California cannabis growers are assessing the damages. After the shock, resignation.

California cannabis growers are assessing the damages. After the shock, resignation.

The deadly wildfires that ravaged communities and wineries in Northern California also severely damaged numerous marijuana farms, just before the state is expected to fully legalize the drug, in a disaster that could have far-reaching implications for a nascent industry.

At least 34 marijuana farms suffered extensive damage as the wildfires tore across wine country and some of California’s prime marijuana-growing areas. The fires could present challenges to the scheduled Jan. 1 rollout of legal marijuana sales at the start of an industry that is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue.

In many cases, owners have spent tens of thousands of dollars to become compliant with state law to sell the product. But because the federal government considers marijuana cultivation and sales a criminal enterprise, it remains extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most of the marijuana businesses affected by the fire to access insurance, mortgages and loans to rebuild. Even a charitable fund set up to help marijuana farmers was frozen because a payment processor will not handle cannabis transactions.

Cannabis businesses also are not eligible for any type of federal disaster relief, according to a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

california fires marijuana farms recovery
Some of the marijuana plants that were destroyed in the Northern California wildfires. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)

“It’s the darkness right before the dawn of legal, regulated cannabis in California,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, who cautioned that the full extent of the damage remains unknown. “These businesses are in a really vulnerable position, and this really came at about the worst time it could have. It means we’re on our own.”

The fires burned swaths of Mendocino County, which is part of what is known as California’s “Emerald Triangle,” the nation’s epicenter of marijuana growing. It also devastated Sonoma County, which is best known for wine but has seen an increase in cannabis farming. The fires killed at least 42 people and damaged thousands of buildings, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Some marijuana farms were completely destroyed, and many others are believed to have been heavily damaged by fire, smoke and ash. Structures used to store dried marijuana burned, as did greenhouses and irrigation lines. Many marijuana cultivators live on their farms, and some homes burned to the ground.

Erich Pearson, co-owner of SPARC, a large medical cannabis dispensary with two locations in San Francisco and others north of the city, saw his crops in Glen Ellen, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, engulfed by flames after awakening to the smell of smoke. The first thing he saw after getting close to the farm was a metal-roofed barn on fire. It was filled with marijuana harvested to sell on the legal market.

“We lost everything we harvested to date, and had significant damage to what’s left,” he said.

There is concern that what has been destroyed, as well as the damage from smoke, ash and lack of water for crops that did survive, could seriously impact the supply for customers when marijuana is legal for sale. The fire has compounded existing problems with the initial start of sales because of a regulatory mess: Many municipalities and the state have not released draft regulations for how businesses must comply with the new law. Businesses in some places, including San Francisco, are not likely to be able to open Jan. 1.

“Now, we might be facing a much smaller harvest than we were anticipating, which could potentially drive the price up,” said Josh Drayton, deputy director of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s going to touch every different piece of the industry, and we can’t get ahead of this yet. We still don’t know how much has survived, how much has been lost.”

california fires recreational marijuana sales outlook
Thousands of glass dispensary containers are scattered where SPARC’s processing barn once stood in Glen Ellen, California. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)

Chiah Rodriques, chief executive of Mendocino Generations, a marijuana collective in Mendocino County, said that most of the 40 farms she works with were only about 25-to-50-percent harvested when the fires broke out earlier this month. About a quarter of the farms were affected by either fire or smoke, she said, and just 10 of the 40 have the local permit necessary to become compliant with the state, though all are working toward them. None of them have crop insurance, she said.

Rodriques said that the fires could lead to less usable marijuana on the market come January. The one saving grace might be to repurpose affected plants and use them for cannabis oil and other tinctures that can be sold at dispensaries. The oils are far less lucrative than the flowers, the part of the plant that is consumed – and this year was expected to be a bumper crop.

“You’re looking at the difference between $800 to $1,500 a pound to now getting $100; it’s a huge blow,” she said, especially when farmers have spent so much money trying to become compliant with laws.

“These people put everything they had into paying for this fee and this tax and this permit and this lawyer, one thing after the next, and to have this happen right when it’s finally harvest is huge,” she said.

Pearson carefully selected the seeds and genetic strains for the cannabis he planted in February on part of 400 acres he shares with 11 other farmers. He is now starting from scratch: finding new seeds and securing greenhouse space to grow the new plants. He had submitted all of his permits to become legal under the county and state’s new regulations.

“The hopes of what we could do are still the hopes of what we’re going to do,” Pearson said. “It’s just going to be a little harder to get there.”

Ashley Oldham, owner of Frost Flower Farms in Redwood Valley, California, did something very out of character: She left her cellphone at a friend’s house the day the fire reached her. A neighbor pounded on her door in the middle of the night as flames surrounded her home, saving the lives of Oldham and her 4-year-old daughter.

Oldham’s house was destroyed, but her greenhouse stayed intact, in part because she hiked through what looked like a “post-apocalyptic disaster zone” to check on her property after the fire passed. She said that emergency officials initially did not allow marijuana farmers to check on their crops, as is allowed for farmers of other agricultural products.

When she arrived at the farm, she used a neighbor’s hose to wet down a large oak tree that was ablaze, saving her greenhouse. Oldham has been okayed for a legal permit in Mendocino County, spending “a lot of money” to come fully into compliance. She estimates that she lost about 25 percent of her crop to wind damage, and much of it looks burned.

She and other cannabis farmers must have their crops extensively tested under California’s new regulations, and most people don’t know what impact smoke or burn damage will have.

“We’ve never experienced this and I don’t know what to expect,” she said. She said that she will not be able to recoup the full value of her house through insurance because she grows marijuana.

“We’re totally legal,” she said of her farm. “But we’re still being treated unfairly.”

Susan Schindler, a grower in Potter Valley, California, said she has spent at least $20,000 on consultants, attorneys and fees trying to come into compliance for legal sales in January. She evacuated her home and has been at a San Francisco hotel since the fires. Her master grower told her the plants are “very crisp.”

Half of the crop was destroyed earlier this year due to russet mites, and now she thinks much of the other half will be lost to fire. Some was harvested, and she’s hoping that it will allow her to break even.

Schindler calls marijuana a “holy plant” that she’s farmed for years, selling to medical dispensaries.

“I’m not going to give up,” she said, “but it’s going to take a lot of money out of my bank account this year.”

california marijuana growers next steps after fire
Amy Goodwin removes the yellow leaves and checks for damage on the marijuana plants for SPARC on Wednesday in Glen Ellen, California. The plants require a high level of maintenance, and the fire stopped employees from working. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)


Published at Sat, 21 Oct 2017 03:38:24 +0000

The Cannabist Show: His biz infuses coffee with hemp as the beans roast

The Cannabist Show: His biz infuses coffee with hemp as the beans roast

Featured guest: Devin Jamroz, CEO of SteepFuze, a company that infuses coffee beans with Colorado-sourced hemp.


•  How coffee can be infused in the roasting process, and the pros and cons of coating it in hemp extract oils or going the instant route.

•  Finding a flavor balance with the “herbal” taste when infusing.

•  Beyond cannabinoids like CBD, what are other plant compounds that have health benefits and/or influence flavor?

•  The many varieties of cannabis-infused coffees on the market, from Keurig-style cups to gourmet blends.


After the smoke clears: What’s next for Northern California’s cannabis industry? The devastating and deadly wildfires in Northern California could hardly have come at a worse time for the region’s well-established and highly respected cannabis industry. Growers in the area, famous for its world-class quality cannabis, were in the midst of their autumn harvest as the wildfires tore through Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties — leaving in their wake a rising death toll, millions of dollars in property loss and scores of acres of scorched farmland and forests. –Report by The Cannabist’s Bruce Kennedy

•  At least 31 legal cannabis farms have been destroyed in the California fires
•  Crowdfunding site shuts down campaign for California cannabis farm fire victims

Trump’s drug czar nominee withdraws after big pharma flap: Rep. Tom Marino, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s drug czar, is withdrawing from consideration following reports he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids. Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday that the Republican Pennsylvania congressman “has informed me that he is withdrawing his name.” He praised Marino as “a fine man and a great congressman.” –Report by The Associated Press’ Darlene Superville and Matthew Daly

Recreational marijuana is saving lives in Colorado, study suggests: Marijuana legalization in Colorado led to a “reversal” of opiate overdose deaths in that state, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health. “After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years,” write authors Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher and Alexander C. Wagenaar. The authors stress that their results are preliminary, given that their study encompasses only two years of data after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014. –Report by The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham

Soft on crime? Candidate advocates use of drug-sniffing bunnies: A Philadelphia-area mayoral candidate says he was serious when he vowed to investigate the use of drug-sniffing bunnies if elected — even though it appears to stem from an internet hoax. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Republican nominee Dave Gautreau broached the idea Thursday at a Phoenixville mayoral forum. –Report by The Associated Press

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Published at Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:16:29 +0000

Jeff Sessions calls for “more competition” among medical marijuana growers for research

Jeff Sessions calls for “more competition” among medical marijuana growers for research

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said there should be “more competition” among growers who supply marijuana for federal research, though he said he thought the current applicant pool of 26 was too many.

His statement came in response to a question from Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah. Hatch referred to legislation he recently co-sponsored with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, known as the MEDS Act. “I believe that scientists need to study the potential benefits and risks of marijuana,” said Hatch, though clarifying that “I remain opposed to the broad legalization of marijuana.”

Hatch said he was “very concerned” with reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department “are at odds” over granting additional applications for cultivating marijuana for research purposes. In August, DEA officials said they had been waiting for the Justice Department’s sign-off to move forward on 25 applications, and expressed frustration that the Justice Department had not been willing to provide that sign-off.

“Can you clarify the position of the Justice Department regarding these applications?” Hatch asked the head of the DOJ.

Sessions responded:

“We have a marijuana research system working now. There is one supplier of the marijuana for that research. People have asked that there be multiple sources of the marijuana for medicinal research and have asked that it be approved. I believe there are now 26 applications for approval of suppliers who would provide marijuana for medicinal research. Each one of those has to be supervised by the DEA, and I have raised questions about how many and let’s be sure we’re doing this in the right way because it costs a lot of money to supervise these [indecipherable]. I think it would be healthy to have some more competition in the supply but I’m sure we don’t need 26 new suppliers.”

This statement comes after months of concern that Sessions has plans to crack down on both medical marijuana and adult-use marijuana, and after his own request to Congress in May of this year to be allowed to prosecute medical marijuana providers.

In August 2016, the DEA said that private companies would be able to apply to grow medical marijuana to develop cannabis-based medicines with federal approval.

Sessions was representing the Justice Department during an oversight hearing. He has been asked to speak to the Trump administration about DOJ policies on drugs, crime, terrorism, immigration and other topics. The hearing is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first opportunity to quiz Sessions since his confirmation hearing.

The hearing is still ongoing and this story will be updated.


Published at Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:45:53 +0000

Cannabis Industry Experts Share Advice on Successful Career Transitioning

Cannabis Industry Experts Share Advice on Successful Career Transitioning

Cannabis Industry Experts Share Advice on Successful Career Transitioning

“Can you give me any advice on how to transition to the Cannabis Industry?”

This is the question I get asked most.

Let me start by saying that opportunities in the cannabis Industry are vast and the numbers are enticing. Entrepreneur Magazinesays that 283,000 Cannabis Industry Jobs will be created by 2020 and New Frontier Data expects the Cannabis Industry to be a $24 Billion industry by that same year. Enticing indeed.

Reaching out to the real experts for advice.

I have been living in Denver, Colorado for more than 10 years and have been active in the cannabis space from the beginning. I have had the opportunity and honor to connect with hundreds of men and women and businesses proudly active in the cannabis space both directly and through my cannabis industry networking platform. To get the best answers to the question I contacted the experts I know and respect. This is what I found:

Openly embrace Cannabis Legalization.

You can’t walk between the raindrops of legal cannabis. Fully embrace it to friends, family, Facebook and all your networking platforms. If you want a piece of the multibillion dollar cannabis pie you are going to have to get wet.

Most likely the person standing between you and opportunity is a cannabis industry pioneer or works for one. Keep in mind that she or he risked money, reputation and jail time to get where they are now and their sacrifice and relentless advocacy gave us the opportunities we have now in this new industry. If they even smell a hint of apathy toward cannabis legalization you’re finished.

Don’t be intimidated by the Cannabis Industry.

Cannabis business owners regularly get resumes from people that have never actually seen cannabis let alone tried it. Employers expect you to “know the product”.

I tell these folks to start by going to a local dispensary. 99 times out of 100 they will find the dispensary staff to be nothing short of professional. They will be versed about their products, respect your level of knowledge and have the patience to educate you. Buy something and try it; know the product!

Recognize Cannabis Businesses as “for profit” endeavors.

Cannabis businesses are highly regulated, over taxed, wrought with excessive governmental fees and live under the yoke of constantly increasing compliance rules. Every business pays and every business pays the same. All this is happening as cannabis prices continue to fall.

Now more than ever cannabis business owners need production efficiency, loss prevention, branding, marketing, increased sales volume, cost reduction and more. Do you have the skills to help?

This recruiter uses the word “love”.

I also reached out to Robin Ann Morris who is the owner of Mary Jane Agency, Ohio’s first cannabis employment agency, to get her take on the question. Morris advises her clients to, “Take what you love doing and apply it to the cannabis industry. Everything you are doing now is going to have to be done in the cannabis industry.”

“Take what you love doing and apply it to the cannabis industry?” That’s maybe the best advice of all.

Author Bio: James Kaufman is the founder and editor of the Cannabis Associates Network. James holds a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder and currently resides in Denver, Colorado.


Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 18:13:19 +0000

Race for CBD medication breakthrough: Is pharma firm's boon the hemp industry's doom?

Race for CBD medication breakthrough: Is pharma firm's boon the hemp industry's doom?

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabis compound touted for its medicinal promise — but marijuana- and hemp-derived extracts rich in CBD and low in intoxicating THC are facing a future yet to be determined.

The Cannabist’s special report “CBD, TBD” explores the issues with CBD — federal-state conflicts, national drug policy, pioneering research efforts and the paths toward the compound’s full legalization. This is the sixth installment in an ongoing series. Coming soon: A look at CBD’s path forward with hemp products.

This time next year, an investigational drug hailed as a breakthrough in the science of cannabidiol could be prescribed to children suffering from treatment-resistant epilepsy.

The prospect of its success, however, has caused some unease in the American hemp industry.

London-based GW Pharmaceuticals plc is steering its proprietary Epidiolex oral solution through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval pipeline.

Unlike other FDA-approved drugs that emulate the properties of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, Epidiolex (eh-pih-DYE-uh-lehx) utilizes another of the plant’s compounds: non-psychoactive cannabidiol. GW’s pharmaceutical formulation of purified CBD is targeted for treating rare, early onset seizure disorders including Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, as well as Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and Infantile Spasms.

The company is expected to wrap up its New Drug Application to the FDA in the coming weeks; the federal agency could conduct its Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) inspection by June.

If the FDA were to give its blessing to that application, Epidiolex could be readied for commercial sale on the prescription drug market by this time next year, GW officials told The Cannabist.

Cannabis advocates and purveyors of hemp-derived, CBD-rich extracts fear FDA approval of Epidiolex could lead to a pharmaceutical commandeering of promising cannabis compounds.

The company and some prominent members of the medical community, however, trumpet the attempt to harness CBD’s potential and package it into a medicine that conveys the safety, consistency and clarity that FDA approval affords.

“I can’t tell you how happy I was to see those three letters (GMP) in relation to cannabidiol,” Dr. Amy R. Brooks-Kayal, chief of pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said earlier this year.

She was speaking in Denver at the annual meeting of the Teratology Society, which focuses on birth defects and pediatric health issues. During a symposium on Marijuana and Child Development, Brooks-Kayal spoke to the topic of cannabinoids for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.

She described how Children’s Hospital Colorado saw an influx of patients whose parents packed up and moved to Colorado for the promise of CBD oil. In some cases, the parents stopped administering the other prescribed medications in favor of solely trying an array of dosings of CBD-rich extracts.

Some of those children would end up in the intensive care unit, Brooks-Kayal said.

Children’s Hospital Colorado does not prescribe or recommend medical cannabis products; however, Brooks-Kayal implores parents to let doctors know if they’ve given their child CBD or another form of medical cannabis — and to not stop the other medications cold-turkey.

GW’s efforts might not be the end-all, be-all solution for these hard-to-treat epilepsy conditions, but to have products put through rigorous testing, trials and regulations are steps in the right direction, Brooks-Kayal said.

GW expressed confidence that CBD is medicine and that the pharmaceutical approval was the appropriate path, despite the fact that extracts rich in the compound are already widely available in dispensaries — and online — in states that have legalized forms of medical cannabis.

“I think physicians, and I think patients, prefer to have a drug that’s been through that very stringent process,” said Steve Schultz, GW’s vice president of investor relations.

Accompanying the first-to-market designation, the hallmarks of the FDA approval process — potential for insurance coverage, directions on dosing, information about drug interactions, quality assurance, and other checks and balances — are important differentiators for GW as the company sets off to carve a niche for itself in cannabinoid drug development, Schultz said.

“You don’t ever get that kind of instruction with a dispensary-based product,” he said.

A dose of Colorado-made cannabidiol oil is measured by a parent preparing to give CBD oil to her child as part of a regimented treatment for seizures in July 2014. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Uncertainty breeds contingency plans

GW Pharmaceuticals’ advancement of Epidiolex is being closely watched by America’s cottage CBD industry.

Some producers are cautiously optimistic, taking the proverbial wait-and-see approach, while others have begun taking precautions such as changing labels and branding to highlight their products as “whole plant hemp extracts” as opposed to “CBD oil.”

Executives at GB Sciences Inc., a Las Vegas firm aiming to develop and patent several pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid therapies, have extensively evaluated the potential regulatory issues that Epidiolex could raise, said Andrea L. Small-Howard, the company’s chief science officer.

In the event Epidiolex is approved, Small-Howard anticipates the FDA pathway to widen for the creation and testing of novel CBD formulations. At the same time, it would significantly disrupt the market for CBD products sold in dispensaries or online under state-regulated cannabis regimes, she said.

“These (state marijuana) programs are already in violation of federal law, therefore, an Epidiolex approval may push the issue of who has jurisdiction over pharmaceuticals, when CBD becomes an FDA-approved pharmaceutical ingredient,” Small-Howard said.

Others argue that consumers should have access to CBD products outside of the prescription-drug realm.

“All the products out there are special. One will work for one person, one won’t,” said Joel Stanley, chief executive officer of CW Hemp, the Denver-based company that rose to prominence after a CNN special on medical marijuana refugees and “Charlotte’s Web” CBD-rich oil.

Alternatively, siloing off CBD and other cannabinoids as pharmaceutical-only would limit the types of products available and result in them becoming more expensive, Stanley said.

There is still much to be learned about medical applications for CBD and other cannabinoids.

“It’s such a unique plant with unique abilities. I think we’re just scratching the surface on it,” said Gabriel Ettenson, general manager for Broomfield-based Elixinol, a manufacturer of CBD oils and hemp products.

Ettenson isn’t losing any sleep over GW and what may come from Epidiolex coming to market.

“There really isn’t any significant fear that I have about what may happen if GW gets approval,” he said.

Making hemp extract containing compound cannabidiol (CBD) at CW Hemp
Team lead Vanessa Cantu of pours an extract of hemp into a pan before putting it into a vacuum oven, which eliminates the last traces of solvents used in processing plant material into an extract oil form at CW Hemp’s facility in Colorado on April 21, 2016. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Heike Newman, a senior regulatory manager at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, said she is curious as to what ripple effects may come from Epidiolex making it to market.

Such an approval could ultimately trigger a federal down-scheduling of CBD, reducing the barriers to research for Newman’s colleagues, she speculated. Research on cannabis has been hampered by its designation as a Schedule I controlled substance.

“I think they’re showing that CBD has actually a medicinal benefit, and I think that’s huge,” she said.

Epidiolex hurdles include potential expense

For all the excitement and consternation swirling around Epidiolex, the drug’s approval is not a slam dunk, said Ken Trbovich, an analyst for financial services firm Janney Montgomery Scott LLC who follows GW.

Patients in GW’s study already were taking various anti-epileptic drugs, including Onfi (clobazam), an effective treatment for Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, Trbovich said. And there’s a correlation between the plasma levels of clobazam and the effectiveness of the drug, he added.

“In other words, the higher the dose, the higher the response,” Trbovich wrote via email to The Cannabist. “There is a drug-drug interaction such that treating a patient with Epidiolex increases the plasma level of clobazam and its active metabolite.

“Thus, it is unclear how much of the treatment benefit resulted from the increased plasma levels of clobazam as opposed to the independent response to Epidiolex.”

Then, late last week, word came that Zogenix, an Emeryville, Calif.-based pharmaceutical firm’s non-CBD drug showed positive data in late-stage clinical trials of patients with Dravet. The announcement sent GW’s stock tumbling and created additional questions for Trbovich.

“The strength of this data should cause investors to reconsider the relative efficacy of Epidiolex and the implications this has for its commercial success in Dravet, LGS and other epilepsy indications,” he wrote in a Sept. 29 report to investors.

To this point, consensus estimates pegged Epidiolex as a $1 billion drug by 2021, Reuters has reported, citing forecasts from Thomson Reuters Cortellis. 

Outside of the lab, GW is effectively “cooking with gas,” considering the prevalent industry of hemp-derived CBD extracts, he added.

“There is no other orphan drug, or orphan biologic, of which I am aware, that a patient has the option of going down to a vitamin store or local pharmacy and buying an over-the-counter alternative,” he said. “While GW (scientists) have been great pioneers in conducting the scientific research to prove CBD has some effect in well-controlled clinical studies, CBD oils are available in the overwhelming majority of states.”

Trbovich expects GW will charge a hefty price — some analysts have projected in the range of $35,000 to $50,000 per patient per year — for Epidiolex, resulting in insurers restricting the drug to those who have Dravet or Lennox Gastaut.

Even those who receive coverage, depending on the nature of their co-pays/co-insurance, may find the cost of Epidiolex to be too high and opt instead for CBD oil from a dispensary,” he said.

Schultz, in his interviews with The Cannabist, declined to provide an estimated cost for Epidiolex. He reiterated that GW expects the medicine will be covered by insurance — not an option for products sold online, in health stores or dispensaries.

Trbovich, as of his Aug. 8 research report, has a “sell” rating on GW.

A “David and Goliath” battle, or not so much?

Schultz also shakes off the notion that GW’s progress with cannabinoid drug development are a means to keep CBD under lock and key from the masses or to cash in on a plant that should be available to all.

“GW Pharmaceuticals is not Big Pharma,” he said.

GW (Nasdaq: GWPH) employs a staff of about 200, generates $10 million in annual revenue and has a market value of roughly $2.8 billion. Its stock closed at $114.54 on Thursday and has been trading in the range of $92.65 and $137.88 during the past year.

Comparatively, companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Roche each employ more than 90,000 people, bring in north of $50 billion in revenue each year and boast market caps with dollar values of the hundreds of billions.

GW may be a smaller player when sized up against the pharmaceutical giants, but it’s considered a behemoth by cannabis industry advocates who classify the juxtaposition as a “David and Goliath” battle.

“It’s not dissimilar to what the hemp industry has always gone up against,” said Patrick Goggin, an attorney representing hemp businesses in the Hemp Industries Association lawsuits against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Goggin referenced the hemp industry’s other adversaries, the “DuPonts of the world, the Hertzes of the world, the petroleum industry.”

“We are not engaged to fail,” he said.

Cannabis advocates claim officials for GW, which has settled in stateside as Greenwich Biosciences, have lobbied to ensure that state-based CBD laws solely favor FDA-approved products. South Dakota is one such state whose law hinges on FDA oversight.

GW is not trying to monopolize the market but rather aiming to ensure that patients can have access to medicine that is rigorously tested and approved, Schultz countered.

The state law changes are one part of a two-step process, Schultz said. The company would need to have Epidiolex rescheduled by the DEA — the company is hoping for a Schedule IV designation — and state rescheduling to ensure that patients have access for a prescription, he said.

“Where it requires legislative actions, we want to make sure we’re out in front of that and taking action as soon as possible,” he said, noting that the company is in a “mode of understanding” to learn about each state’s requirements and responding to those rules in advance of Epidiolex’s expected launch.

Schultz disputed claims that GW — with the might of the FDA at its side — would run the tables and stamp out sellers of CBD-rich oils. His firm, rather, aims to provide a compelling new addition to the market as a whole.

It’s ultimately up to the patients and the physicians to decide what works best for them, he said.

“Our objective, simply, is to make an FDA-approved medicine, purified CBD medicine available for patients who would be looking at an additional option,” he said. “Whatever is available at dispensaries is really not even an element of our consideration. Our goal is to just add to those options that are available.”

Hemp plants grown for production of cannabis oil containing cannabidiol (CBD)
Caitlin Jimenez waters hemp plants at the cultivation facility for Colorado company CBDRx on June 9, 2015, in Pueblo. The company is focused on developing hemp products such as cannabidiol (CBD) oils. (Denver Post file)


Published at Fri, 06 Oct 2017 14:16:09 +0000

Gorilla Glue adhesives company reaches settlement with cannabis business

Gorilla Glue adhesives company reaches settlement with cannabis business

An adhesives firm and a cannabis business have agreed to patch up their differences and send the “gorilla” packing from dispensaries.

The Gorilla Glue Co. and GG Strains LLC reached a settlement in the trademark infringement case the Ohio-based glue maker brought against the Las Vegas-based developer of marijuana strains, court records show.

Under the settlement agreement, GG Strains and its licensees of the company’s numbered strains initially named Gorilla Glue #4 (additionally #1 and #5) will have to transition away from that name, any gorilla imagery and similarities to Gorilla Glue Co. trademarks by Sept. 19, 2018, according to documents filed in federal court for Ohio’s southern district.

GG Strains also will eventually have to shut down its website and transfer that domain name to Gorilla Glue Co. by Jan. 1, 2020, according to the Sept. 21 court order.

Other terms of the agreement included the following:

    • The parties cannot disparage each others’ companies, services or actions
    • GG Strains has 12 months to cease using the word “Gorilla,” an image of a gorilla or the “Gorilla” trademarks.
    • In the nine-month period following Dec. 18, 2017, GG Strains can only use the Gorilla words, images or trademarks preceded by a different name and the phrase “formerly known as” or within a “History” page on GG Strains’ website.
    • GG Strains is required to disable the website (can redirect it until Jan. 1, 2020, and explain the redirect for nine months following Sept. 19) and transfer website to Gorilla Glue Co., which will not activate or use it.
    • Assign interest in GG Strains’ registered “Gorilla Glue” trademarks to Gorilla Glue by Jan. 1, 2020.
    • Affiliated companies, dispensaries, cultivators and other partners have to stop using the word “gorilla,” or any Gorilla Glue Co. trademarks or imagery. Licensees of the strain have up to 90 days from Sept. 19, 2017, to stop using the gorilla word, images or trademarks. For 12 months after Sept. 19, 2017, GG Strains and only its licensing partners can use the prohibited words if preceded by a different name and the phrase “formerly known as.”

The settlement did not involve any monetary transactions between the firms, said Tom Hankinson, Gorilla Glue Co.’s attorney, and officials for GG Strains.

Gorilla Glue Co. and GG Strains reaching settlement terms was a “good thing,” Hankinson said Wednesday.

“I hope that other industry participants will respect these companies’ resolution of the matter,” he said. “I can’t comment specifically on Gorilla Glue’s future activities, but it has invested a great deal in the Gorilla Glue brand. It means a lot to the company and its stakeholders, and it would be a good bet that the company intends to protect its rights in that brand.”

GG Strains officials are in the throes of rebranding efforts and plan to contact partners, licensees and other industry members informing them of the settlement, the new names and some of the timetables outlined in the agreement, said Catherine Franklin, the company’s chief executive officer.  The new names include: GG4 and/or Original Glue, GG5 and/or New Glue, and GG1 and/or Sister Glue, according to documents GG Strains provided to The Cannabist.

Ross Johnson, a founder of GG Strains, estimated the dispute and the ongoing rebranding efforts cost the firm $250,000.

“We’re going to survive; we’re going to overcome it,” Johnson told The Cannabist on Wednesday. “Is it a setback? Most definitely it is a setback. But it’s all behind us now, and it’s allowing us to move forward.”

The Sharonville, Ohio-based Gorilla Glue Co. filed the lawsuit against GG Strains in March, alleging trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition and cybersquatting.

By licensing and marketing products under the “confusingly similar” names of Gorilla Glue #4, Gorilla Glue #1 and Gorilla Glue, #5, GG Strains is trading on — and profiting from — the reputation and goodwill the Gorilla Glue Co. built during its 23 years of business, the firm alleged in the March 24 complaint.

Gorilla Glue Co.’s initial claims for relief included having GG Strains stop using the Gorilla Glue names, logos and imagery; deliver up for destruction any advertisements, signs, clothing or other materials containing the alleged infringing marks; disable the website and transfer the domain to Gorilla Glue Co.; withdraw and cancel any applications or trademarks containing the words “Gorilla Glue”; and pay any and all profits arising from the alleged unlawful acts.

GG Strains officials denied the infringement claims, arguing that the two brands could coexist — akin to the Deltas (faucets and airlines) and Doves (soaps and chocolates) of the world. GG Strains executives and founders also said they started a rebranding effort to change the “Gorilla Glue” numbered strains to “GG4,” “GG1,” and “GG5.”

According to the strain company, the naming had originated from a reputed episode where the company’s founders and budtenders commented on the glue-like, sticky nature of the plant’s resinous trichomes.

Intellectual property experts said the Gorilla Glue case represented another coming-of-age moment for the maturing legal cannabis industry: that the guerrilla, tongue-in-cheek brand names developed during the heyday of underground marijuana was now being regarded in the same light as traditional business.

Gorilla Glue #4 (marijuana review)
An example of the strain that will now be called GG4 (formerly Gorilla Glue #4), grown in Colorado. (Ry Prichard, The Cannabist)


Published at Wed, 04 Oct 2017 20:12:36 +0000

Colorado drags down national marijuana prices in first half of 2017

Colorado drags down national marijuana prices in first half of 2017

The price of a pound of legal marijuana continues to plummet in 2017, according to a new report tracking the commodity’s U.S. spot price index.

Wholesale cannabis prices dropped 18.6 percent nationwide in the first half of 2017, with Colorado prices dropping by up to 40 percent compared to the first half of last year, according to Cannabis Benchmarks’ “2017 Mid-Year Wholesale Market Report.” Similar to commodities like gold and oil, the Denver-based independent price reporting agency tracks spot prices — the current value in the marketplace at which an asset can be bought or sold for immediate delivery.

Despite the overall decline, marijuana prices showed “remarkable” stability considering last year’s price volatility and recent political uncertainty, the analysts found. For the first six months of this year, there has only been a $150 difference between the low and high prices for legal cannabis nationally, compared to nearly $300 separating the lows and highs during the first half of 2016.

The U.S. Spot prices for wholesale cannabis opened the year at $1,532 a pound, up from the 2016 annual low of $1,386 per pound. However, based on 2015 and 2016 wholesale prices, the firm expects further price declines through November as seasonal fall harvest hits the market.

(Courtesy Cannabis Benchmarks)

“We still do expect to see a seasonal price depression nationally that comes with the harvest,” report author Adam Koh told The Cannabist.

While drastic, the 40 percent decline in Colorado wholesale prices follows the national trend of lower prices in all five states with legal adult-use markets — despite the fact that demand remains strong in those states. Cannabis Benchmarks attributes the trend to a business boom that has increased competition for market share and customers, which in turn creates “more than adequate” production. Likewise, those businesses are, by necessity, becoming more efficient and cost-effective in their cultivation and manufacturing “in order to compete and stay afloat.”

The patchwork quilt of state-based marijuana regulations causes prices to vary wildly across borders. The highest average wholesale prices in the U.S. for legal cannabis during the first half of 2017 were in Alaska, at $4,190 per pound; the lowest were in Colorado at $1,280 per pound.

In Colorado, the country’s most mature market with three-plus years of adult-use sales, the price per pound of wholesale cannabis has dropped from a 2016 high of $1,994 to a 2017 six-month low of $1,181. Cannabis Benchmarks attributes declines in part to the state’s “liberal approach to licensing and production,” which has led to dramatic increases in the volume of marijuana grown and produced.

On the other hand, wholesale prices in Washington, another maturing market, have turned around from last year’s “figurative bargain basement,” according to the report. The state’s monthly spot index prices for the first half of this year averaged $1,387 per pound, a rise of about eight percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2016.

California’s fast-approaching legalization is causing significant uncertainty in pricing for the fourth quarter, Koh said.

While California officials scramble to have regulations in place ahead of the state’s scheduled January 1 launch of legal adult-use sales, Cannabis Benchmarks believes only a “small fraction” of commercial cannabis transactions during 2018 will take place within the licensed marketplace. The report cites the state’s vast black market, which will continue to provide producers other venues in which their cannabis can fetch higher profit margins.

“There appears to be a significant portion of the state’s cannabis commerce that won’t (be licensed), Koh said, “and there will be stiff competition for those operators working to comply with state laws.”

Nevada remains another conundrum for the firm’s spot-price indexing efforts. Adult-use sales kicked off on July 1, however the state’s “unique regulatory circumstances” created supply chain struggles that prevented any wholesale price increases during the first half of 2017, according to Cannabis Benchmarks.

The cash-only nature of legal cannabis transactions presents a common drag on wholesale prices across the country, according to the report. Cannabis companies are prohibited from accessing the federal banking system, limiting businesses’ ability to transact larger deals, according to Cannabis Benchmarks’ analysis.

“In such a landscape,” the report says, “the significant amount of cash required to settle a deal greater than 20 pounds is often not at hand.”


Published at Mon, 02 Oct 2017 16:59:41 +0000

Cannabist Show: He directed “The Legend of 420”; He runs an Oregon cultivation biz

Cannabist Show: He directed “The Legend of 420”; He runs an Oregon cultivation biz

Featured guests: Filmmaker Peter Spirer, producer/director of “The Legend of 420” documentary, and Jesse Peters, CEO of Eco Firma Farms, an Oregon cannabis cultivation company.


•  Documenting hip-hop’s influence on the cannabis scene: covering the counter-culture going mainstream over three decades.

•  Getting embedded: Taking a First Amendment-protected ride to observe and document the illegal (and dangerous) sides of the American drug trade.

•  Conservation, community and sustainability: The pillars of Oregon’s society are apparent in its cannabis cultivation.

•  Pesticide issues and the need for growers to find common ground, together.


Over 5% of all arrests in U.S. are for weed: In 2016 more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for all crimes the FBI classifies as violent, according to 2016 crime data released by the agency on Monday. Marijuana possession arrests edged up slightly in 2016, a year in which voters in four states approved recreational marijuana initiatives and voters in three others approved medical marijuana measures. These figures should be regarded as estimates, because not all law enforcement agencies provide detailed arrest information to the FBI. But they do show that the annual number of marijuana arrests is down from their peak in the mid-2000s and stands at levels last seen in the mid 1990s. Marijuana use, particularly among adults, rose during this time. –Report by The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham

Former NFL pros say CBD oil vital pain-management tool: After years of managing pain through the use of alcohol, nonprescription anti-inflammatory drugs and highly addictive opioids, some former football players are turning to cannabis — particularly hemp-derived CBD oil — for relief. Mostly through word-of-mouth exchanges, interest in marijuana and hemp products has increased as 29 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medicinal and, in some cases, recreational use. –Report by The Mercury News’ Elliot Almond

Only 15% of California’s cannabis growers can meet strict new standards, insider says: California consumers will soon have two choices in cannabis: clean, legal and pricey — or dirty, illicit and cheap. Think Whole Foods vs. El Chapo. The big difference will be the amount of pesticides in your weed. That’s because starting Jan. 2, when California’s vast legal marijuana market opens, all cannabis must be tested — and most chemicals will be banned. Much of California’s cannabis is tainted, including the “medicinal” stuff. But soon state-sanctioned weed may become the greenest in the nation. –Report by The Mercury News’ Lisa M. Krieger

Colorado cannabis safety regs limit edible shapes, enlarge potency labels: Out with the gummy bears, in with the squares … and circles, and triangles and diamonds. On Oct. 1, Colorado no longer will allow marijuana edibles shaped like humans, animals, fruits or cartoons — forms that could be confused with candy — and the state also will require more prominently displayed potency information on the labels of cannabis products. The new rules, which are more than a year in the making, are part of the ongoing evolution of Colorado’s pioneering foray into legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. –Report by The Cannabist’s Alicia Wallace

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Published at Fri, 29 Sep 2017 23:09:54 +0000

Russian state media says Morgan Freeman's marijuana use behind his critique of Putin

Russian state media says Morgan Freeman's marijuana use behind his critique of Putin

Morgan Freeman’s honey-kissed baritone has sound-tracked dozens of documentaries and public announcements in the Oscar-winner’s long Hollywood career.

But the 80-year-old star’s tenure in the business probably failed to prep him for the Russian reaction that greeted a two-minute online video he recorded recently for a group hoping to keep alive concerns over Kremlin meddling in the 2016 Presidential election.

Freeman is being portrayed as a tool of the U.S. establishment trying to bring down Trump, and as a man suffering from a “Messianic complex” from movie roles playing God and the president of the United States.

A “#StopMorganLie” hashtag is circulating aimed at discrediting the actor.

In the controversial video’s opening, Freeman dramatically declares: “We have been attacked. We are at war.”

The Morgan Freeman video was put out this week by the Committee to Investigate Russia. Founded by Rob Reiner, the director of comedy classics such as “This is Spinal Tap” and “When Harry Met Sally,” the nonpartisan group is pushing for a more aggressive acknowledgment of the alleged Russian hack. Morgan’s video sets that tone, referring to President Vladimir Putin as an “a former KGB spy” who has “set his sights on his sworn enemy, the United States.”

Story continues below video

“We need our president to speak directly to us and to speak the truth,” Morgan urges. The clip currently has over 264,000 views.

But now the legendary American actor is a pariah in Russia, with Kremlin officials, Russian talking heads, and pro-Putin social media trolls ganging up to denounce Freeman. The all-hands-on-deck response suggests a concerted Russian effort to discredit the actor via social media.

Reiner’s group does boast significant names among its advisory board, including former National Intelligence director James Clapper and conservative never-Trump critic Charles Sykes. (But as ThinkProgress points out, the committee does not boast any actual Russian experts in its governing body).

The moviemaker told Variety this week the committee would be a “one-stop shop where people can come and be made aware” of “what the breaking news stories are today, the various investigations, what stages they are in, but also to the understand the history, and what the Soviet Union and now Russia has been trying to do for many, many years.”

Reiner added: “My concern is people don’t understand the gravity of what they were able to do.”

Russian government officials hit back immediately at the video this week, fixing their crosshairs specifically on Morgan.

Tass, the Russian news agency, published remarks from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova arguing Freeman had been “roped in” to the Russia attack, and likening the video to when former Secretary of State Colin Powell unknowingly lied to the United Nations about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

“I believe this is another story about the end justifying the means. However, we will know who is behind this story sooner than we knew about the true contents of the infamous test tube,” Zakharova stated, an apparent reference to Powell’s 2003 United Nations presentation, in which he held up a vial of anthrax to support the claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled chemical weapons.

“Recently it became known that the Obama administration had been wiretapping Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort based on a secret court decision . . . The wiretapping activities continued after the election. Do you understand what Russia has to do with it? Right, the goal is to legitimize the post-election lawlessness.”

This week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also addressed the video, telling reporters Freeman’s comments “can hardly be taken seriously” and arguing the actor was “a victim of emotionally charged, self-exalted status,” according to Radio Free Europe. The official added that “many performing artists easily succumb to becoming victims of emotional strain with no real information about the real state of things.”

Russian media was more wild in its theorizing.

The BBC reported this week Freeman was a frequent topic on Russian television. One station – Rossiya 24 – quizzed a panel of psychiatrists about the actor’s motivations, and the medical professionals reportedly attributed “the performance to a Messianic complex resulting from playing God or the president in several films, not to mention ‘drug abuse.’”

Another TV personality said Freeman was sick from “overwork and marijuana use.” TV Centre claimed the clip was part of an “establishment campaign to oust Trump,” the BBC reported.

Pro-Russian Twitter trolls have also jumped in on the actor, wielding the somewhat awkward hashtag “#StopMorganLie.”

But as commentators have pointed out, the #StopMorganLie trolls seem to all be following the same script – trying to discredit the idea that the U.S. is a democratic nation.

“Freeman’s comments leveled at ‘Russia’s continuing attacks on our [US] democracy’ have created quite a stir on Twitter,” reported RT, the Russian funded news cable network. “People said that the ‘democracy’ statement is pure hypocrisy, as the US has been at war with and interfering in the affairs of many other states, such as Libya, Ukraine and Iraq.

It has left some experts like Rols Fredheim, an analyst at NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, wondering whether the anti-Freeman blowback was less of an organic reaction than a Kremlin scheme.

“It does look very highly coordinated, because you’re seeing something on multiple platforms at the same time communicating the same message,” Fredheim told Radio Free Europe this week.

“It’s more than just a teenager in the basement. It could be many teenagers in many basements. But it could also be something more sophisticated than that . . . the St. Petersburg troll factories, for instance. It could be an example of some kind of Russian troll-farm output.”


Published at Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:32:07 +0000