By Dalton Rosario

Now that our nation’s 116th Congress has begun ramping up efforts for extending a pro-cannabis rider protecting states’ and U.S. territories’ medical marijuana programs from federal persecution, it comes to advocates as a shocking standstill that the proposed legislation barres Washington D.C. from investing capital towards regulatory infrastructure for legalizing adult cannabis use.       

Incoming House Appropriations Chair, Nita Lowey (D), author of this rider includes in Section 537 of the proposed bill, “None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the [50] States… to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” 

Unapologetic tactics from the government shutdown representing a negotiation ploy by President Trump to secure funding for his campaign promise of a wall extending the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico has spread doubt and confusion about whether or not the Republican-controlled Senate is even willing to pass this Democratic bill to the executive office without it including provisions for funding Trump’s wall. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), author of the 2018 Farm Bill, and the Chamber’s Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), have both casted doubt on voting favorably for a bill that the president would not support without first securing the Democratic-approved funding he seeks. On the other hand, if the Senate and House both approve this bill, and if it successfully gets signed into law by President Trump, nationwide programs supporting medicinal cannabis use would be protected from scrutiny by the Department of Justice and DEA. 

By Dalton Rosario

The United States has nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerate population despite comprising less than 5% of the world’s total population. From 2001-2010 Police made 8.2 million cannabis related arrests, costing the U.S. $3 Billion every year to enforce. And in 2017 alone there were a total of 659,700 cannabis related arrests, from which 599,282 of those arrests were possession related. This equates to one cannabis arrest every 48 seconds according to a recent FBI reporting.

What is most alarming about these infringements are the level of systemic discrimination inflicted upon minority groups across our country. Last year in Washington D.C., 90.85% of all cannabis related arrests involved African Americans, compared to 4% for Caucasians and Hispanics. In New York City from 2014-2017, 48.3% of all cannabis related crimes involved African Americans, 38% involved Hispanics and only 9% involved Caucasians. 

It is a fact that cannabis arrest rates have been dropping since statewide legislation supporting cannabis programs protecting adult consumption have combated federal prohibition. As written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a report encompassing statistics from 2016-2018, "Drug crime defendants, who accounted for 28 percent of total filings, grew two percent, although defendants accused of crimes associated with marijuana decreased 19 percent.” Despite these facts, the wrongs of our immediate past must be overturned by the enforcement of our democratic right to choose to allow cannabis in our communities as a healthy means of profitable industry. Public opinion favors pro-cannabis legalization by a majority 62%, and non-violent drug offenders require expungements and restitutions for the violations of their civil liberties during this era of prohibition. We can mitigate this by allowing the proper infrastructure for state sponsored medical and recreational cannabis programs, facilitated by certification and retraining opportunities for those most affected by the war on drugs to earn a livelihood in this industry of commerce.   

By Dalton Rosario

Despite the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence declining motions for rescheduling cannabis at the United Nations’ International Cannabis Policy Conference earlier in December, the global cannabis market is poised to earn revenues as high as $57 billion in the next decade, with 67% of consumer dollars spent by recreational users. 

According to collaborative studies conducted by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics earlier this year, the United States bolsters the largest market potential estimated at $47.3B by 2027. And with the EU spending roughly $1.3 trillion in government subsidies on universal health care, Europe’s medicinal marijuana market has the infrastructure to become the highest grossing in the world. 

To reach this global market capacity a few moving pieces must be set in place. This includes removing cannabis as an illicit drug by rescheduling its current classification. U.S. Federal law considers cannabis a threat to public safety, providing no medical benefit in rank with heroine, ecstasy and bath salts. Global rescheduling initiatives can be accomplished by amending the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, contingent upon the United States leading by example and ending federal prohibition. Unquestionably 2018 has been a remarkable year for cannabis reformation throughout our country and now the world is watching to see what will come from our 2020 presidential elections. There is much to be gained holistically and financially by empowering our communities with the means to invest in progressive developments within the cannabis industry. 2019 legislation set in motion by our 116th Congress will declare the historic turning point in a worldwide cultural movement that has been a lifetime in the making.   

By Dalton Rosario

Canada’s Department of Health has opened public feedback for proposing new parameters within their emerging markets for edibles, cannabis infused beverages and THC/CBD derived extracts. Business owners, social advocates and market consumers have until February 20th, 2019 to let their voices be heard on a range of topics from licensing to manufacturing and packaging restrictions. Health Canada is pushing for legislation to be passed in the summer with new regulatory infrastructure set in place by October of next year. 

Canadian manufacturers have risen concerns regarding the harsh single-serving restrictions proposed for packaging and labeling requirements, limiting THC concentration to 10-milligrams per serving. To put that in perspective, states within the U.S. that have established recreational markets such as Colorado, Washington and California allow consumers to buy as much as 100-milligrams per product serving. Furthermore, Health Canada has allowed up to 1,000-milligrams of THC for concentrates and extracts, begging the question of what benefit comes from such confining regulations specific to edibles. And if these restrictions are imposed by lawmakers, what does this mean for legitimate cannabis businesses competing against Canada’s illicit $6B - $8B black market. 

By Dalton Rosario

Hemp and cannabis plants are composed of non-psychoactive cannabinoids crystallized in the form of mushroom-like trichomes that interact with our body in the form of endocannabinoids. These microscopic compounds are naturally created in our body and interact with receptors in our cells impacting physiological processes that regulate our immune system, memory, appetite, mood variance, sleep patterns, anti-inflammation and pain. A number of non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD, CBDa, CBN, CBG and CBC can be ingested and received by our endocannabinoid system along with psychoactive cannabinoids most commonly in the form of THC. 

The body’s endocannabinoid system receives cannabinoids through two primary receptors called CB1 and CB2. The former are found in the brain and central nervous system while the latter are located in peripheral organs and cells linked to the immune system. Although distinguishable, both receptors are responsible for physiological functions related to our health and well being. Not only does our body create cannabinoids on its own but we also receive cannabinoids like a key into a lock. This symbiotic relationship spanning thousands of years represents a distinct dynamic between human beings cultivating cannabis and cannabis shaping neurological receptors in our brain and corresponding cell tissues. 

By Dalton Rosario

Belgium-based AB InBev, maker of Budweiser, is matching $50M in a joint venture totaling $100M with British Columbia-based cannabis company Tilray, to research methods for creating cannabis infused beverages. R&D will be initiated by AB InBev’s Canadian subsidiary Labatt Brewing Company and cannabis developer and distributer High Park Co., subsidiary of Tilray. As expressed by Kyle Norrington, President of Labatt Breweries of Canada, “We intend to develop a deeper understanding of nonalcoholic beverages containing THC and CBD that will guide future decisions about potential commercial opportunities.” 

Although current legislation in Canada does not include legal infrastructure for edibles and/or beverages, marijuana related products and services including edibles and cannabis derived beverages could earn between C$12 Billion ($8.8B USD) and C$22B ($16.13B USD) based upon analyst projections once lawmakers extend recreational forms of cannabis consumption.   

 It comes without surprise that liquor and tobacco companies are widely engaged in developing a foothold in the cannabis industry. Not only for its novelty appeal and seemingly limitless market growth for innovation, but also for its popularly accepted cultural relevance. America’s first publicly traded cannabis company, Canopy Growth, is in the process of developing a line of cannabis-infused cocktails by experimenting with fermentation and distillation processes involving hemp extracts. Also, Marlboro maker Altria Group is investing $1.8B into Canadian cannabis company Cronos Group. Clearly the market is prime for titans of industry to make their way into cannabis production, distribution and THC/CBD derived manufacturing of goods and related services. 

By Dalton Rosario

On Tuesday December 25th, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed new amendments to the Narcotic Act of 1979 in a landslide parliamentary vote of 166-0, to remove bans on medicinal cannabis and kratom. Although recreational cannabis use is still illegal, legislative enforcement for medical programs will take effect after being published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette. As reported by Reuters, Somchai Sawangkarn Chairman of the Drafting Committee, commented in a televised junta-appointed parliamentary session, “This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.”

As regulatory agencies proceed with the necessary infrastructure to allow access of cannabis to patients based upon prescriptions from licensed medical doctors, organizations such as the Thai Red Cross Society and Government Pharmaceutical Organization are eligible for production and distribution of medical cannabis to meet the supply and demand of the market.

Cannabis was culturally accepted as traditional medicine in Thailand until being banned in the 1930’s. Since then a staggering amount of research has surfaced - lifting prohibition - due to overwhelming proof that medical cannabis helps treat: chronic pain, nausea and vomiting resultant of chemotherapy, epilepsy-induced seizures and sleep apnea syndrome.

Further controversy surrounds the influence foreign firms will have on Thailand’s medical cannabis market by requesting international patents that could make it more difficult for Thai patients to receive their prescriptions and for Thai researchers to study cannabis extracts. Activist groups are already calling for the Thai government to revoke access for these patents by international firms until after legislation has been enacted locally.

By Dalton Rosario

Another victory for cannabis reformation was applauded this Thursday as members of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board voted in Anchorage to approve a highly debated regulation of endorsing retail dispensary locations to allow cannabis consumption on-site after customers  make their purchase. Concentrates are excluded from in-store use and the designated recreational area must be separated from the rest of the premises. 

As stated by Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Erika McConnell, “The regulations still need to be reviewed by the State Department of Law and be signed by Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer before taking effect,” but providing safe spaces for cannabis use in a state which actively prohibits public consumption is cause for celebration after years of debating the topic since 2014, when Alaska had legalized recreational cannabis use.

By Dalton Rosario

As of this afternoon Industrial Hemp is officially legalized starting in January as President Trump’s signature brings to fruition the historic legalization of America’s founding cash crop. Hemp cultivation has not been a legal industry in our country since 1970 when it was added to the Schedule I Controlled Substances list. But that will all change in a matter of days when the mark of the new year replaces penal oversights by the Justice Department with hemp regulation by the Department of Agriculture.

Although a clear cause of celebration for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), chief patron and pioneer of the 2018 Farm Bill, this is truly a victory for bi-partisan leadership taking cooperative initiatives to reconcile differences across the aisle as Republicans and Democrats worked for months to sign this legislation into law.     

By Dalton Rosario

As it stands Florida’s medical cannabis program provides little to no room for emerging businesses to gain a foothold in the Sunshine State’s $250M - $300M market valuation in 2018. This is due to 2017 legislation granting 10 initial medicinal cannabis licenses to lay the statewide infrastructure, from which four new licenses would be distributed for every additional 100,000 patients registered to the program. This has capped the Sunshine State to 14 medical licenses, creating a market demand of over $50M for prospective businesses to acquire an operating license from another organization. 

This has raised questions concerning state lawmakers unconstitutionally barring the natural free market forces of supply and demand. Since 2017, Florida’s medical cannabis program has increased from 56,537 registered patients to 159,107; and retail dispensaries have tripled from 24 locations to 78 statewide. Jeffrey Sharkey, Executive Director of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, speculates Florida will soon foster 800,000 to 1 million registered patients. Far from unreasonable given that by this time last year, Florida’s medicinal cannabis market had earned $40M compared to its projected peak of $300M by this year’s end. 

There is still much to be determined in the new year and Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services-elect, Nikki Fried who is an outspoken proponent for cannabis rights, will be playing an active role in endorsing the removal of legislative barriers to entry.