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National News for December 2018 - by Meghan Smith

Central Coast giving the Emerald Triangle a run for their money

California- An area in Northern California, consisting of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties, known as the Emerald Triangle, has long been known as a cannabis cultivation mecca. Although, it has also had a deep rooted black market cultivation trend spanning decades, resulting in new and upcoming licensed cultivators struggling to break into the cannabis cultivation market in Northern California. These new Cultivators have had to get creative regarding where to expand their crops to, as a result, cannabis has recently been emerging in the lush and beautiful vineyards, and cabbage patches along the Central California coast, stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The area is a prime and fertile farming area where the vineyards and cannabis crops are both thriving. The area has yet to surpass the Emerald Triangle in regards to total Cannabis production, however if trends continue to hold the central coast stands to produce more legal cannabis. Santa Barbara county farmers alone currently hold more marijuana cultivation licenses than any other other county in the state.

Report shows no increase in youth Cannabis usage

Colorado- A recent 5 year study in Colorado showed mostly promising results, not only did it disprove the concerns that legal cannabis would create a significant rise in youth usage, but also that legal cannabis would cause an increase in crime. While the report did not show an increase in youth usage, it did however raise slight concern regarding the easier access to high potency THC, and the damaging effects it can have on a developing brain.

Regarding the mostly positive results of this study, Executive Director of the Marijuana Industry Group, Kelly Kristi said “It really stood out to me how marijuana legalization can have a positive effect on public safety.” The report included data on marijuana related crime, hospitalizations and ER visits, usage rates and more, pulling data from multiple resources such as The Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

The study did create a few areas of concern, with the most significant concern being the increase of driving while under the influence cases. Under Colorado law, It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Andrew Freedman, considered Colorado’s first “Marijuana Czar” stated that the report was “the most even-handed report out there.”, he said “I think more than anything we need to combat that perception about driving while high. Just because you’re driving slowly on the highway doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

Conservative Utah passes Medical Marijuana

Utah- Utah has finally joined the growing list of states that have legalized medical cannabis, however, there will be a revision to the medical marijuana laws stating that dispensaries will not be allowed to sell any edibles that may be appealing to children such as cookies or candy due to a compromise made with influential leaders in the Mormon church in order to garner their support. The state of Utah is a largely conservative state, and the passing of the law came after significant opposition from groups such as The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Utah Chiefs of Police Association, and the Utah Medical Association.

The state will begin taking applications for prescription cards beginning in March 2020, and will only accept a limited number of applications for Cannabis growers. The legislature will also strictly regulates security, safety, and inventory controls. The distribution of medical cannabis will go through local health departments, state-central fill pharmacies, and state licensed dispensaries.

Missouri becomes the 32nd state to pass medical Marijuana

Missouri- Missouri finally joined the ranks of U.S states that have passed medical marijuana amendments, becoming the 32nd state in the country. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services stated it will be a number of months before they will begin to accept applications. The new laws will allow medical marijuana patients to grow up to 6 plants, or to purchase up to 4 ounces from licensed dispensaries. There is no list of qualifying medical conditions, Doctors will be able to recommend cannabis treatments for any condition they feel will benefit from the treatment. There will be a 4 percent sales tax on all medical marijuana sales, the revenue from which will be used for Veterans affairs. Deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Matthew Schweich stated "We hope lawmakers will implement the measure efficiently and effectively to ensure qualified patients can gain access to their medicine as soon as possible."

First recreational cannabis facilities open their doors 

Massachusetts- At 4:20 PM on November 16th the state Cannabis Control Commission issued a press release stating that “commence full operations” notices had been issued to Cultivate, as well as New England Treatment Access (NETA), both of which are Cannabis retailers in Leicester and Northampton. Both retailers had currently been operating as medical dispensaries, and were able to pass extensive background checks, multiple inspections, and had detailed lab test results on all products. Commission chairman Steven J Hofman stated “This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state,” Maine and Vermont have also passed recreational cannabis however have not opened any retail facilities as of yet, and other New England states are looking into passing recreational cannabis laws of their own.

Both dispensaries opened their doors for the first recreational cannabis sales in Massachusetts history on Tuesday November 20th at 8 am. “Cultivate is honored that we will be making history Tuesday by selling the first legal recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, New England and east of the Mississippi. We have created dozens of jobs and look forward to creating revenue and contributing positively to [the] state and local region in which we operate.” stated Sam Barber, the company’s founder.

It took lawmakers more than two years since the measure passed to implement, which caused a lot of frustration and criticism. In response to this frustration, Jim Borghesani, former spokesperson for the 2016 campaign, stated, “Despite the vexing delays, the fact remains that Massachusetts is the first state east of the Mississippi to offer legal, tested cannabis to adult consumers in safe retail settings, It’s a historic distinction of which we should be exceptionally proud. I look forward to our state taking the lead in dissipating the clutch of fears compiled over a hundred years of reefer-madness hysteria.”

Recreational marijuana ballot fails

North Dakota- Voters in North Dakota  rejected the recreational marijuana ballot this November, with a disappointing margin of 41 percent for and 59 percent against. The ballot came two years after the passing of the medical marijuana laws, which passed by a surprising landslide of 64 percent for and only 36 percent against. Unlike other recreational laws in the U.S, this ballot measure did not place any restrictions on how much cannabis a person was able to possess or cultivate in their homes.

Additionally, it would have allowed for legal cannabis sales and cultivation with no outlined rules or guidelines. The measure also would have called for an automatic system for expungement of cannabis related offenses. Of the results, Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project said "This was a very impressive showing given it was a truly grassroots effort and the first time legalization had appeared on the ballot in a very conservative state, The ball is now rolling in North Dakota, and we hope the state’s passionate local activist community will keep that momentum going.”

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