’s best to have slightly more aggressive dry downs with a high drain percentage each watering to keep salt buildup lower while you get to know and dial in each phenotype. These plants do not like to stay constantly wet in the root zone.
Nutrient needs: Nutrient needs are within normal parameters. Terpenes are affected if nitrogen is in excess after 45 days in flower. Focus on having plenty of potassium and calcium available to the plants in the last few weeks of flower.
Cannabinoid profile: Zowahh is a high-THC varietal with only trace amounts of secondary cannabinoids.
Terpene profile: Due to her extremely pungent, candy-sour aroma, extra care should be taken to ensure your odor control systems are working.
Susceptibility to any diseases/conditions: Zowahh is quite resistant to most diseases and pests, especially mites. For Zkittels-leaning types that have smaller, dense flowers, it’s important to watch out for mold if the climate has humidity or temperature variations through the day/night periods.
Sjoerd Broeks has more than 25 years of cannabis cultivation and breeding experience. After completing the start-up stage at The Pharm as cultivation director, Broeks is now the genetic development and R&D director for The Pharm LLC, a cannabis cultivation business in Willcox, Ariz. Connect with him on Instagram at @genefinderog.
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