January 27, 2018
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ALEX HALPERIN
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So much news.
POLITICS
A bipartisan group of 52 Senators and Congresspeople has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reinstate the Cole Memo which protects state legal cannabis businesses from federal prosecution.

States, especially the most recent to legalize, are concerned about what the Cole Memo decision will mean for pot tax revenue .

Aaron Smith, head of the embattled National Cannabis Industry Association, said lobbyists told him Sessions did not alert President Trump of his decision to rescind the Cole Memo. Sessions is “on an island,” Smith said.

The federal Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which protects state legal MED activity, was extended through February 8 as part of the federal budget deal. Subscribe to the WeedWeek podcast for our exclusive interview with Congressman Blumenauer. It drops Monday.
San Francisco will vote on a pot tax and a city cannabis commission in November. Leafly’s Peter Hecht looks at why Calaveras County, Calif., banned commercial grows .

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) discussed the Marijuana Justice Act bill with S.F. Weekly. Canna Law Blog has an update on equity programs in Oakland and S.F.

Vermont became the ninth state to legalize REC and the first to do so through the state legislature. The law takes effect July 1 but does not allow for a state industry, which is still under study. The Onion weighed in.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) wants to further delay REC sales .

John Morgan, a wealthy cannabis activist and personal injury lawyer, is suing Florida to allow smokable MED. Joe Redner, a well-known Tampa strip bar owner and cancer patient, is suing the state to grow his own.

Maryland lawmakers may reorganize the state’s cannabis commission.

Michigan REC supporters face some opposition .

The Indiana House voted to study MED legalization. Georgia lawmakers advanced a MED bill .

Pro-legalization Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D) is running a longshot candidacy for Ted Cruz’s (R) Senate seat.

In Virginia, a House panel defeated a bill to decriminalize. A bill in Oklahoma would pre-emptively restrict MED ahead of the state’s June vote.

Mexico’s tourism minister said the country should legalize REC in tourist spots like Cancun and Los Cabos. He then walked back the remarks. With the legal U.S. market hurting cartels, The L.A. Times reports Mexico is “warming” to legalization .

Greece hopes legalizing MED will help with the country’s employment crisis.

A Russian presidential candidate and reality TV star proposed legalizing cannabis , saying it’s safer than vodka.
BUSINESS
Canada’s Aurora Cannabis agreed to buy smaller competitor CanniMed Therapeutics for C$1.1 billion ($850M) (Reuters) to form the world’s most valuable cannabis company. Aurora paid C$43 a share, up from its initial offer of C$24. Pending shareholder and regulatory approval, the deal brings 2018 cannabis deals to $1.2 billion, more than double the 2017 total. For more see the Financial Post.

Hedge fund Lakewood Capital Management revealed short positions in Aurora and Canopy Growth, the two largest Canadian MED producers. Aurora said it wasn’t concerned.

Canopy Growth meanwhile wants to open dispensaries in the Canadian provinces which allow private ownership.
Seattle-based Privateer Holdings raised $100M in Series C funding(MJBiz) , a record in the industry. Privateer says proceeds, about 10% of which arrived after AG Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, will fund overseas acquisitions. The non-disclosed donors include “ultra high net worth individuals, family offices and institutions,” (TechCrunch) from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia. GQ profiles Privateer investor and sometime Trump friend Peter Thiel .

Upscale California brand Canndescent raised $10M in series B growth capital. Investors included Floret Ventures and Altitude Investment Partners.

The CEO of online brokerage TD Ameritrade said interest in cannabis and bitcoin are fueling “frenetic” trading activity(CNBC) , especially among Millenials. For more on “out of control” pot stocks see Reuters and Vice .

High Times plans to raise $50M in an IPO and will trade over the counter if the NASDAQ rejects its application. As of September 30, it reported assets of $3.6M and debt of $38.6M.

MedMen and other U.S. cannabis companies are looking to go public in Canada, CNBC reports.

The California Growers Association sued to block the state from allowing mega grows. The San Francisco Chronicle recounts the travails of a small business in the legal climate. MJBiz has more on California's developing business climate .

A Baldwin Park, Calif., city councilwoman received a $4,400 campaign contribution from the CEO of cannabis company Rukli, the day after she awarded his company an exclusive cannabis transport permit in the city.

Business Insider profiles oil maker Cura Cannabis Solutions which is chasing a $1 billion valuation.

N.Y. Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo says cannabis could be big .

The Economist looks at the industry’s banking problem .

“Self-regulatory organization” the National Association of Cannabis Businesses, is proposing national packaging standards . A public comment period will begin in a few weeks. A Colorado recycling non-profit seeks to reduce industry waste .

The Asbury Park Press reports on the obstacles facing would be cannabis entrepreneurs in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy moved to expand the state’s MED program .

With new state taxes, California customers are paying up to 40% more for weed than last year. After seeing a decline, Montana will remind MED providers to pay their taxes .

Massachusetts anticipates $63M in pot taxes during the first year of REC sales, roughly 0.15% of the state budget.

An applicant for an Oakland license defended his decision to offer a city official a trip to Spain , ostensibly to study the Iberian cannabis situation. The official declined the offer.

Colorado announced a recall of Bronnor vape pens for containing excess residual ethanol (alcohol).

Oregon increased penalties for selling to minors. After stores were busted selling to minors, the state’s top pot regulator said “your friends in government are really, really disappointed.”

Massachusetts may send “secret shoppers” into dispensaries to ensure they’re following rules.

The Associated Press is expanding its cannabis coverage .


Canada is scrapping a requirement for cannabis businesses to install expensive vaults.

Impresario Jane West is crowdfunding investment in her eponymous accessories brand.

A handful of Texas companies are producing CBD oil but there are no registered patients.

HEALTH & SCIENCE
NASDAQ-traded GW Pharmaceuticals released data showing its experimental CBD drug Epidiolex reduced seizures in 44% of patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome , compared with 22% of the placebo group.

“For some, it does not do a whole lot. But for the people it does work in, it is priceless,” Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, director of pediatric epilepsy at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the study, said. The drug could be approved later this year.
A proposed bill in Colorado would require the development of cannabis tracking technology which uses “either chemical agents, isotopes, nanotechnology, or other biological identifiers. It could even implement a distributed ledger or blockchain to encrypt it.” One dispensary owner called the idea “ fucking crazy.

Colorado appears quietly proud of “Good to Know,” its marijuana education campaign . “It features a neighborly tone and probably the only use of hoedown music ever in marijuana public service announcements.”

Managed care giant Kaiser Permanente blocked a legal MED patient from volunteering in a California hospice.

Nevada is looking into why four of the state’s nine testing labs have had their licenses suspended in recent months. Alaska is auditing cannabis testing labs after concerns about uneven results.

It’s proving very difficult to develop a cannabis DUI breathalyzer . For more see Wired .

Fewer than 20% of Canadians who consider their cannabis use medical are registered patients. And there are fears of a proposed 10% excise tax pushing customers back into the black market.

Vox put out a big MED explainer .

Canada is awarding research grants to study the effects of legalization.


Taylor Weyeneth, the 24-year old with an embellished resume who was appointed to a senior position in Trump’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, is stepping down .

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D), who sits on Trump’s opioid commission, called it a charade and a sham .

Philadelphia could set up the country’s first safe injection sites .


German insurers have reimbursed about 13,000 patients for MED. For more on Germany’s industry see Deutsche Welle .

Singapore, which has some of the world’s toughest drug laws, is investing in MED .
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CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Criminal Justice reform is gaining momentum in Congress . Rather than shortening prison sentences, it would likely aim to curtail recidivism through programs like drug treatment and job training.
The war on drugs still targets people of color , The Intercept says.

The Washington Post’s Radley Balko recounts a history police abuses in the war on drugs.

After waiting seven years for a trial, a New York man was cleared of pot growing charges . The court called it the most egregious example of trial delay it had ever seen.

Massachusetts’ federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling said his office would prioritize opioid enforcement over cannabis enforcement. State lawmakers proposed a bill making it illegal for state authorities to comply with federal enforcement actions.

The Trump appointed federal prosecutor for Nevada Dayle Elieson has kept mum about whether he'll pursue cannabis prosecutions.

Santa Ana, Calif. authorities shut down a dispensary which became notorious several years ago after security cameras caught police insulting an amputee there. The police later argued they should be held accountable for the video because they believed they had disabled all the cameras.

D.C. police raided a downtown lounge , seized several pounds of weed and charged 22 with distribution.

More felons are interested in becoming lawyers , despite state bar restrictions.

In Politico, a writer who almost died of a heroin overdose makes the case against laws which consider dealers of fatal drugs guilty of homicide.

Busted cannabis users in France could soon face on the spot fines .
CULTURE
The new season of Netflix canna-sitcom "Disjointed" features a character inspired by Steve DeAngelo , industry “godfather” and founder of Oakland mega-dispensary Harborside.

The character Angelo DeStevens “is written as a sexist, greedy ganjapreneur who splits up a partnership and creates crassly named marijuana products for the mass market.” After initially approving, DeAngelo tweeted “I don’t feel I deserved the treatment they gave me in later episodes,” adding that he wasn’t consulted for the project.
CNET is dazzled by the Puffco Peak , a “smart rig.”

California law protected Snoop Dogg from a site suspension, after he smoked a blunt on video game streaming site Twitch.

The New Yorker’s Nick Paumgarten reports on “O.G.” a film shot inside an Indiana state prison, with most of the roles played by inmates.
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