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Here’s When Canada’s Legal Marijuana Sales Will Begin

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Marijuana will officially be legal in Canada on October 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a speech before the House of Commons on Wednesday.

His minister of health also tweeted the news.

The announcement comes one day after the Senate passed the government’s legalization bill, C-45, in a 52-29 vote, with two abstentions. After about a year of studies and debate over the legislation, the Senate ultimately accepted the amended bill, which was previously approved by the House of Commons, 205-82, on Monday.

The passage represents the fulfillment of a major campaign promise from the Liberal prime minister. Trudeau has argued that the establishment of a regulated cannabis system would prevent underaged youth from accessing marijuana and also deprive criminal organizations of profits from black market sales.

Trudeau held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the legalization bill and other pieces of legislation.

The prime minister confirmed the October 17 date to establish the country’s recreational marijuana system, citing the need to provide provinces with sufficient time to develop their own regulatory programs. He also fielded questions about the implications of the home grow provision, the prospect of pardoning former marijuana offenders, and the supply side of the country’s legal marijuana industry.

“I want to remind everyone that the reason we are moving forward on the legalization of marijuana is to better protect our kids, to better protect our communities and to remove the profits from the pockets of organized crime. Obviously the current approach—the current prohibition on marijuana—has not worked to protect our kids, to keep the money out of the pockets of organized crime—and that’s why we’re bringing in a new legalized framework around marijuana.”

Asked whether he expected “chaos” or an orderly rollout of the program on October 17, Trudeau said he was confident that “[i]t will be a smooth success.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould cautioned Canadians to refrain from indulging in cannabis use until the law is officially implemented at a press conference on Wednesday, The Times Colonist reported.

“I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force.”

There is one final step before the marijuana legalization bill is officially sanctioned: Royal Assent. Governor General Julie Payette, a representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, must also sign off on the legislation. Victoria Deng, communication advisor for Liberal Sen. George Furey, told Marijuana Moment that the Royal Assent ceremony will take place on Thursday at 9:30am ET.

There have been calls from legalization advocates and certain lawmakers to follow up on the cannabis reform bill with legislation that grants amnesty for Canadians previously convicted of marijuana offenses. But those conversations are on hold, pending the implementation of the recreational marijuana system, Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s point person on cannabis legalization, said.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Don Davies attempted to get unanimous consent for a measure to “immediately provide pardons for those burdened by criminal records for cannabis offenses that will soon be legal” on Wednesday, Globe and Mail reporter Laura Stone tweeted.

“The motion did not receive unanimous consent, and failed,” she said.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Trudeau said that the government would look at the possibility of amnesty after the new law takes effect but that “[t]here’s no point in looking at pardons while the old law is on the books.”

How we arrived at this historic moment.

It’s been a long, winding road to legalization in Canada, which is set to become the first G7 nation to fully legalize marijuana. The first reading of the bill in the House of Common took place more than a year ago, in April 2017. It’s since gone through rigorous debate, with multiple committees submitting reports that offered recommendations and outlined concerns about the legislation.

One of those issues concerned international travel for Canadians who use cannabis. Conservative lawmakers said that Canadians who admitted to consuming marijuana would be at risk of being permanently barred from entering the United States, where marijuana is federally illegal. The Canadian government issued guidelines emphasizing that traveling across international borders with cannabis will remain illegal under the new law.

More recently, the Senate proposed 46 amendments to the bill—including one that would allow individual provinces to ban home cultivation. The House rejected that proposal and 12 other amendments, sending it back to the Senate for a final, decisive vote. Numerous Conservative senators voiced opposition to the bill—and Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan offered up an amendment to include the home grow provision only to be shut down in a 35-45 vote, with one abstention.

And with that, the bill came to a standing vote on Tuesday. Here’s what it would accomplish.

The Cannabis Act legalizes the possession, use, cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults 18 and older. Individuals will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and grow up to four plants.

The bill also outlines criminal penalties for illegal distribution and sales of cannabis, crossing international borders with cannabis and possession over the legal limit.

Canada’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets Final Approval From Lawmakers

Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Business

Feds Send Warning Letter To Another CBD Company Over Medical Claims

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a warning letter to a Florida-based CBD company on Tuesday, alleging that the business made several unsanctioned claims about the therapeutic benefits of their products.

The federal agencies accused Rooted Apothecary of unlawfully asserting that their cannabidiol products could treat symptoms of conditions such as ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, ear aches, ADHD and autism. Those claims appeared on the company’s website and social media accounts, they said.

Certain products appeared to be marketed as dietary supplements, which FDA currently prohibits as it works to develop an alternative regulatory scheme for CBD.

“Cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds are subject to the same laws and requirements as FDA-regulated products that contain any other substance,” Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a press release. “We are working to protect Americans from companies marketing products with unsubstantiated claims that they prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure a number of diseases or conditions.”

“We’ve sent numerous warning letters that focus on matters of significant public health concern to CBD companies, and these actions should send a message to the broader market about complying with FDA requirements,” he said. “As we examine potential regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of cannabis products, protecting and promoting public health through sound, science-based decision-making remains our top priority.”

FTC’s complaint with the company is that it violated a law that requires businesses that advertise medical claims about their products to have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to back them up, which could include human clinical trials. Making or exaggerating such claims through “a product name, website name, metatags, or other means” without proper evidence is also prohibited.

Rooted Apothecary must respond to the agencies within 15 working days to explain what steps it’s taking to resolve the issues. If the company fails to do so, it is subject to legal action, including the possible seizure of its products or an injunction. It may also have to compensate customers.

FDA emphasized that CBD products—other than the prescription medication Epidiolex, for the treatment of intractable epilepsy—are not currently allowed. But it also reiterated that the agency is in the process of developing rules that could allow for the lawful marketing of the compound.

In April, FDA sent warning letters to three other CBD companies that it said was making unauthorized claims about the medical benefits of their products. FTC also submitted warning letters to three separate CBD companies for allegedly advertising misleading statements about their products last month.

These letters are examples of the agency’s use of enforcement discretion. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who recently suggested that the federal government should be involved in regulating state marijuana programs, clarified in March that the agency is only going after companies that make especially misleading claims about their products.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who championed a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalizing hemp and its derivatives, has urged FDA to clear a path for the lawful marketing of CBD products by using enforcement discretion while it develops an interim final rule. A bipartisan group of lawmakers made a similar request in a letter sent to the agency last month.

“The FDA is working quickly to further clarify our regulatory approach for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds like CBD while using all available resources to monitor the marketplace and protect public health by taking action as needed against companies,” FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy said.

“We recognize that there is significant public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds; however, we must work together to fill in the knowledge gaps about the science, safety and quality of many of these products,” she said. “We are committed to advancing our regulation of these products through an approach that, in line with our mission, prioritizes public health, fosters innovation and promotes consumer confidence.”

Hemp Regulations Will Be Issued Within Weeks, Top USDA Official Says

Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney.

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Politics

GOP Senator Links Medical Marijuana Claims To Tobacco Industry Advertisements

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said on Tuesday that claims about the therapeutic potential of marijuana remind him of decades-old tobacco industry advertisements asserting that the product had medical benefits.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Cornyn discussed a hearing that the International Narcotics Control Caucus, which he co-chairs, will hold on Wednesday to explore the public health impacts of cannabis. He said it was especially important to hear from experts about the subject as more states legalize marijuana and members of Congress, as well as Democratic presidential candidates, push to end federal prohibition.

The senator made clear he’s skeptical about marijuana’s health benefits.

“There’s no shortage of people who claim that marijuana has endless health benefits and can help patients struggling from everything from epilepsy to anxiety to cancer treatments,” he said. “This reminds me of some of the advertising we saw from the tobacco industry years ago where they actually claimed public health benefits from smoking tobacco, which we know as a matter of fact were false and that tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive drug, and is implicated with cancers of different kinds.”

“We’re hearing a lot of the same happy talk with regard to marijuana and none of the facts that we need to understand about the public health impact of marijuana use,” he said.

While Cornyn recognized there’s significant support for cannabis reform, he said that ” for the number of voices in support of legalization, there are even more unanswered questions about both the short- and long-term public health effects.”

He expressed concern about increased levels of THC concentration in cannabis products and stated that it’s “true that for some people that marijuana can indeed be addictive.”

“There’s simply a lack of scientific evidence to determine the link between marijuana and various health risks, and that’s something I would think Congress and the American people would want to know before we proceed further down this path,” Cornyn said. “We don’t know enough about how this could impair cognitive function or capacity or increase the risk of mental illness or perhaps serve as a gateway for other drugs that are even more damaging to the health of a young person.”

The senator made similar remarks during a conversation with a former White House drug czar in August. He said it was important to address the public health impacts of cannabis before moving forward with legislation that would protect banks that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.

“With increasing use and a growing number of states giving the green light for marijuana use, we need better answers,” he said.

The surgeon general and the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, along with several academics, are scheduled to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

Senate Hearing To Focus On Marijuana And Health This Week

Photo courtesy of C-SPAN.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Politics

Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation Urges Congress To Pass Three Marijuana Research Bills

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A leading advocacy group that’s dedicated to finding treatment options for Parkinson’s disease is backing three pieces of marijuana research legislation in Congress.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF)—named after the actor, who has Parkinson’s and established the nonprofit—said last week that lifting barriers to cannabis research, including rescheduling the plant under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), is necessary to promote studies verifying marijuana’s potential therapeutic benefit for conditions such as Parkinson’s patients.

“The MJFF supports increased access to cannabis for medical research. Congress has begun to recognize this need, and there are several bills in the U.S. House and Senate designed to remove barriers that impede safe and legal access to cannabis by medical researchers,” the foundation said on its website. “The MJFF public policy team is tracking these bills and working to educate members of Congress and their staff on their importance to the Parkinson’s community.”

MJFF said it’s in favor of three marijuana bills, which would accomplish the following: 

Medical Cannabis Research Act

—Require the Justice Department to approve additional manufacturers for research-grade cannabis.

—Protect research institutions that conduct studies on marijuana.

—Authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to inform patients about opportunities to participate in federally authorized cannabis studies.

VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act

—Require VA to conduct studies into the therapeutic potential of marijuana in the treatment of various conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act

—Reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the CSA.

—Free up universities to conduct studies on cannabis by removing certain regulatory requirements.

In a letter to the Senate sponsor of that last piece of legislation, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), in June, the foundation stated that marijuana’s current classification under federal law and the inadequate quality of cannabis grown at the only federally authorized manufacturing facility has meant that “researchers do not have the proper materials to conduct the necessary research.”

The foundation noted that it has submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration arguing in favor of rescheduling in 2018 and 2019. It also applauded the Drug Enforcement Administration for announcing that it would take steps to approve additional federal cannabis farms for research.

“Current policies hinder comprehensive medical research on cannabis, making it difficult to generate the evidence needed for clear recommendations,” Andrew Koemeter-Cox, MJFF’s associate director of research programs, said. “This is especially problematic when some products may be unsafe for human use and have the potential for adverse interactions with other medications.”

Ted Thompson, the nonprofit’s senior vice president of public policy, said that removing barriers to research “is one way in which Congress can help scientific researchers determine what the benefits of medical cannabis might be for Parkinson’s disease.”

“Our role on the public policy team is to work with Congress and the administration to ensure there is access and funding for research and care initiatives that can benefit people living with Parkinson’s and, right now, that includes access to medical cannabis for research,” he said.

Senate Hearing To Focus On Marijuana And Health This Week

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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