Senate moves to legalize pot at federal level. What are the chances?

The Senate is preparing to wade into a controversial conversation about federal policies on marijuana after Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, released draft legislation this month that would legalize weed at the federal level.

The draft bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, follows a similar bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House in December and comes as recent polling from the Pew Research Center shows that about 60% of Americans support legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical use.

But Senate Democrats have a lot to balance over the next several months, tasked with drafting and passing legislation on issues such as infrastructure, policing and immigration that President Biden has marked as priorities. As the draft bill jump-starts discussion on Capitol Hill, here’s a look at where marijuana legalization might go.

Weed has been fully legalized for recreational use in 18 states, starting with Colorado and Washington in 2012. A total of 37 states have approved medical marijuana. In California, cannabis has been legal for medical use since 1996 and for recreational use since late 2016.

But cannabis is still illegal under federal law, where it is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Possession of marijuana remains a federal offense, punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction.

Because of federal restrictions, marijuana producers and retailers face significant logistical challenges with banking, transporting goods and paying taxes, even in states where the drug is legal.

In 2019, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and California’s then-Sen. Kamala Harris, now vice president, introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress that would have decriminalized marijuana and expunged some criminal records, among other things.

The House passed the legislation in a 228-164 vote in December 2020. It was the first time legislation to remove cannabis from the Schedule I list made it to a floor vote.

The bill ultimately failed to move out of committee in the Senate.

What does the new draft legislation do?

The bill draft is partially based on last year’s failed effort. It proposes removing federal penalties for marijuana, expunging criminal records for nonviolent offenders of federal cannabis laws, earmarking funding for restorative justice programs, establishing tax rates for cannabis products and formally allowing states to decide whether to legalize pot.

John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who researches state and federal marijuana policy, said the draft legislation gives states “quite a bit of deference.”

For marijuana producers and retailers in states where recreational use is already legalized, removing federal penalties for marijuana will solve banking, taxation and transport problems, cannabis reform advocates say.

In places where weed is still illegal, state governments can opt to keep it that way.

However, without federal prohibition, pot-unfriendly states wouldn’t be able to prevent interstate transport of marijuana. Those states would also miss out on tax revenue. Marijuana advocates predict state governments could be pushed toward legalization if the federal draft bill was to be signed into law.

“While it wouldn’t tell Nebraska you have to legalize marijuana, it would say you have to allow marijuana that’s being transported from California to Ohio to be able to pass through on your interstate highway system,” said Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “That is going to trigger a tectonic shift in thinking.”

 

Would the federal government stop all regulation of pot?

No, not under the current proposal.

Hudak said the draft legislation takes “a comprehensive approach” and lays out a detailed plan for oversight and regulation of recreational marijuana.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau would regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

In an effort to address past injustices caused by federal marijuana prohibitions, the Justice Department would establish an office to help people convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related violations transition out of incarceration.

 

What are advocates and critics saying?

Advocates of the draft legislation see it as a rare opportunity to push federal reform on marijuana.

Still, Strekal said the draft legislation continues drug testing for federal employees and, under its proposed taxation structure, would tax medical marijuana. He hopes to see those items changed in the final version.

“Fifty years from now, the implications of the initial bill passed are going to be massive,” Strekal said. “And there’s no perfect legislation, but we want to make sure it’s as close to right as possible.”

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an organization that supports decriminalization but opposes legalization of cannabis, released a letter from its research advisory board calling for the final legislation to include limitations on potency, advertising restrictions and a ban on flavored products that could appeal to children.

Kevin Sabet, president of the organization, said he would also like to see further discussion about whether legalization might increase the number of DUIs on the road and other public health consequences.

“There’s a lot of protections for people who use marijuana and not a lot of protections for people who don’t use marijuana, which obviously is the majority of people, believe it or not,” Sabet said.

How would federal legalization affect scientific research of cannabis?

Jennifer Bailey, a principal investigator with the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group who has studied cannabis use, said an end to federal prohibition of marijuana would be “immensely beneficial to science.”

Research on both the harm and potential benefits of cannabis has been slim because it’s difficult for scientists to gain funding and access to marijuana.

 

Does legalization lead to an increase in use among children?

Researchers believe that adolescent use of cannabis has not risen in states where marijuana has been legalized. In fact, some early studies suggested it could be decreasing.

However, Bailey does see cause for concern when it comes to young children accidentally ingesting edible marijuana products, such as cookies, brownies and candy.

She said states where marijuana is legal have seen rises in accidental ingestion of cannabis by children — even in Washington, where state law bans advertising that could appeal to children.

“I mean, who doesn’t want to eat brownies,” Bailey said. “And of course, children want to eat brownies and gummy bears and large lozenges and things that look like candy.”

 

Will it pass?

Because the bill is still just a draft, Schumer and other lawmakers could change it substantially. But in its current form, most experts believe the bill will not pass.

Hudak called the bill “a good conversation starter.” Sabet said he is “not losing a ton of sleep over this.”

But Strekal said similar comments were made about last year’s bill having “no shot,” and it surprised many by passing the House amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schumer acknowledged at the draft bill’s unveiling that he does not yet have the votes to push it through the Senate. He would need total support from Democratic senators plus at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.

If passed, it’s unclear whether Biden would sign the legislation into law. He has expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana, but not for full legalization. At a recent briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “nothing has changed” regarding Biden’s views on cannabis reform.


California opens new marijuana agency 5 years after legalization, aiming to simplify rules

Five years after California legalized recreational marijuana, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law aimed at simplifying how the state regulates the growing industry.

The new law creates a single Department of Cannabis Control, consolidating enforcement, licensing and environmental oversight that had fallen under three different departments.

Industry representatives praised the change, which Newsom first proposed in January 2020.

We “are excited to see the consolidation,” said Lindsay Robinson, the executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, representing over 400 licensed businesses across the state. “We see this as a big win for the industry.”

The Department of Cannabis Control will now take over responsibilities from the Bureau of Cannabis Control under the Department of Consumer Affairs, CalCannabis under the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch under the Department of Health.

Cannabis companies had often expressed difficulty navigating three different agencies with varying protocols and processes, according to Robinson.

“I think that having all of this housed under one agency is going to help with communication, it’s going to help with transparency and hopefully with process time for applications too,” Robinson said.

The department will also manage California’s track-and-trace system, following the movement of cannabis and cannabis products through the legal supply chain.

The Newsom administration wants to make it less likely someone will choose to operate in the illicit market, Christina Dempsey, the Acting Deputy Director for the DCC, told The Sacramento Bee by email.

Robinson called the licensing of California’s cannabis industry when voters approved recreational cannabis use in 2016 a “behemoth project” from the start.

“There’s still some hiccups, we’re still sort of in this phase of we’re slowly maturing,” Robinson said. “The consolidation is just kind of part of the maturation, that hopefully it’ll make things easier not only for the regulators, but also for the folks navigating the system.”

Employees of the pre-consolidation agencies will continue to use their same offices to ensure continuity and stability, according to Dempsey, and will receive advance notice if office locations change.

The new state department falls under the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency. It will still use the current licensing systems, but the law prohibits the department from renewing provisional licenses starting in 2025.

The provisional licensing program was scheduled to sunset at the beginning of this year. The new law extends it until 2026.

The bill also creates a deputy director of equity and inclusion to oversee the new department’s programs and ensure implementation of the California Cannabis Equity Act.

Cannabis businesses do not need to submit new license applications with the new department. Existing licenses and license applications will automatically be transferred to the Department of Cannabis Control.

Researchers also do not need to worry about changes to grant funding under the consolidation. Local government and law enforcement may continue working with existing contacts.

The new department also comes with a new logo: a simple cannabis leaf with intertwining leaves that, according to the department’s press release, represent “the unification of the three programs and collaborative spirit with which DCC intends to engage businesses and stakeholders.”

The Department of Cannabis Control is located at 2920 Kilgore Road in Rancho Cordova, where the Bureau of Cannabis Control formerly resided.

Five myths about marijuana

No, it doesn’t lead to violent crime, and no, those strains aren’t that different

It’s been seven years since the country’s first legal recreational marijuana shops opened in Colorado and Washington state. What was once a bold social experiment is now commonplace, with 18 states plus D.C. — representing well over one-third of the U.S. population — permitting recreational use. Nevertheless, myths about marijuana use and legalization remain widespread. Some are stubborn artifacts of the long-standing war on drugs, while others reflect the influence of a growing industry looking to attract new customers. Here are a few of the most persistent ones.

 

Myth No. 1

Marijuana is a gateway drug.

“Do most people who use other drugs start with marijuana? Most definitely,” reads a fact sheet on the website of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a prominent anti-pot organization. “Research demonstrates that 99% of those addicted to other drugs started with alcohol and marijuana,” the group claims. Pot-squeamish politicians — including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), President Biden and Rep. Andy Harris(R-Md.) — have cited this “gateway theory” as a reason to keep restrictions in place.

In reality, no credible evidence shows that pot makes people more inclined to use other drugs. That, at least, was the conclusion of an exhaustive 96-page inquiry by the Justice Department and the Library of Congress in 2018. “No causal link between cannabis use and the use of other illicit drugs can be claimed at this time,” the authors wrote.

The shoddy reasoning undergirding the gateway theory is on full display in SAM’s statements. It’s true, for instance, that most people who use opiates and other dangerous drugs have also used marijuana at some point in their lives. However, you can make the same claim about alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine or just about any other common substance. “Ninety-nine percent of those addicted to other drugs started with milk” is a true statement — and also perfectly meaningless.

Myth No. 2

Marijuana leads to violent crime.

This myth has gained some steam because of the 2019 publication of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” a polemic by Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who has also gained attention for his aggressively skeptical coverage of the pandemic and the coronavirus vaccines. In the book and elsewhere, Berenson attempts to tie marijuana legalization to increases in murders and assaults: “Marijuana causes psychosis. Psychosis causes violence. The obvious implication is that marijuana causes violence.” Other prohibitionists have attempted to show a link between marijuana use and mass shootings.

There are indeed well-documented ties between heavy marijuana use and psychosis, particularly among the young. But teasing out the causality is incredibly difficult. Does marijuana use cause psychosis, or are people who develop psychosis already more predisposed toward marijuana use? Researchers say Berenson and others overstate their claims and ignore evidence that marijuana may help some people with psychotic disorders.

Beyond that, scholars have done plenty of rigorous work directly examining the relationship between marijuana use and crime, and for all intents and purposes, they haven’t found one. In 2013, a sweeping review of the evidence conducted by the Rand Corp. on behalf of the White House concluded that “marijuana use does not induce violent crime.”

A more recent Justice Department-funded study of the effects of legalization in Washington state found that “neither cannabis-related crime nor more serious offenses seemed to be affected by legalization.” Numerous other papers have turned up evidence that marijuana use and legalization may lead to less violent crime. Given that the drug’s most common effects include “a pleasant euphoria and sense of relaxation,” it isn’t hard to understand why.

Myth No. 3

Potency is an important indicator of quality and safety.

No topic in marijuana produces a greater noise-to-signal ratio than potency, or the concentration of THC — the plant’s main psychoactive compound — in a given product. Legalization skeptics claim today’s cannabis is stronger than ever before — “not your father’s marijuana,” as they say. Pot advocates, meanwhile, often say stronger weed is better, because you can theoretically consume less of it to achieve the same high.

That said, marijuana is getting stronger, although it’s hard to say by exactly how much. Most of our longitudinal knowledge of pot potency comes from a government-run monitoring program that’s been marred by shoddy data-collection practices for much of its existence. There’s no question, however, that under both prohibition and legalization, pot growers have been obsessively selecting for higher THC potency in their plants.

That’s not necessarily good. The research on potency, summed up in a 2020 reportfrom the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, shows a good deal of evidence that people who routinely use stronger marijuana put themselves at a higher risk for mental health disorders than people who use weaker stuff. Might users of high-potency product consume less? It’s a nice idea in theory, but the real-world data is mixed. A recent review found, for instance, that “users of more potent cannabis products incompletely adjust their THC doses,” which resulted in those users reporting “more negative consequences than users of less potent products.”

Other recent research has shown that high-potency cannabis products don’t necessarily get users more high. And recent investigations have revealed that the potency testing industry is rife with fraud, quality-assurance problems and general incompetence. Those THC labels on the products at the dispensary may not mean that much, in the end.

Myth No. 4

Different strains produce different intoxicating effects.

Speaking of labels at dispensaries, pot connoisseurs often rhapsodize about their favorite strains the way wine snobs discuss their favorite chardonnays. Product descriptions promise effects from locking you to the couch to motivating you to clean the house.

But scientists who’ve studied the genetics of cannabis strains say those alleged distinctions have little grounding in reality. A 2015 report, for instance, found only minor differences in the genetic makeup of cannabis strains. “A marijuana strain name does not necessarily represent a genetically unique variety,” the authors wrote. In about a third of the plants they studied, individual samples were “more genetically similar to samples with different [strain] names than to samples with identical names.” A 2019 study failed to find meaningful genetic differences even between the two major varieties, indica and sativa, often said to produce very different types of intoxication. An analysis in 2018 concluded that “the concept of a ‘strain’ does not reflect the crop domestication, breeding programs or plant chemistry.”

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical compounds, most of which are poorly understood. It’s possible that different combinations could produce different intoxicating effects. But the research strongly suggests there’s little correlation between how a strain is labeled and what it actually does.

Myth No. 5

Legalization has been a public health disaster.

Opponents of legalization often make their case in apocalyptic terms. Groups like Parents Opposed to Pot, for instance, claim that legalization is “an anti-science Public Health disaster” and an “assault on public safety” that “increases the black market for all drugs, and overdose deaths,” and that “on EVERY measure, marijuana legalization is failed policy.” Medical groups have argued that legalization will lead to increases in teen drug use. Police groups have warned that traffic fatalities will rise.

But one of the most striking facts about the states that have legalized is how little has changed there. This spring, for instance, two economists from the University of Colorado at Denver and Montana State University performed a comprehensive review of the public health consequences of marijuana legalization, encompassing dozens of previously published studies. They found little evidence suggesting that recreational marijuana laws result in greater teen drug use, but strong evidence that teens who do use marijuana are less likely to use alcohol — a net public health win, given what we know about the relative dangers of the two substances. There are also some provisional signs that legal weed is taking a bite out of opioid mortality, directly contradicting prohibitionists’ dire warnings.

On the traffic front, the researchers found that “road safety improves when medical marijuana is legalized” but that the jury’s still out on the effect specifically of recreational pot. At the workplace, multiple studies have shown that legalization reduces sick-day use and absenteeism.

The net post-legalization changes are modest and trending slightly toward positive. This is not terribly surprising: Human societies are massive and complex systems, with thousands of interconnected parts interacting in unpredictable ways. It’s naive to think that altering a single variable, like the legal status of weed, could bring the whole edifice crashing down.

 

By Christopher Ingrahamch

July 15, 2021

What’s the Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC?

Delta-8 THC is a very important cannabinoid, mainly thanks to its ability to serve as a more mellow and functional substitute for Delta-9 THC (or what we typically refer to as “traditional marijuana.”)

While there is no denying that Delta-9 THC is a powerful compound – not to mention a potent and natural healer for those suffering from a host of ailments and medical issues – it also carries with it quite a few adverse side effects. Paranoia and anxiety often top the list of undesirable side effects associated with traditional marijuana – along with sleep issues and addiction with longer-term use.

Delta-8 THC doesn’t appear to have many of these harmful properties – at least not nearly to the same extent as Delta-9 THC. This makes it a top choice for those seeking similar relaxational properties and euphoric effects to Delta-9 THC, but with far less of the adverse mental side effects.

Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC: Side-by-Side Comparison

The “8” in Delta-8 indicates the location of the chemical bond – which is only one spot over from that of Delta-9. Thanks to these structural similarities, Delta-8 also shares many of the same properties as Delta-9 THC (euphoric, relaxing, body and mind effects, etc.). However, because of the minor chemical differences between the two, there are also some notable differences.

 

Like Delta-9, Delta-8 THC also binds to CB1 receptors. But because it is more stable and mellow than it’s potent THC cousin, Delta-8 produces a slightly lesser effect, specifically in terms of its psychoactive properties. Many of the negative side effects of Delta-9 THC are much milder with Delta-8, and users don’t experience nearly the intense scope of anxiety, paranoia, personality issues, etc., as is common with regular marijuana.

What Does Delta-8 THC Feel Like?

Since the euphoric sensation is a bit more mild with Delta-8 than what you might experience with Delta-9 THC, users often report a clearer mind and more energetic mood when consuming Delta-8. Many of the less desirable effects of THC, like paranoia and anxiety, are also reduced, making Delta-8 the clear choice for those seeking a middle ground effect between CBD and THC.

Unlike CBD which only has medicinal uses, Delta-8 THC can be used both medicinally and recreationally thanks to its subtle psychoactive effects.

Our Favorite Delta-8 THC Products of 2021:

We are loving BudVault’s latest selection of pure Delta-8 THC buds and edibles. Not only do they offer a broad catalog of Delta-8 products, but you really can’t beat their monthly deals and special freebie giveaways.

  • BudVault offers a FREE 4g hemp flower or Space Cowboy Delta-8 with any flower purchase. They are also running a promo on Delta-8 edibles, offering a generous sample pack of gummies with any gummy purchase. And yes, you can combine both offers!

Delta-8 THC vs. CBD

Structure-wise, Delta-8 THC shares more in common with Delta-9 THC than it does with CBD. Although CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, it doesn’t have the same effect on the brain’s CB1 and CB2 neuroreceptors (the receptors responsible for delivering psychoactive effects) as its THC counterparts.

Here’s a quick comparison of the differences between Delta-8 THC and CBD:

CBD:

  • Non psychoactive
  • Works with CB1 receptors
  • Found in high concentrations in the hemp plant
  • Mainly used medicinally (few recreational benefits)
  • Low probability of CBD showing up on drug test

Delta-8 THC:

  • Could show up on a drug test
  • Mellow psychoactive properties
  • Can be used both medicinally and recreationally
  • Much rarer than CBD, very small concentration naturally occurring in hemp plant
  • Works on CB1 and CBD2 receptors

As you have probably gathered, comparing CBD to Delta-8 THC is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are both derived from the hemp plant and are both federally legal, but that is where the major similarities end. If you are reluctant to try Delta-8 because you don’t want “more of the same,” we highly recommend that you give it a try, as it is a whole different animal than CBD or hemp.

How does Delta-8 THC work?

Structurally, Delta-8 THC closely resembles that of a naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter in the brain called anadamine. Anandamide can affect areas of the brain that impact everything from pleasure and sensory perception, to memory, thinking, and concentration. Since Delta-8 THC is so structurally similar to anandamide, it can stick to and activate the cannabinoid receptors of the brain responsible for these various mental and motor functions.

Best Delta-8 Edibles and Gummies:

BudVault offers an excellent selection of Delta-8 edibles, including their entire line of best-selling 25mg gummies in various flavors and varieties.

Watermelon Rush 1500mg (25mg each) Delta-8 THC Chews:

This tried and true fruit chew has been around for a minute, and ever since we first tried it last December, it’s remained at the top of our list in terms of all-around favorite Delta-8 gummies available online.

First of all, the flavor is just fantastic. Not only is it a watermelon lover’s paradise, but the unmistakable gassy hit of diesel that emerges from the juicy core is a nice little preview for the happy and otherworldly times ahead. We love Watermelon Rush’s ability to target the areas that need it most, and the heady effect this edible delivers makes it one of the best on the market today. Not too much, but certainly not too little, you will feel the unmistakable effects of Delta-8 tingling up your spine within about 20 minutes of consumption. Not only is the onset quick and powerful, but the positive effects and mood-boosting properties seem to linger for hours after dosing – much longer than a lot of the competition out there today.

Rosé Kushy Bears 1500mg (25mg each) Delta-8 THC Gummies:

We also can’t get enough of this delicious new offering from BudVault, and we highly recommend at the very least grabbing the Rosé Kushy Bears one as your freebie – as we noticed a bit of a difference in effect between the varieties that we appreciated when comparing these bears with the other options.

We describe this gummy as “mellow and stable” – the ideal dose for when you need a reliable pick me up, but aren’t prepared to go to outer space or get stuck in a couch-lock just yet. (For a headier and more powerful effect, we suggest the Hazy Peach Rings, which is one of our favorite 1000mg Delta-8 edibles available online for those times we need a heavier hit of relaxational effects.)

Final Thoughts after Trying Delta-8 THC for 1 Month:

Delta-8 THC is a total game-changer. What started as an experiment of curiosity turned into a new obsession, and our whole team of cannabis enthusiasts was blown away by the efficacy of this budding new cannabinoid.

Not only did these Delta-8 THC edibles and hemp flowers pack a major punch, but they also “scratched the itch” of weed without bogging any of our testers down.

Here are a few of our testers’ notes after completing their 1 month of Delta-8 experiment:

  • “I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to try this! I had no idea it would actually feel like something, and I really had no idea that I would end up liking it more than weed! Mind blown!”
  • Audrey (San Francisco)
  • “This can’t be compared to CBD. If you need to compare Delta-8 to something it’s definitely Delta-9. I loved the effect and really appreciated the lack of paranoia (which is the main reason I actively avoid regular THC now.) Great substitute for the real thing!
  • Nicholas (San Francisco)
  • Great stuff! My husband and I were both blown away by the Watermelon Rush and Kushy Bear gummies we tried. They were incredibly strong and the effect hit us fast, but we never felt the dreaded “too much” anxious feeling that often accompanies regular weed edibles for the both of us.
  • Margo (Austin, Texas)

 

Jun. 4, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Upcoming Mergers in the Cannabis Industry to Watch

The number of cannabis companies doing deals is expected to rise in 2021.

THE AMOUNT OF CAPITAL raised during the past two months is a strong signal that the cannabis sector is prepping for more acquisitions in 2021 as more states have legalized the adult use of marijuana.

“We’ve already seen a number of deals conducted in late 2020,” says Timothy Seymour, founder of Seymour Asset Management in New York and portfolio manager of the Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (ticker: CNBS), whose top three holdings are GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH) at 10.7%, Aphria (APHA) at 8.6% and Canopy Growth Corp. (CGC) at 8.6%.

The larger multistate operators have raised money and are on a land grab before the sector opens up to larger strategics and institutional capital, he says, and the level of deal flow will rise during the next three to six months.

“The cannabis industry is already a $50 billion industry and this should triple by the end of the decade,” says Seymour, whose exchange-traded fund CNBS generated a return of 60% year to date and 137% for the past six months. “We are talking about recreational, medical, wellness, lifestyle and consumer packaged goods all rolled up into one massive growth opportunity.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill in February legalizing recreational use of cannabis even though voters approved adult use last November. Virginia lawmakers also approved a bill in February for the recreational use of marijuana, but sales would not start until 2024. There are now 15 states along with the District of Columbia that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.

Deal activity has ramped up during the past three months – Cresco Labs (CRLBF), a Chicago-based multistate operator that has a footprint in nine states, acquired Bluma Wellness for $213 million, and Verano, a Chicago-based multistate operator in 12 states bought Florida-based Alternative Medical Enterprises (AltMed) for an undisclosed amount. Another large deal occurred when New York-based Ayr Strategies (AYRWF) acquired Florida-based Liberty Health Sciences (LHSIF) for $290 million.

Public Companies That Could Seek Deals

Since January, the cannabis industry has raised $2 billion in equity capital without conducting any roadshows or receiving funding from banks, which will increase the momentum in merger and acquisition, or M&A, activity, Seymour says.

“The companies raised the money themselves,” he says. “Now that these companies are fresh with new cash, they can buy companies for cheaper prices rather than doing a share deal. This is going to fast-forward the M&A calendar.”

The number of deals in 2021 could exceed last year, and the trend could continue for both public and private companies during the next couple of years, says Jason Spatafora, co-founder of marijuanastocks.com and head trader at truetradinggroup.com.

“The deals will depend heavily on the geography and some of the tailwinds the industry is facing,” he says. “It’s a good thing the Democrats are controlling the three executive branches of government.”

Some cannabis companies were caught off guard when the Democrats won the Senate in 2020, since they advocate for the legalization of marijuana use, Spatafora says.

“This added a premium to acquisitions, and there were higher deal prices,” he says. “Some companies thought they had more time to enter some state markets.”

Cresco Labs is likely done with acquiring companies for the short term while Curaleaf (CURLF), a Wakefield, Massachusetts-based vertically integrated cannabis operator, has done a good job with its acquisitions and “planted a lot of flags,” Spatafora says. The company operates in 23 states with 101 dispensaries and has 22 cultivation sites and more than 30 processing sites.

“Curaleaf does not have to be as aggressive as some other companies that were more focused on building out their own networks,” he says.

The likelihood of public cannabis companies acquiring their public competitors remains low right now, and companies have earmarked their cash for other priorities, Spatafora says. Once politicians iron out the details of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act on how banks and financial institutions can work with the cannabis industry since the federal government has not legalized the drug, then the access to the cost of capital could be lower.

Areas in Cannabis That Will See M&A

The companies armed with cash will be very inquisitive and aggressive. Those include Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF), a Vancouver and Chicago-based national cannabis consumer packaged goods company and retailer, and TerrAscend (TRSSF), a New York and Toronto-based cannabis company operating dispensaries in California and a manufacturer and distributor of hemp-derived products, Seymour says.

“The stocks of these companies rallied after they raised capital,” he says. “They should be seen as growth companies. This is a big moment for the industry.”

Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (TCNNF), which is primarily a Florida operator, will also be active on the deal-making front, Seymour says. The company reported $193.4 million in cash as of September 2020.

Private companies such as PharmaCann, Ascend Wellness and Holistic Industries are also looking to grow their footprint through deals, while companies such as Parallel now have structures in place that will lead to aggressive deals on M&A, he says.

“Ultimately, many companies in the sector are looking to sell to a bigger strategic player at some point,” Seymour says.

The overall surge in equity prices in cannabis stocks the past few months has left many operators with a strong cash position and in search of acquisition targets, says Aaron Raub, senior equity analyst at Ambria Capital in Puerto Rico.

One company that could seek more deals is GrowGeneration Corp. (GRWG), a Denver-based hydroponic grow supplier, he says.

“The management team has a multiyear track record of opening new stores in prime locations through organic growth or acquiring hydroponic and organic garden centers at attractive valuations in a very fragmented industry where competitors often lack the scale and host of services that GrowGen provides,” Raub says.

GrowGeneration has ample capital to deploy since it had a heavily oversubscribed equity offering of $172.5 million in December 2020. Its fourth acquisition was San Diego Hydroponics & Organics, which adds nearly $10 million in “incremental top-line revenue to the company,” he says.

GrowGeneration has 50 stores and plans to have 55 by the end of the year. In 2020, the company added 14 new and acquired stores.

One of the risk factors is that the company’s long-term acquisition strategy is based on a combination of stock and cash. If there is a sharp pullback in the stock market, it could slow down the pace of capital raised and also decrease the number of acquisitions the company conducts, but GrowGeneration has low debt levels, Raub says.

The number of cannabis deals should rise in the second quarter, but they could be more expensive, especially in Ohio, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Massachusetts and Illinois, since many of those states limit the number of licenses companies can own, says Michael Berger, founder of Technical420, a Miami-based company that researches cannabis stocks.

“U.S. companies now realize you need to partner with one of your own size in order to compete,” he says.

Cannabis companies need to be acquisitive before premiums rise – several companies are generating $200 million in sales per quarter and are no longer small businesses, Berger says.

“Sales growth was strong in 2020,” he says. “No matter what economy we are in, people want cannabis products. It’s a defensive industry; it’s medicine for some people and it has therapeutic uses for recreational users. People will spend money to improve their mental health.”

Companies will look to secure licenses in limited markets they are not currently in, especially markets that have only legalized the medical use of cannabis such as Florida or only recently went recreational and likely have significant growth ahead, says Jason Wild, president of New York-based hedge fund JW Asset Management.

All regions in which cannabis is legal will see more deal flow, while the East Coast and Midwest will prioritize land acquisitions in addition to filling out vertical licensing in individual states, he says. On the West Coast markets, Wild says M&A “will be motivated in large part by consolidation and a desire for scale.”

Mexico moves closer to becoming the world’s largest legal cannabis market

“We’re taking away this beautiful plant from criminals and putting in the hands of retailers and farmers,” said former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Mexico is inching closer to becoming the world’s largest legal cannabis market as lawmakers prepare to debate a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Chamber of Deputies, Congress’ lower house similar to the U.S. House of Representatives, will take up the issue early next week, Martha Tagle Martínez, a member of the chamber’s health committee, said in a series of tweets.

The Senate approved the legalization of medical marijuana almost four months ago, and two months later, the Health Ministry published rules to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis.

Former President Vicente Fox, who is on the board of global medical marijuana company Khiron Life Sciences Corp., said he sees the potential for Mexico to cash in on much-needed job creation, economic investment and medical advancements.

A regulated market could also help to lessen the cartel violence that has become synonymous with the country.

“Many great things will happen,” he said. “We’re taking away this beautiful plant from criminals and putting in the hands of retailers and farmers.”

Mexico has been steadily marching toward creating a cannabis market since 2015, when a federal judge ruled in favor of importing cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, for medical reasons. The ruling stemmed from a case involving a young girl suffering from a severe form of epilepsy.

The parents of the girl, Grace Elizalde, who was 8 years old at the time, had tried just about everything to treat her Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which triggered 400 seizures a day. At their most desperate, the family drove three hours to Laredo, Texas, to acquire Cosyntropin, a synthetic peptide that can be used to treat seizures. The medication cost more than $5,000, said Grace’s father, Raul Elizalde, who is now the president of the international CBD company HempMeds.

Elizalde eventually reached out to a Mexican lawmaker who publicly supported adopting cannabis legislation in Mexico after Washington state and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. That lawmaker, Fernando Belaunzarán, wrote a letter to Mexico’s health secretary on behalf of the Elizalde family, seeking permission to import cannabis oil for Grace’s treatment.

Initially, the Health Ministry declined the request, but a federal judge stepped in and allowed Elizalde to import CBD.

“There was not a lot of information back then in 2015,” Elizalde said. “It was hard to find any information about cannabis, especially CBD.”

Elizalde said Grace’s doctor had been interested in research taking place around the world on CBD as a potential treatment for epilepsy and thought it was worth a try for his daughter, who is now 13. Her seizures have decreased to about 20 on a bad day, Elizalde said.

In 2017, Enrique Peña Nieto, the president at the time, signed a bill allowing the medical use of marijuana products containing less than 1 percent of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The bill also called on the Health Ministry to draft and implement regulations for the nascent industry.

It took three more years for Mexico to finalize regulations. During that time, public perception gradually shifted as more families spoke publicly about using cannabis-derived medication to treat various ailments.

“The domino effect is happening,” Fox said. “The No. 1 challenge is to convey, inform and educate consumers and patients. And also educate the medical community. There is still some hesitancy in Mexican culture.”

In a poll published last year in the newspaper El Financiero, 58 percent of respondents opposed full legalization. But among respondents under age 40, more than half said they were in favor of legalizing cannabis.

“Mexico is changing,” Elizalde said. “We never thought we would change the law. Now it’s changing faster than we thought possible.”

While the road to full legalization appears to have accelerated, especially compared to the U.S.’s debate over the so-called war on drugs, Mexico’s path has not necessarily been driven by public or political demand. Instead, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a series of five rulings declaring the ban on the consumption of cannabis unconstitutional.

Under Mexican law, the number of decisions needed to set a precedent is five.

“Mexico went down the legalization path because of a quirk in the way their judicial system works,” said Andrew Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan research organization.

While the court’s mandate forced lawmakers to build a framework for regulating cannabis, it did not necessarily create a desire among elected officials to do so quickly.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on the promise to change the country’s approach to its drug war, including negotiating peace and amnesty for people involved in or affected by the illegal drug trade. Despite his campaign promises, legalizing cannabis is not necessarily a top priority, Rudman said.

“It was more that the court basically said to the Congress, ‘You have to do this,'” he said.

With the clock ticking for Mexico to finalize both its medical and recreational cannabis programs, the U.S. could be left in an awkward position if its neighbors to the north and the south each have legal frameworks in place. Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2018; marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S.

“It creates some really interesting trade issues,” Rudman said. “Mexico legalizing is going to strengthen the push for, if not legalization, decriminalization in the U.S.”

The Chamber of Deputies has until the end of April to comply with the court mandate to legalize cannabis

Do CBD Gummies Show up on Drug Tests?

BD can be an excellent way to enhance wellness, promote well-being, and encourage relaxation. CBD lovers worldwide often enjoy many potential benefits. They may consume various forms of CBD throughout their day. One of the most innovative ways users get their boost of CBD is from gummies. CBD gummies are delectable treats that have a burst of CBD. Many consumers enjoy taking this snack on the go or for sharing with friends.

However, there are still ongoing discussions surrounding CBD’s status, both federally and within states. Due to this issue, it’s understandable that consumers may feel some trepidation. This is especially true when it comes to blood work for employment. Many users may want to know, “Will I have a CBD positive drug test?”

CBD in drug tests may not have a straightforward answer. It may depend on a few factors, including quality. This article will go over these factors and highlight some critical aspects regarding CBD and hemp. We’ll also delve into how high-quality hemp and CBD gummies for sale can make a difference.
What Is CBD?

Before launching into a detailed explanation, the best starting point may include an examination of CBD. CBD or cannabidiol is a substance that growers can harvest from hemp. Unlike marijuana, CBD derived from hemp has minimal THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. Researchers and users alike have cited THC as having intoxicating effects, including intense drowsiness, lethargy, and paranoia.

Studies show that CBD may not induce the physiological reactions often associated with marijuana. In addition to its non-intoxicating nature, CBD may have other potential benefits. Developing bodies of research indicate that CBD may quell symptoms related to anxiety, sleep deprivation, and stress-related syndromes.
Why Worry About Quality?

CBD has become increasingly popular. Consumers can purchase it from a variety of places, including gas stations and other retail outlets. However, the quality of any of these CBD-infused items, including gummies, may be questionable at best. And when it comes to gummies, ensuring that a purchase is premium means buying from a seller that uses industrial hemp. This is especially important for drug tests.

Some may wonder just how industrial hemp relates to drug testing. Well, most drug tests screen for certain drugs and other substances, and this includes THC. Low-quality or subpar hemp may contain a higher level of THC than American industrial hemp. Products derived from industrial hemp, including CBD-infused gummies, typically have minimal amounts of THC.

This translates into a test that won’t indicate THC use. In fact, researchers recently found that a threshold of 15ng/ml of THC is sufficient for a positive urine sample. Most high-grade CBD items from industrial hemp have 0.3% or less THC. And it’s not only where hemp comes from that counts. Extraction methods are essential, as well. When CBD comes from top-notch extraction procedures such as natural CO2, growers can harvest a higher grade of CBD.

Companies that take CBD seriously source their CBD from American farms that adhere to stringent growing practices. They may also ensure the best ways of getting CBD, including CO2 extraction. The result is a low-THC product with little chance of affecting a drug test.

When shopping around, it’s also important to note that reputable companies will often include detailed lab reports. These reports will contain the amount of CBD, THC, and other substances in a given item.
Getting Your Gummies: PureKana Online

Gummies can be an excellent source of CBD. They are transportable, easy to share, and can satisfy a sweet tooth. CBD fans looking for this tasty treat can buy them in a variety of places and cities. Online CBD gummy sellers abound, but not every company is reputable and sources from high-grade hemp.

A company like Purekana offers top of the line gummies with premium ingredients. PureKana’s gummies boast up to 25mg of industrial-hemp derived CBD per serving. Each bottle of their regular or all-vegan gummies features 20 gummies with fruity flavors.

Their gummies also have an added bonus of affordability. They feature price points that won’t bust a budget. And with a responsive customer care team, consumers may find that they have additional security and assistance.

Feb. 21, 2021 12:00 a.m. Marketplace

3 Marijuana Stocks With High Hopes for the Future

Marijuana stocks are enjoying a bit of a renaissance these days. With Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats taking the Senate, bullish investors are hopeful that greener days are ahead. That’s why immediately after Joe Biden’s victory, we saw marijuana stocks gaining a lot of ground.

Nevertheless, some are wondering is whether this is another false dawn. When Canada legalized cannabis on a federal level, many believed it was a watershed moment for the Cannabis industry. Consequently, several investors rushed in, leading to outsized valuations.

After some essential bubble-bursting, companies are now attractively valued. The post-election momentum caused a momentary blip, and more attractive valuations will return soon.

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But I digress. Picking quality stocks is never an easy task, especially when you are focusing on a sector that is under the hammer. That’s why you need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

On this list, we include companies that have a strong track record of growth. Stocks will always ebb and flow, depending on the news. However, the companies with excellent performance metrics will continue to do well, regardless of the wider industry’s external circumstances.

So, without further ado, here are three marijuana stocks that will push your returns higher:

  • GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH)
  • Aphria (NASDAQ:APHA)
  • OrganiGram Holdings (NASDAQ:OGI)

Marijuana Stocks To Buy: GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH)

marijuana falling out of a prescription container next to a stethoscope

Source: Shutterstock

GWPH stock soared 46% after Jazz Pharmaceuticals(NASDAQ:JAZZ) agreed to a $7.2 billion acquisition of the CBD biopharma in a cash-and-stock deal expected to close in the second quarter.

GW Pharmaceuticals is a biopharmaceutical company developing and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid product platform, Epidiolex, in a broad range of disease areas.

Epidiolex is a liquid formulation of pure plant-derived cannabidiol used to treat several rare childhood-onset epilepsy disorders. The company also develops and markets Sativex, an oromucosal spray for spasticity treatment due to multiple sclerosis.

GWPH is a very consistent performer, having exceeded analyst expectations in the past six quarters consecutively. It will boost profits of its new parent with double-digit revenue growth of 41% next year.

Valuation is also a plus for this one. Recently, many pure-plays in the cannabis space have skyrocketed on the back of positive news. Valuations are now outsized. However, GWPH stock trades at 13.5 times price-to-sales. Not too bad, considering the recent blockbuster merger.

Aphria (APHA)

An Aphria (APHA) marijuana product

Source: Shutterstock

Aphria does not have exposure to the U.S. CBD or THC markets due to federal prohibition constraints. Nonetheless, now that the Democrats are in power, we can see headway on that end.

Aphria operates through retail and wholesale channels in Canada and internationally. It has operations in over 10 countries outside of Canada and is the main distributor of medical cannabis to Germany.

Although not having a U.S. presence is its main Achilles heel, it does have some exposure in the form of SweetWater, a craft brewery. Aphria closed the acquisition last year.

CEO and Chairman Irwin Simon said the purchase would allow the Canadian licensed producer to build brand awareness in the U.S. ahead of federal legalization.

In the past five years, sales have grown 179.6% on average. Looking ahead, it’s expected that the company will increase sales by 31.5% next year. For all this, if you get shares for just 9.8 times P/S, I’d say it’s a steal.

Marijuana Stocks To Buy: OrganiGram Holdings (OGI)

30 Marijuana Stocks to Buy as the Future Turns Green

Source: Shutterstock

OrganiGram Holdings focuses on producing indoor-growth cannabis for patients and adult recreational consumers and developing overseas business partnerships.

Its brand portfolio includes Edison Reserve, Edison Cannabis Co, ANKR Organics, and Trailblazer.

OrganiGram has disappointed investors with its sluggish revenue growth and cash burn. But analysts are expecting the next year to bring some relief. Sales and EPS are expected to grow 64.1% and 320.0%, leading to a bullish reading. OGI stock is up 77.4% in the last month. But shares are still trading at 11.2 times price-to-earnings.

OGI has outperformed the S&P 500 by 185.1% and its sector by 198.2% in the past five years. That kind of performance is rare, but investors will ideally want some improvement in fundamentals to accompany this. All the data points to the company turning the corner soon. Until then, the general euphoria regarding the sector will continue to drive shares higher.

On the date of publication, Faizan Farooque did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.

Faizan Farooque is a contributing author for InvestorPlace.com and numerous other financial sites. Faizan has several years of experience analyzing the stock market and was a former data journalist at S&P Global Market Intelligence. His passion is to help the average investor make more informed decisions regarding their portfolio.

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Tilray CEO says he expects U.S. federal cannabis legalization within two years

Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Canadian cannabis company Tilray, is optimistic that the United States will take steps toward federal legalization of marijuana in the near future, a move that will shake the industry forever.

“I expect that pressure from the North and the South will ultimately lead the U.S. to implement a federal program here at some point in the next 18 to 24 months,” Kennedy said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Mexico published regulations for medical cannabis use and Kennedy is confident that Mexico and Canada’s positive stance on marijuana will put more pressure on the U.S.

Tilray announced Tuesday that it has been chosen as a supplier of medical cannabis for experimentation in France by the country’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products.

Since 2017, the company has been selling its cannabis products in Germany. With the French program getting underway in the first quarter, Kennedy is optimistic that other European countries will implement medical marijuana programs as well.

“While we are excited for our opportunities in Germany and France, we expect to see additional opportunities for our European businesses in the coming quarters,” Kennedy told CNBC in an interview.

Tilray has cannabis production licenses in Canada and Portugal, where their main cannabis facility is located.

Has San Francisco reached its COVID peak?

While California’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be bumpy amid the deadliest days of the pandemic, the latest numbers on new cases and hospitalizations from the San Francisco Department of Public Health reveal the surge may be easing in the city.

In a Tuesday update, San Francisco Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said while the number of new daily cases remains higher than before the explosion of cases after Thanksgiving, the most recent data shows promising signs. The case rate is currently 38.3 per 100,000 people, down slightly from the high of 42.5 new cases per 100,000 on Jan. 10.

“This trend is promising, but it’s too early to know for sure so we simply can not let our guard down,” Colfax said. “Our current number per 100,000 is far higher than our summer surge when we peaked at just 15.4, but we are still doing better than California as a whole where the average is 100.9 per 100,000.” (Note: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate per 100,000 in California was 90.3 as of Jan. 20.)

The post-holiday rise in hospitalizations is beginning to trend down “just barely” with the weekly change in hospitalization rate declining by 1%, Colfax said.

“That rate in change is important because it reflects the demand put on our hospitals for acute care and ICU beds to care for COVID-19 and other patients,” he noted. “Again, this is promising and hopeful news.”

With cases finally starting to decline slightly and the distribution of vaccines slowly increasing, some may be wondering: Did San Francisco hit its peak?

“I think the answer is yes,” said UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford. “We’ve seen the positivity rate start to go down. We’ve seen cases start to go down. We’re seeing hospitalizations go down. We’ll start to see ICU admissions go down and then we’ll see deaths go down. So I say yeah, probably. It think we’re on our way down.”

Rutherford said this with caution, noting that numbers can easily increase if people stop wearing masks and social distancing. “You have to be careful,” he warned. “It could bounce right back up.”

Health officials are in a race against time, not only as patients continue to become sick and die but as the virus mutates into forms that can spread much more easily.

An L452R variant has been found in at least a dozen counties and was identified in several large outbreaks in Santa Clara, San Francisco and Monterey counties.

Rutherford believes the new variants are unlikely to cause a major surge in San Francisco if people wear their face coverings, don’t gather and follow public health guidelines.

“What causes outbreaks is people not wearing masks and not socially distancing and getting into crowded situations,” he said. “If it’s one strain or another, they all cause outbreaks. Some may transmit more than others, but at the end of the day it’s all behavioral.”

UCSF infectious disease doctor Dr. Peter Chin-Hong agreed numbers are trending slightly down, but he’s hesitant to say S.F. hit its highest peak; Chin-Hong is worried about the L452R variant, which is increasingly being identified in cases.

“That rate of increase is making me worry it’s going to be the U.K. variant all over again,” Chin-Hong said. “It’s becoming a larger part of the genotype scene. It suggests it’s taking over the COVID.”

He said he also worries people will become less vigilant in following the public health orders. “Just when it’s getting warm and the vaccine hope is there, I’m worried we’ll slack off,” said Chin-Hong, noting that people will still need to wear masks after they’ve been vaccinated. “Until there’s consistency in the numbers, I can’t say for certain we’ve hit the peak.”

Across California, infection indicators are “all showing trends in the right direction,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. A surge following Christmas and New Year’s had been feared on top of the surge after Halloween and Thanksgiving that drove case levels and hospitalizations to record levels.

Only a couple of weeks ago, it was feared some hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas might have to begin rationing care as they ran out of surge capacity as regular beds were filled.

But statewide hospitalizations are down 8.5% over 14 days, with the number of intensive care patients also easing. Hospitals that had been seeing 3,500 new patients each day are now seeing 2,500 to 2,900 daily admissions — still distressingly high, but “quite a significant reduction,” Ghaly said.