Scientists with a new research center at the University of Washington are working on a vaccine to help fight the opioid epidemic in a bid to stem the tide of overdose deaths that has swept the nation over the past two decades.
Marco Pravetoni, the head of the new UW Medicine Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders, is leading the effort to develop the vaccine. Similar to immunization against an invading pathogen, the vaccine under development would stimulate the body’s immune system to attack and destroy opioid molecules before they can enter the brain.
Such a vaccine would not prevent drug cravings commonly experienced by those with opioid abuse disorder. But the treatment, if successful, would block the effects of opioids including euphoria, pain relief and even overdose, thus likely reducing abuse.
The new research center opened this month and has raised more than $2 million in initial funding. Pravetoni hopes to raise enough money to complete further research on the vaccine under development.
“What I’m hoping to achieve is pretty much every year, we’re going to start a new clinical trial,” Pravetoni told the Seattle Times in early January.
An Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses
In November, provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that during the 12-month period ending April 2021, 100,306 Americans died of drug overdoses. Synthetic opioids were involved in nearly two-thirds of the overdose deaths reported.
The overdose-reversal drug naloxone has been shown to save lives in emergencies. Additionally, treatments for opioid abuse disorder including methadone and buprenorphine can help those struggling with addiction, although opioid replacement therapy drugs have their own risk of addiction. New treatments could increase the chances of success for those struggling with opioid abuse, according to Rebecca Baker, director of the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, a program that has helped fund Pravetoni’s research.
“(Existing medications) don’t work for everyone. And a lot of people don’t stay on them in the long term,” Baker said. “Would the outcomes be better if we had more options?”
The University of Washington’s opioid vaccine project is building on research published in the journal Nature in 1974. In that study, a rhesus monkey had been trained to self-administer heroin and cocaine. After being given an experimental vaccine to block the effects of heroin, the monkey continued to use cocaine but greatly reduced its use of heroin, suggesting the vaccine had done its job.
That study led to further research into the possibility of creating a vaccine for nicotine addiction. Although early results appeared promising, human trials showed the treatment was only as effective as a placebo. A vaccine developed to fight cocaine addiction saw a similar fate, and neither treatment received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Kim Janda, a chemistry and immunology professor at Scripps Research Institute in California, has spent decades researching vaccines against addictive drugs. He believes that continued research could eventually produce an effective vaccine.
“We’ve learned a lot more [about] what is possible, what’s maybe not going to be as fruitful,” Janda said, adding that vaccines may not work against all drugs of abuse. “But if there’s enough money to put behind these vaccines, and you had the infrastructure to do it, then you could move it along fairly quickly.”
This year, Pravetoni and a researcher with Columbia University have launched the first Phase 1 clinical trial of a vaccine to prevent opioid abuse. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine, which is designed to block the effects of oxycodone, is being tested in people who are already addicted but not receiving the disease.
Is an Opioid Vaccine Worth the Cost?
But human drug trials are expensive. Pravetoni estimates that bringing an effective opioid vaccine to market could cost up to $300 million. Some addiction experts, including Dr. Ryan Marino, an emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, wonder if the money could be better spent.
“It is true that more treatment options are generally better,” Marino told Filter. “But what doesn’t make sense to me—as someone who treats both overdose and addiction—is putting so much funding towards this when we already have an antidote for opioids, a long-acting opioid blocker and two other evidence-based treatment options for opioid use disorder that both reduce opioid use and prevent overdose.”
Harm reduction activists working on the ground with people who have substance abuse disorders say that limited funds could be spent more effectively. Jessica Blanchard, the founder of Georgia a mobile harm reduction program called 229 Safer Living Access, distributes safer sex supplies and naloxone provided by other groups. But she personally covers the other costs to administer the program, which limits its operations substantially.
“With funding, not only could I afford to buy in bulk, greatly reducing cost, but I could also give participants more supplies to share with those unable to make contact with the program,” Blanchard said. “I would pay program participants to do secondary distribution. (They) are the experts here. They express a desire to participate in distributing supplies and educating their peers. But without the ability to compensate them for their time and lived-experiential knowledge, I simply can not ask them to help.”
After One Year As President, Biden’s Marijuana Promises Remain Unfulfilled
Thursday marks the end of President Joe Biden’s first year in office—and, by and large, his campaign promises on marijuana policy have so far gone unfilled. And while certain federal agencies have taken some positive reform steps, the administration managed to stir controversy over some outwardly hostile actions with respect to cannabis policy.
Contrary to Biden’s campaign pledges, cannabis has not been federally decriminalized, people remain in federal prison over non-violent marijuana offenses and the plant has yet to be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. Of the cannabis promises that Biden made while running for president, just one has been met so far: the government has continued to let states implement marijuana reform mostly without federal intervention, though ongoing lack of clarity from the administration has caused continuing complications for the industry and consumers.
In one of the more notable positive developments to come out of the Oval Office, however, Biden did sign an infrastructure bill last year that contains language meant to help promote marijuana research.
While there were numerous successes on the reform front in 2021 those mostly came at the state level, and advocates feel disappointed by the overall White House inaction—especially considering that it was promised to voters ahead of the 2020 election.
It’s not just that there were no meaningful reform actions in Biden’s first year, either. It’s that some of the few actions he did take on marijuana—proposing in his budget to keep blocking Washington, D.C. from legalizing cannabis sales and punishing White House staff who were honest about past marijuana use—were setbacks in the movement.
Biden himself hasn’t made a substantive public comment about cannabis policy since entering the Oval Office, beside making a quick, dismissive comment to a reporter who asked about clemency for current prisoners. Vice President Kamala Harris, for her part, said last year that the Biden administration isn’t focused on following through on its marijuana reform pledges because it’s too overwhelmed with responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Biden Administration’s failure to live up to campaign statements and, in the case of including a rider preventing D.C. from regulating cannabis in his budget proposal, even backsliding on cannabis is extremely disappointing,” Morgan Fox, the newly installed political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “This inaction on modest cannabis policy reforms over the past year is inexcusable and is a betrayal of the people that put the president in office.”
“The president has an opportunity with cannabis to show initiative and leadership on an issue that enjoys broad bipartisan support,” he said. “Continued inaction on this issue will have negative consequences for his party this year and in 2024.”
Here’s a rundown of what has happened with marijuana and broader drug policy under the Biden administration in its first year:
Promise Made, Promises Not Kept
When he was running for president, Biden frustrated advocates by declining to embrace broad marijuana legalization like most of his Democratic primary opponents did at the time. But they were at least encouraged that he voiced support for more modest reforms like federal decriminalization, legalizing medical cannabis, rescheduling and expungements.
“We should decriminalize marijuana,” he said during a town hall event in October 2020, adding, “I don’t believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use.”
He reiterated the pledge in numerous interviews, debates and tweets, as well as in a campaign ad.
But despite having the authority to unilaterally issue a mass pardon for people with federal cannabis convictions—as advocates and lawmakers have repeatedly pressed him to do—Biden has only ceremonially pardoned turkeys around Thanksgiving since taking office.
Following that ceremony, The New York Post’s Steven Nelson pressed the president on cannabis clemency, asking him if there were plans to pardon “any people in addition to turkeys.” Biden jokingly replied, “you need a pardon?” and didn’t respond to a follow-up question about marijuana prisoners.
The White House has been asked about the issue several times now, but while Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently said that the president has “every intention of using his clemency power” and is “looking at” relief for non-violent drug offenders, no meaningful action has been taken.
While on the campaign trail, Biden also came out in favor of moving marijuana from Schedule I to II under the federal Controlled Substances Act—an incremental move that wouldn’t legalize the plant but could make it easier for researchers to study its risks and benefits.
Psaki said in April that Biden’s clemency promise for people with federal marijuana convictions and said that process would start with modestly rescheduling cannabis. But even if rescheduling could help people with cannabis records (experts say it would not), the administration has so far taken no real steps to accomplish that reform.
While experts say it may not be possible for a president to unilaterally remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, he could encourage agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice Department to initiate the rescheduling process.
The lack of clemency action is especially disappointing to advocates who have been lobbying the White House to do something on this issue.
Biden has received about a dozen letters from lawmakers, advocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis. After months of inaction, some members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have even sent follow-up letters demanding a response.
A recently published Congressional Research Service (CRS) report affirmed that the president has it within his power to grant mass pardons for cannabis offenses. It also said that the administration can move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.
To his credit, Biden has so far kept his campaign pledge to continue to let states legalize and regulate marijuana without federal intervention. But advocates had hoped that he would at least push for the reinstatement of Obama-era Justice Department guidance to prosecutors that generally urged them not to interfere with state laws but which President Donald Trump’s first attorney general rescinded.
Without that guidance or any other concrete reform steps, banking challenges and risks remain in the cannabis industry, marijuana businesses are unable to receive tax credits like other legal industries and other hardships resulting from the federal-state policy conflict remain intact for consumers and patients. In effect, Biden has maintained the status quo of uncertainty that has been in place during the Trump administration and last half of the Obama administration.
Early in 2021, the Biden administration came under fire after it was reported that it had terminated or otherwise punished dozens of staffers who admitted to prior marijuana use as part of their background check process.
Psaki previously attempted to minimize the fallout, without much success, and her office also stressed that nobody was fired for “marijuana usage from years ago,” nor has anyone been terminated “due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.” However, she’s consistently declined to speak to the extent to which staff have been suspended or placed in a remote work program because they were honest about their history with marijuana on the federal background check form.
As part of his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, Biden included a rider that would continue to block Washington, D.C. from using its own tax dollars to legalize adult-use marijuana sales, declining to recommend that existing language barring such activity be eliminated. Democratic lawmakers have moved forward with removing that rider anyways
After receiving a letter from a congresswoman concerning executive discretion for cannabis consumers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said it is required to continue denying federally assisted housing to people who use marijuana, even if they’re acting in compliance with state law.
The federal government has generally taken a hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement in states that have chosen to legalize the plant, but it was reported late last year that a federal agency raided a small, home cannabis garden of a medical cannabis patient living on Indian territory in New Mexico. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) raid occurred in September.
Biden’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said last year that it continues to oppose a bill that would require it to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of marijuana for military veterans. A House committee advanced the legislation in any case. A VA representative told lawmakers that the department is “already dedicating resources and research expertise to study the effects of cannabis on conditions affecting veterans.”
“President Biden has made little progress in supporting drug reform laws at the federal level and in some instances, has even taken us further back,” Maritza Perez, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment.
On broader drug issues, she added that the administration backed a broad scheduling policy for fentanyl-related substances that “will have a devastating impact on the criminal legal system and set a horrific precedent for drug scheduling moving forward.”
“Moreover, President Biden has failed to embrace marijuana legalization even though he claims to support decriminalization of the substance,” Perez said. “As long as marijuana remains on the CSA, people will continue to be policed, arrested, and imprisoned for marijuana activity. This is deeply problematic particularly because this president made bold promises around criminal justice reform and racial justice for which he has not delivered.”
Federal Actions On Marijuana
There were some positive developments in drug policy reform that came out of federal agencies and the White House last year.
Biden signed a massive infrastructure bill in November that includes provisions aimed at allowing researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal dispensaries instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis. The legislation also encourages states that have enacted legalization laws to educate people about impaired driving.
In his 2022 budget, Biden proposed continuing a spending bill provision that’s been annually renewed by Congress since 2014 to prevent the use of Justice Department funds to interfere in state medical cannabis programs. That was the first time a president has moved to keep that rider.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under Biden has also moved on several occasions to greatly increase legal production quotas for illegal Schedule I drugs like psilocybin, MDMA and DMT.
And several years after first announcing that it would take steps to break the federal marijuana manufacturing monopoly for research, it has finally issued new licenses outside of the University of Mississippi.
Meanwhile, DEA has given hemp businesses that sell delta-8 THC products a boost, with representatives making comments recently signaling that, at the federal level at least, it’s not a controlled substance at this time.
Employment policies related to marijuana have also been shifting within federal agencies under Biden, despite the controversy of his administration’s cannabis-related firings.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said in a memo distributed to agencies last year that admitting to past marijuana use should not automatically disqualify people from being employed in the federal government.
More recently, the director of national intelligence (DNI) said federal employers shouldn’t outright reject security clearance applicants over past use and should use discretion when it comes to those with cannabis investments in their stock portfolios.
FBI quietly updated its hiring policies last year to make it so candidates are only automatically disqualified from joining the agency if they admit to having used marijuana within one year of applying. However, it later revised the policy again to add a stipulation that applicants are ineligible if they’ve used cannabis more than 24 times after turning 18.
In September, The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) proposed a change to the federal drug scheduling system that it hopes will streamline research into Schedule I controlled substances including marijuana and psychedelics such as psilocybin. DEA and NIDA later said that they supports the plan.
While the Biden administration has yet to take a position on policy proposals to authorize safe consumption facilities and a related court challenge against them that are carried over from the Trump administration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) put out a pair of requests for applications last month for an effort that will provide funding for efforts to investigate how that and other harm reduction policies could help address the drug crisis.
After requesting permission from the White House to conduct the survey of about 20,000 hemp farmers, The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service announced in August that the forms are being finalized to be filled out via mail or online.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, still hasn’t gotten around to issuing regulations for hemp-derived cannabidiol products, but it announced last year that it plans to use Reddit and other “novel” data sources to gain a better understanding of public health issues surrounding use of CBD and other “emerging” cannabis derivatives like delta-8 THC.
Federal, state and local officials convened for a national conference this month where members discussed and advanced proposals to establish standards for marijuana products that could later be formally adopted into a federal handbook overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
While Biden hasn’t granted mass clemency for people with marijuana convictions, his administration did take a first step toward granting presidential relief to hundreds of people on home confinement for federal drug convictions last year, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) asking eligible individuals to get the process started by filing out clemency applications.
Biden Nominees On Drug Policy
Several of Biden’s pick to lead key agencies have unique drug policy backgrounds. And some of those choices who’ve since been confirmed have been applauded by advocates.
Activists initially weren’t sure what to make of Attorney General Merrick Garland when he was nominated because of his limited record, but they were relieved during his confirmation proceedings to hear that he wasn’t preparing a crackdown on legal cannabis states.
While he’s yet to reinstitute the Obama era guidance offering some level of protection for states that have legalized, he has said on several occasions that DOJ resources shouldn’t be spent going after people operating in compliance with state cannabis laws.
He also hasn’t acted on calls from lawmakers to use his own authority to swiftly end federal cannabis prohibition.
ONDCP Director Rahul Gupta worked as a consultant to Holistic Industries, a multi-state cannabis operator, for nine months in 2020. Prior to his confirmation, Gupta had already caught the attention of reform advocates given his record overseeing the implementation of West Virginia’s medical marijuana program as state health commissioner and chair of a key advisory board. He’s also publicly recognized both the therapeutic and economic potential of cannabis reform.
It was another relief to advocates that the president didn’t pick former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), a cofounder of anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM), for the drug czar job, even after he personally lobbied for the nomination.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta (no relation to Rahul) was also repeatedly pressed on her drug policy views during her confirmation process, particularly where she stands on broad decriminalization. Advocates expressed frustration that she denied having endorsed decriminalization during the hearings despite having done so in past roles at reform organizations.
Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was picked to lead HHS, and it was welcome news for advocates because he has a considerable record supporting cannabis reform and working to protect California’s legal program from federal interference.
For example, Becerra was one of 21 state attorneys general who sent a letter to congressional leaders in 2019 expressing support for a bipartisan bill to protect state-legal cannabis programs against federal intervention.
In October, Becerra also signaled that the administration would not block the establishment safe injection sites where people could use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment as a means of curtailing the overdose epidemic—but it will ultimately be up to the Justice Department to follow through.
As California’s attorney general, Becerra joined counterparts from other states in signing onto an amicus brief supporting a group’s case to set up a harm reduction center. After making supportive remarks about the facilities as HHS secretary, however, a department spokesperson clarified that “HHS does not have a position on supervised consumption sites.”
Biden’s nominee for FDA commissioner has acknowledged the potential medical benefits of marijuana. Robert Califf, who previously served a short stint as the FDA head under the Obama administration, also said that he actually prescribed a cannabinoid drug as a doctor. He’s yet to be confirmed, however.
Tom Vilsack, Biden’s nominee to run USDA who has since been confirmed, gave final approval to a federal rule laying out regulations for the hemp industry in March 2021. He’s widely considered an ally of the hemp industry.
The head of DEA who Biden selected previously described a New Jersey medical marijuana bill as “workable” while serving at the state’s attorney general. Although the former top state prosecutor, Anne Milgram, doesn’t appear to have publicly detailed her personal views on cannabis reform, the limited comments she made over a decade ago signal that, at the very least, she’s open to allowing states to enact their own marijuana policies despite federal prohibition.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently said that that freeing up banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses would “of course” make the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) job of collecting taxes easier. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said this month that he’s confident that Biden would support his cannabis banking bill if it arrived on his desk in part because of the conversations he’s had with Yellen about the issue.
Adewale Adeyemo, who Biden picked for the role of Treasury deputy secretary, said in February 2021 that he would look into the possibility of updating 2014 Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance on marijuana banking.
Isabel Guzman, who was picked and confirmed to lead the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), told senators last year that she would examine marijuana businesses’ inability to receive aid that is available to companies in other industries. She also promised last year to “explore” ways the agency could change its policy on prohibiting people with certain criminal convictions—including over marijuana—from accessing federal business loans and other services.
It’s also worth noting that the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, has repeatedly made comments on the need for a drug decriminalization model while Biden has been in office, though her tenure predates this presidency.
What To Expect From Biden In 2022
Advocates aren’t necessarily holding their breath for a 2022 marijuana reform push from the White House, but they certainly plan to continue to put pressure on the Biden administration in the new year and see opportunities for at least incremental reform.
With respect to federal agencies and their various heads, it seems the infrastructure is in place to continue to advance incremental policy changes that are less punitive and more science-centered with respect to cannabis, psychedelics and broader drug reform.
Toi Hutchinson, former senior advisor on cannabis to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and current CEO and president of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that it is unfortunate that states have so far lacked “guidance or participation from the federal government” on the cannabis reform front.
“States are left to develop and impose their own testing, health and safety rules. Banks are afraid of violating criminal law by serving licensed operators,” she said. “Individuals in one state compete for state licenses to produce and sell cannabis on an industrial scale, where they face arrest, prosecution, and jail in a neighboring state to even possess a single gram of the same substance.”
“Democrats, including President Biden when he was on the campaign trail, have been clear in their support for cannabis reform, and voters listened,” she said. “Whether it’s full legalization in 2022, or simply the ability for cannabis businesses to get a bank or get tax relief, we expect to see cannabis reform because that is exactly what we were told.”
2022 brings new markets, opportunities for California marijuana firms
More than a dozen California cities are opening new recreational cannabis licensing opportunities this year, either by embracing the legal marijuana industry for the first time or by increasing the number of available business permits.
Several other cities, meanwhile, are laying the groundwork for new markets down the road by drafting and/or developing cannabis ordinances.
The rollout of new adult-use markets and business opportunities come as cities across the state are eager to bring in additional tax revenue after the pandemic and other factors depleted public coffers.
The ongoing shift is a welcome sign for the state’s struggling marijuana sector, which remains forbidden in the vast majority of California cities and, at the same time, must compete against a thriving illicit market.
“Expanding doors is critical if we expect the legal cannabis market to survive,” said Harry Kazazian, chair and CEO of 22Red, a marijuana brand based in Pasadena.
“Communities that shut out legal retail stores will be serviced by the underground market.”
According to Hirsh Jain, founder of Los Angeles-based cannabis consultancy Ananda Strategy, only 115 of the state’s 482 cities, or roughly 24%, have a licensed dispensary open today.
But that is starting to change.
Retail expansion across the state
The retail expansion is far and wide, from urban centers in San Diego and San Jose to small towns such as Madera in the Central Valley and Oxnard along the Southern California coast.
Madera, about 25 miles north of Fresno, is issuing its first eight retail licenses, including two designated for social equity applicants.
The agricultural town, which hadn’t disclosed application timelines as of press time, also is offering unlimited permits for vertically integrated operators, an emerging shift among city and county governments in California.
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Hemet, a midsized town in Riverside County that’s struggled to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-09, has foregone licensing caps altogether and is instead relying on zoning allowances to dictate the number of retail outlets.
“This represents cities moving away from this limited-license framework,” Jain said.
Elliot Lewis, CEO of Long Beach-based Catalyst Cannabis Co., welcomes the competition.
In October, the retailer was approved for a storefront in neighboring East Hemet, in unincorporated Riverside County.
“Without good, legal, safe access, the industry is drowning,” said Lewis, who expects to open the location in March. “It needs retail outlets.”
National City, bordering San Diego to the south, approved several licenses in November.
Applicants in National City may apply for retail, cultivation, distribution, manufacturing and transportation permits, ushering in a new era of commercial activity.
Retail applicants are required to operate at least one other marijuana business on the property, according to the ordinance, and must limit the retail portion to no more than 40% of square footage.
National City plans to start accepting applications this quarter, with a few notable caveats: Officials plan to favor local ownership, and at least one of the six licenses will be set aside for a consumption lounge operator.
San Diego, an underserved market considering its large population, is among several California cities with established commercial cannabis programs looking to expand.
The state’s second-largest city, with nearly 1.4 million residents, appears poised to lift several of its zoning restrictions, including narrowing a 1,000-foot buffer between marijuana businesses and parks, libraries, places of worship and playgrounds.
The constraints, critics contend, are a major reason why the city has opened only 25 dispensaries, despite approving 36 in 2014.
If those restrictions are eased, which could come within the next month or so, retail licenses could expand nearly 40%, according to The San Diego Union Tribune.
Those municipalities looking to expand existing programs also include the Silicon Valley hub of San Jose.
The Northern California city of a million residents has only 16 dispensaries.
The San Jose City Council is weighing a policy overhaul to boost retail and delivery locations to 42 while eliminating several zoning restrictions and easing others.
The tech mecca is also looking to create new business opportunities for social equity applicants.
Tracy, about 55 miles northeast of San Jose, plans to issue seven retail permits for a total of 11 after its City Council approved an expansion in November.
Only 10 applicants have advanced to the final-review stage, however, with four on the verge of approval.
The process has been lengthy. Tracy hasn’t accepted applications since October 2020 but stated on its website it might consider reopening an application window in “late 2022 or early 2023.”
Merced started accepting applications Jan. 10 for an additional storefront license, bringing the Central Valley town’s total to five.
The deadline to apply is Jan. 31.
Hanford, about 35 miles south of Fresno, is adding one retail location.
According to the city’s website, the cap of two stores and two non-storefront retailers has been met.
The city also is accepting applications for cultivation, manufacturing, lab testing, distribution and micro-business permits – all uncapped – on a continuous basis.
Oxnard, located along the coast in Ventura County, issued six additional retail licenses last year with three dedicated to local equity applicants.
The agricultural town – perhaps best known for hosting the Dallas Cowboys’ summer training camp, which draws thousands of fans every year – is expected to have 16 dispensaries open by year’s end.
Looking ahead, several other cities are in the process of drafting and/or developing cannabis ordinances, including Monterey, Riverside, Lodi, Delano and Visalia.
Numbers don’t add up
The lack of retail outlets, particularly compared to the number of licensed cultivators, has depressed California’s marijuana economy, according to Tom Adams, CEO and principal analyst of L.A. research firm, Global Go Analytics.
“The struggles the California legal cannabis market is undergoing, particularly the meltdown in wholesale flower prices in 2021, is largely due to the fact that local jurisdictions have licensed 10 times as many cultivation operations as retail storefronts – some 7,500 versus about 750,” he said.
Most agricultural products (think almonds or oranges) have the opposite ratio, in which retailers outnumber suppliers by a wide margin.
“Certainly, the number of cultivators is going to shrink from attrition,” Adams said, “but hopefully all these local moves to allow more storefronts also balance out the supply chain in a positive direction.”
Chris Casacchia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MS House approves medical cannabis bill (Newsletter: January 20, 2022)
1 day ago
January 19, 2022
Bipartisan lawmakers push DEA on medical psychedelic access; Austin puts marijuana decrim on ballot; KS psilocybin bill; FBI cannabis license scrutiny
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A bipartisan group of members of Congress led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sent a letter demanding that the Drug Enforcement Administration allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
Louisiana Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gary Chambers smoked a marijuana blunt in a new campaign ad that focuses on the harms of criminalization. He says he’ll back cannabis expungements and banking bills if elected to Congress.
The Austin, Texas City Council passed an ordinance referring a marijuana decriminalization proposal to the May ballot. Advocates had wanted lawmakers to adopt the measure on their own, but are confident it’ll be approved by voters.
A Kansas representative filed a bill to legalize possession and home cultivation of psilocybin.
Newly surfaced testimony suggests Federal Bureau of Investigation scrutiny of Missouri’s medical marijuana licensing process may be ongoing, with a businessman saying he talked about the governor, a mayor and other officials with federal agents.
The Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility is taking a more aggressive stance in some adjudications of marijuana-related security clearance denials.
The U.S. attorney for Vermont said there are “potential matters involving marijuana that we would potentially consider prosecuting” but “as a general matter, that is not an area that’s on the top of our priority list.”
Staff for Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) defended his purchase of stock in Tilray, Inc. just days before the House voted to approve a federal marijuana legalization bill.
Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) tweeted, “[email protected] gets it. Glad to have my fellow #Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair as a cosponsor of my bipartisan #HOPEAct. By redressing the consequences of the War on Drugs and reigniting the American Dream, this important bill gives Congress the chance to #passprogress.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) congratulated a Massachusetts cannabis regulator on her anniversary of taking the job.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed legislation to decriminalize syringes and otherwise expand access to syringe access programs.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said a medical cannabis bill is getting “better” with each revision that comes out. Meanwhile, the agriculture and commerce commissioner said he is taking steps to prepare for his department’s role in implementing a medical marijuana law if one is enacted.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) spoke about the job-creating and tax revenue-generating potential of the legal cannabis industry in her State of the State speech.
Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, currently the agriculture commissioner, tweeted, “As governor, I’ll legalize marijuana.”
The Maine legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will consider bills on marijuana home delivery, edibles production and plant tracking on Wednesday.
A black Delaware representative who removed his name from a marijuana legalization bill last year after social equity provisions were stripped out says a new version of the legislation addresses his concerns and is ”the best one, the most complete bill that I’ve seen.”
Pennsylvania regulators readopted medical cannabis regulations.
Michigan’s top marijuana regulator said he thinks “we’re reaching a period of stabilization in the market.”
The Iowa Department of Human Rights’s Justice Advisory Board noted racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and said it will monitor legalization outcomes in other states.
A Massachusetts marijuana regulator authored an op-ed arguing for a crackdown on impaired driving.
Oklahoma regulators delayed the launch of a new medical cannabis licensing portal.
Arizona officials are accepting grant applications for funding for marijuana research.
Florida’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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The DeKalb County, Georgia Commission considered a proposal to end pre-employment drug screening for marijuana, but it was blocked from advancing.
Birmingham, Alabama’s mayor reacted to criticism of his local reform advocacy from a former lawmaker by tweeting, “I will not be lectured on the rights and wrongs of pardoning people for marijuana possession by Former State Sen. Phil Williams whose major ‘accomplishments’ include voting to lower unemployment benefits, protect racist monuments, and build more prisons.”
Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration is reportedly planning to propose removing marijuana from the list of controlled drugs on Wednesday.
The Bahamian minister of agriculture, marine resources and Family Island affairs said the Family Islands would be an ideal location to grow the cannabis industry.
/ SCIENCE & HEALTH
A study concluded that “medicinal cannabis may increase [quality of life] for advanced [cholangiocarcinoma] patients.”
A study’s results “support potential synergy between psychedelics and meditation.”
/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS
The Pima County, Arizona Democratic Party called a Louisiana Democratic Senate candidate’s advertisement in which he smokes marijuana on camera an “important campaign ad.”
MedMen’s former CEO spoke about his departure from the company in his first interview since leaving.
Columbia Care Inc. has a new CFO.
A New York judge began a hearing on whether a lawsuit against Acreage Holdings and other defendants over a disputed medical cannabis license can proceed.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he and Mel Brooks were “both born 69 days after 4/20.”
Wiz Khalifa is partnering with Cresco Labs on a distribution deal for his Khalifa Kush cannabis brand in California.
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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
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