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Ontario Resumes Issuance of New Cannabis Store Authorizations

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Issuance of new store authorizations will be resumed by the cannabis regulator of Ontario. The authorizations will be issued only if the stores are complete, meet all regulatory requirements, and do not, in any way, violate any of the province’s emergency order restrictions (according to the revised notice).

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global lockdown and economic shutdown. This led to the halt of operations of a significant number of businesses and has also affected the cannabis industry greatly.

Previously, new Retail Store Authorizations (RSA) were paused by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), in early April. This was due to the emergency measures that the province had ordered to take, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and to reduce the spread of the contagious virus.

A revised notice was published on its website, soon after the issuance of the authorization of the first store. In the revised notice, the AGCO clarified that the completion of stores was necessary in compliance with the emergency order of Ontario, where noncritical construction work was paused.

According to the AGCO, about a dozen stores had completed construction and hence had fulfilled the eligibility process, before the issuance of the emergency order.

According to a spokesman’s statement to Marijuana Business Daily, the issuance of RSAs at the same rate as before is expected by the AGCO that is approximately 5 (per) week and 20 per month. The spokesman added that a few applicants already had a ready-store when they first submitted their application. The spokesman continued that they will be in a position to authorize them as well if the stores were to complete the public notice without issue, and the building process is complete already, and the stores are ready to go.

The public notice period continues for the applicant. The key to the maintenance of the growth of Canada’s cannabis industry is the openings of new cannabis stores. The five dozen cannabis stores in Ontario have put the province far behind from other provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia. Furthermore, these two provinces are the provincial leaders in cannabis retail. Alberta has opened 181 cannabis stores while British Columbia has opened 446 cannabis stores.

However, despite the difference, sales of Ontario’s adult-use cannabis rose 3% in February to 38 million Canadian dollars ($27 million), leading Canada.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said in their first post that the preparation of the stores of many retailers was delayed due to the restrictions that were imposed by the emergency order of the province to fight the COVID-19, which also included the pause to construction work. The post also included that the issuance of RSAs to those stores that have successfully met all regulatory requirements will be resumed by the AGCO.

For businesses seeking to open a licensed cannabis store in Ontario, the first step would be to essentially apply for a Retail Operator License (ROL). This will also determine that the eligibility criteria are met by the store operators.
The next step for the businesses would be to apply for Retail Store Authorization (RSA). The RSA applications, deal with the particulars of a physical cannabis store, that involves the location, layout, and security plans.

About early April, nearly 900 Retail Operator License (ROL) applications were received by the cannabis regulator of Ontario, for cannabis stores, since it opened up the process to all new businesses on January 6th, 2020.

Previously, the closing of private cannabis stores for two weeks was ordered by Ontario, as of April 4, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, soon after, at least a 14-day window was given to the cannabis stores to serve customers through curbside pickups and home delivery.

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Voting on MORE Act Delayed

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Voting on the MORE Act due to be held in September have been delayed until after the November elections.

Marijuana advocates were expecting the MORE Act to be put up for a historical voting session this September. The bill was supposed to legalize marijuana at the federal level and introduce social justice reforms. Advocates were seeing this as an opportunity to finally end the racial disparities faced by the people of color in the United States. Contrary to these expectations, voting on the MORE ACT has now been delayed until after the November elections.

What is the MORE Act?

MORE Act is short for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. It is a proposed legislation that would remove cannabis from the Schedule 1 category and legalize it federally.

In addition to this, the bill has also proposed criminal justice reforms. This involves an expungement of prior cannabis convictions and re-sentencing of those under supervision and much more. Furthermore, the bill has also proposed to create grant programs to benefit the communities most hardly hit by the war on drugs.

apart from this, the bill also introduced certain immigrant protection laws. The Act has attempted to put an end to deportation or citizenship denial on the basis of minor marijuana offenses. It also aimed to establish a sales tax of 5% on marijuana and its related products. Returns from it were to be channelized towards youth training programs, substance use treatments, loans and licenses for small businesses in the marijuana industry, and many other causes.

Kamala Harris an Jerry Naddler introduced the MORE Act in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, on the 23rd of July 2019. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill with a 24-10 majority.

In August of 2020, Vanita Gupta called for a vote on the Act on behalf of marijuana advocates and civil right activists. It would have been a historic move if the bill had been placed in the House of Representatives for voting. Never before in history has a move for descheduling marijuana reached this farther in the legislation process.

In the words of Rep. Earl Blumenauer, “As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,”

Voting on MORE Act delayed

A few weeks ago, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had announced that voting on the MORE Act will hit the floor during the week of September 21. However, the office of Steny Hoyer did not include the bill in it weekly floor schedule. A commitment to bring up the bill sometime in late fall has been made.

Most reform advocates believe that the decision to delay voting on MORE Act may have been influenced by moderate Democrats. This group had expressed an earlier concern that voting on a cannabis bill while coronavirus relief legislation was was unresolved would  not create a pleasant image for the reelection campaigns.

This delay has not been taken in good spirits by reform advocates like Rep.Barbara Lee and Rep Earl Blumenauer. According to them, ending the failed war on drugs has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown Americans disproportionately. They believe that the public deserves the right to vote on the issue of marijuana legalization.

“Though it appears to be a temporary delay, we are seriously disappointed by this news as time and time again, communities directly impacted by systemic injustices are made to wait for justice and change,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Despite of this blow to their cause, albeit temporary, advocates of marijuana legalization are still hopeful. They are optimistic that whenever the bill gets presented for a vote, it will get some bipartisan support. This was established Republicans like Rep. Matt Gaetz, McClintock and showed their intentions to vote yes on the MORE Act.

Opponents of the MORE Act

The delay on the marijuana legalization voting is being celebrated among the opponents. Among them is Rep. Andy Harris who took to twitter to express his views.

Opponents have hailed this delay in voting as a massive victory for public health and safety. They established the fact that encouraging marijuana use in disadvantaged communities was social injustice as less than 2% of marijuana industry is owned by the minority community. The bill would benefit the wealthy white investors, big pharma and the tobacco and alcohol conglomerates.

 

 

 

 

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Decriminalization of marijuana likely under Joe Biden’s administration

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Is Joe Biden's decriminalization of marijuana enough for policy reforms or does he need to do more?

Joe Biden has gained prominence yet again on the political scene of United States as a presidential nominee for the 2020 elections. According to his running mate Kamala Harris, decriminalization of marijuana is a change in the design of the system which will definitely be dealt with if they win the elections. Effectuation of this policy will also involve an automatic expungement of all marijuana-use convictions and ‘end incarceration for drug use alone’.

Kamala Harris outlined these proposals during a virtual roundtable she hosted through Facebook Live on September 14th.

“This is no time … for half-steppin’, this is no time for incrementalism. We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system.” said Kamala during the virtual roundtable.

The proposed alterations in the legislative policies reflect a huge change in the political stances of these democratic leaders. Both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have been active supporters of strict actions against drug use. From proposing decriminalization of marijuana to desceduling it, the duo has evolved a lot on their attitudes towards the drug.

Biden has spent a career in Washington that stressed for mandatory minimum sentencing. According to Naomi Murakawa, author of  The First Civil Right:How Liberals Built Prison America, Joe Biden’s policies have ‘made the criminal justice system more lethal and just bigger’.

Biden helped write the controversial 1994 ”tough on crime” law. This law had resulted in aggressive policing, mass incarcerations and more prison cells in the 1990s. He was at the center of framing many other federal policies that escalated the war on drugs.

Biden has defended the 1994 law as recently as 2016. He argued that it helped to put an end to an era of crime and violence in American cities. Biden’s past records with criminal justice issues had put him at odds with most Democrats as a vast majority of them were in support of some sort of reforms in marijuana policies.

Earlier this year, Joe Biden has admitted to making mistakes in his political career. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried,” he said. In an attempt to highlight the changes in his political views, he admitted to the presence of systematic racism within the nation. His decisions had trapped an entire generation, but despite of this he was hopeful about carrying the legacy of MLK forward.

California and Proposition 19

Proposition 19 is also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The initiative had proposed legalization of marijuana and its related activities for adults 21 years and older. It had also allowed local governments to regulate, tax and control these activities.

About 53.5% votes opposed the initiative on the ballots, leading to its defeat. Kamala Harris was also among those who opposed it and saw the proposition as a public safety issue. She only supported the legal use of medical marijuana but not anything beyond that.

Policy reforms by Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is often mocked by her opponents for her past record as a prosecutor of marijuana cases. According to some sources, she is responsible for putting 1500 people in jail for marijuana related crimes.

In July of 2019 however, Kamala Harris introduced the MORE Act, short for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungment Act. The bill proposed a removal of marijuana from the Schedule 1 classification. In addition to this, criminal justice reforms and decriminalization of the drug were also a part of the bill. This bill has not received a single vote from the republican controlled Senate.

This September, the MORE Act would be up for vote in the House of Representatives. Voting for rescheduling marijuana in the Congress is a history changing event which has never happened before. Many are seeing this voting opportunity as ‘a chance to end a failed policy’.

If successful, the Act will allow marijuana a legal status at the federal level, although sales will not be legalized immediately in states. “As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), an advocate of marijuana legalization.

Will marijuana be legal?

Republicans have criticized Democrats for ignoring more urgent issues like handling the pandemic and handling healthcare issues. Therefore, the chances of this bill passing in the Senate are low in light of the severe opposition.

Furthermore, both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have been supporters of decriminalizing marijuana not legalizing it. This is why many politicians, including Barbara Lee, think that Joe Biden will need to evolve more on his marijuana policies.  Although the decriminalization of marijuana and its removal from the Schedule 1 classification are big steps but more needs to be done.

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Cannabis Vs Prescription drugs – Can cannabis win?

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Cannabis Vs Prescription drugs is a topic of increasing debate among experts.

Cannabis is often compared with prescription drugs to determine its efficacy for soothing various types of health conditions. Whether or not such comparisons are constructive is a question that is awaiting detailed research by experts. Until then, the debate of cannabis vs prescription drugs will continue to shift weight on the beam balance of opinions. Only solid scientific evidence will decide if substituting one with the other as a treatment method is a step towards the right direction.

Cannabis vs Prescription Drugs

Since prescription medicines have been around for quite sometime, data related to their effects is very well-known. Contrary to this, the information pertaining to the effects of using cannabis on the body is still lacking evidence and research.

Despite of this, cannabis is being widely used by many patients as an alternate medicine in an effort to relieve their discomfort. This diversion can be primarily associated with the adverse effects of prescription drugs that are not only generally known but are also proven in various studies.

Gabapentin for instance, is a prescription drug that is used to treat epilepsy in patients. Other conditions that it may treat include neuropathy, restless leg syndrome and hot flashes. In spite of these benefits, various studies conducted on the drug have uncovered some serious carry overs associated with its prolonged usage.

Depression of the respiratory tract is one of the most serious side-effects which gabapentin can cause. Although this condition occurs in explicit circumstances, but even a slight probability makes this prescription drug dangerous. Vision problems, retrograde amnesia, trembling and irritability are among the other examples of the ‘tags-attached’ with the medicine.

In addition, another class of drugs called benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’ cause sedative-hypnotic outcomes on the body. Scientists call this class benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’. After consumption, these drugs attach with the GABA-A receptors of the brain. This has the effect of slowing down the stimulation of the nerves, creating a calming sensation in the body. The addiction factor of this class of drugs basically stems from its tendency to tranquilize the system.

Users of benzodiazepines and gabapentin have suffered from addiction and withdrawal upon use. Infact, gabapentin increases the negative impact of other opioids according to researches conducted by Quest Diagnostics. The research findings have established that individuals battling substance abuse who also happen to consume gabapentin, increase their chances of opioid related death by 49%.

Can CBD substitute prescription drugs?

The most common argument given by the opponents of CBD use for medicinal purposes is its alleged psychoactive impact on the body. This common perception is not entirely correct because there are different strains of cannabis plants and not all of them impact the mind and body in this perceived manner.

In reality, another component of the cannabis plant called THC is responsible for the euphoric feeling. Although both CBD and THC have a similar chemical structure, they bind differently to the brain receptors. In addition, CBD actually reduces the psychoactive impacts of THC by blocking its access to the body’s receptors.

Most patients use CBD for soothing anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy or chronic pain. Due to the background benefits that follow its use, most individuals end up swapping their prescription drugs with CBD. Most patients discover these benefits almost accidentally. For instance, people taking CBD for anxiety may experience a reduction in their chronic pain, causing them to swap CBD with their pain medication.

Risks associated with non-prescribed swapping of medication with cannabis products

Even though researches relating to swapping prescription drugs with cannabis is in its fancy,  patients still consider it as a replacement option. This self presumed swapping of medications by patients has raised concerns among healthcare professionals. A large part of this concern  stems from possible drug interactions that may occur in the body. According to Dr. Corroon founder of Center for Medical Cannabis, adding CBD to a drug regimen of an opioid or benzo amplifies some of the effects.

For instance, the bodies of  patients taking CBD and Valium ( a benzo) together will metabolize CBD earlier. This sends back Valium to the bloodstream, causing it to stay n the body for a longer period of time. Without the consultation of physicians, this might lead to an unintentional overdose of the prescription drug.

Vice President of Patient Research at Tilary, Dr. Phillipe Lucas has conducted a latest research on this subject. The study analysed about 2032 medical cannabis patients using a survey. About 45% of patients reported substituting alcohol with cannabis, and about 26% used it in place of illicit drugs. The substitution rate for prescription drugs was the highest and stood at 69%.

This stresses the need for proper supervision. With the correct guidelines in place, patients can protect themselves from withdrawal issues, addiction and drug interactions.

 

 

 

 

 

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