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NFL Would End Marijuana Suspensions In Deal Approved By Team Owners

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National Football League players would no longer face the possibility of being suspended from games just for testing positive for marijuana under a proposed collective bargaining agreement approved by team owners and circulated to players on Thursday.

The new policy being floated for approval by the the NFL Players Association would also reduce the number of players subject to testing for cannabis and narrow the window when tests can be administered from the current four months to just two weeks at the start of training camp.

The three-page summary of key terms of the union deal also includes an increase in the threshold for positive THC metabolite tests from 35 to 150 nanograms.

The document was first posted on Twitter by sports lawyer Darren Heitner

Initial details of potentially “dramatically reduced penalties” for cannabis in the NFL first began to surface in press reports earlier this month.

If the deal is ratified, the NFL would become the latest major sports league to loosen restrictions for cannabis as a growing number of states enact legalization policies.

Major League Baseball announced in December that it will remove marijuana from its list of banned substances.

After the MLB cannabis change was revealed, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said in interviews that the NFL would likely soon be forced to modernize its approach to marijuana.

NFL team owners approved the terms of the deal on Thursday, with player representatives set to consider it on Friday.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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Two Marijuana Magazines Owned By High Times Suspend Publication Due To Coronavirus

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The company behind High Times is temporarily suspending the publication of two print cannabis magazines it owns due to difficulties with the supply chain that have arisen due to the coronavirus outbreak, Hightimes Holding Corp. confirmed to Marijuana Moment on Monday.

Dope Magazine and Culture Magazine are halting circulation amid the pandemic, and six staffers across the media outlets were furloughed. Long-time High Times editor Danny Danko also said on Monday that he was laid off, though that magazine will continue to be published.

“We furloughed the print publishing staff of Dope and Culture till the virus passes,” Hightimes Holding Executive Chairman Adam Levin said in a statement to Marijuana Moment. “Since both mags are distributed through walk up distribution methods (retailers, pharmacies , etc), we made the decision to suspend publishing till then.”

It remains to be seen when the newly enacted suspensions will be lifted given uncertainties with the COVID-19 outbreak. The plan is to return all furloughed employees to their positions once the situation stabilizes, the company said.

Last week, a producer with the John Doe Radio Show posted on Twitter and Facebook that a “reliable source” informed him that High Times Magazine itself would be ending its print circulation for good, but a spokesperson disputed that claim, stating that only Dope and Culture will temporarily cease circulation.

The April edition of High Times Magazine, which has been publishing print content on cannabis culture since 1974, has already been released and the publication will continue to be printed in the months to come, the spokesperson said.

As of Monday, Culture’s website appears to still be accepting subscriptions to its monthly magazine.

The development at Hightimes Holding is one of the latest examples of how industries across the U.S. are being disrupted amid the pandemic.

The cannabis publishing company has gone through several major changes in recent years. In addition to acquiring the trade publications Dope and Culture in 2018, it announced last month that it bought the marijuana cultivation company Humboldt Heritage. That came after High Times announced it will be launching two flagship dispensaries in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Entertainment executive Kraig Fox took over as CEO of Hightimes Holding in April 2019, and he took the helm as the company was in the process of launching a mini initial public offering that has allowed it to raise up to $50 million from individual investors who can purchase stock for a minimum of $99 per share.

Fox resigned within less than a year and former Overstock.com President Stormy Simon took over in January.

“The listing of the company’s stock will give us a trading currency that will assist us in furthering our acquisitional goals,” Levine said in February. “With the lessons, we’ve learned from other operator’s mistakes, great management, and the current state of the industry, now is the time for High Times to thrive!”

Hightimes Holding said in a Securities and Exchange Commission report last year that operating losses and cash flow deficits means that “there is substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern for one year from the issuance of the financial statements.”

Outside of the media industry, drug policy reform efforts are also experiencing significant challenges as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

California activists for campaigns to amend the state’s legal cannabis program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are asking for a digital signature option because they’re unable to conduct in-person collections.

Likewise in Washington, D.C., advocates for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics asked the mayor and local lawmakers to accept online signatures for their ballot petition.

An effort to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri is also in jeopardy.

In Oregon, advocates for a measure to decriminalize drug possession and a separate initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes have suspended in-person campaign events amid the pandemic.

Idaho activists announced on Thursday that they are suspending their campaign, though they are still “focusing on distributing petitions through online download at IdahoCann.co and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerk’s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.”

North Dakota activists announced last week that they are suspending their campaign put marijuana legalization on the November ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In Arizona, a legalization campaign is petitioning the state Supreme Court to instruct the secretary of state to allow individuals to sign ballot petitions digitally using an existing electronic system that is reserved for individual individual candidates seeking public office.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) conceded on Saturday that it’s unlikely marijuana will be legalized in the state this year because the issue proved too complicated to insert into a budget that passed last week as lawmakers scrambled to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses That ‘Indirectly’ Work With Marijuana Industry Ineligible For Federal Coronavirus Loans

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Americans Want Medical Marijuana Dispensaries To Stay Open As ‘Essential Services,’ Poll Finds

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A majority of Americans believe that medical cannabis dispensaries should be kept open as “essential services” amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.

The survey asked simply: “Do you believe medical marijuana dispensaries should or should not be considered essential services?”

Fifty-three percent said the cannabis providers should be regarded as essential, 26 percent said they shouldn’t and 21 percent said they didn’t know.

YouGov.

As state governments across the country grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, officials have had to make difficult decisions about which businesses are critical enough to remain open and which should be forced to temporarily shut down. In many states with legal cannabis—including California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey—officials have determined that medical marijuana dispensaries are, in fact, essential services that can continue to operate.

Many states have also given the “essential” designation to recreational marijuana stores, though some have enacted policies stipulating that consumers can only obtain cannabis products through curbside pickup or delivery services to encourage social distancing.

It’s a trend that has reflected the mainstreaming of marijuana in U.S. society, with governments increasingly recognizing that the medicine is valuable and that dispensaries should be treated like other necessary businesses like pharmacies.

YouGov conducted the new online poll, which involved nearly 5,400 people on Wednesday.

A breakdown of demographics shows that, as in generally the case with cannabis reform issues, Democratic respondents were more likely (62 percent) than Republicans (43 percent) to agree that dispensaries should be considered essential services exempt from business closure requirements. Fifty-two percent of those who identify as independent said the shops should stay open for patients.

A majority of people across all age groups except those 55 and older said dispensaries are essential.

YouGov.

But while dispensaries in many states can continue to serve patients, COVID-19 has had a deleterious impact on drug policy reform efforts across the country.

In California, campaigns to amend the state’s cannabis program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are suspending in-person activities and asking the state to allow for electronic signature gathering. Activists in Washington, D.C. similarly requested that officials allow alternative signature collection for a measure to decriminalize a broad range of psychedelics.

More recently, a campaign to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska put a temporary pause on its activities in accordance with guidance from health officials. In neighboring South Dakota, activists are urging voters to consider requesting absentee ballots to ensure that measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes are successful.

In New York, plans to legalize cannabis through the budget appear to have been derailed as the state prioritizes a coronavirus response. And in Oregon, activists working to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes said their signature collection efforts have hit a snag amid the pandemic.

GOP Senator Says Marijuana Industry Is Stepping Up To Help With Coronavirus Response

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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Stop Passing That Joint, Top Marijuana Reform Group Says Amid Coronavirus

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As the new coronavirus continues to spread through the U.S., one of the country’s leading advocacy groups for marijuana legalization is warning consumers to stop passing joints and to beware of online misinformation, including “any claims cannabis or CBD can help cure or protect against this virus.”

“As long as cultures have consumed cannabis, the practice of sharing a joint among friends has been a common social practice,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri wrote in a message posted Monday to the group’s blog. “But given what we know about COVID-19 and its transmission, it would be mindful during this time to halt this behavior.”

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted through person-to-person contact and particles that remain in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That makes it risky to pass joints, glassware, vape pens or other devices used to consume marijuana—or even to be too close to someone who coughs after smoking or vaping.

“We all know a large part of what binds us together as cannabis consumers is community and sharing,” Altieri wrote in the NORML post. “However, while we are living through the current pandemic we should all be more mindful of our day-to-day consumption practices, and how the choices we make impact not only ourselves, but also those we care about.”

For cleaning, NORML said on Twitter that isopropyl alcohol of at least 90 percent strength “is an effective and affordable way to clear any germs or pathogens off your pieces.”

NORML is also advising patients and consumers that they may want to limit smoking and vaping, as COVID-19 can cause severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory distress.

And amid unfounded claims that cannabinoids such as CBD can treat or cure coronavirus infections, NORML warned consumers to beware of such information as well as “potential scammers promoting similar claims.”

The organization also advised patients and consumers to be careful where their marijuana comes from:

“Cannabis from the unregulated market may potentially possess molds, pesticides, or other unwanted adulterants that could hamper one’s immune system. Whenever possible, try to obtain a lab-tested, regulated product – though we fully understand that most people in our country still live in a state that enforces prohibition and this is not a realistic option. This advice is especially pertinent for portable vaping devices, as unregulated products have been known to contain vitamin E and other dangerous additives that can harm the lungs.”

For now, most medical and adult-use marijuana jurisdictions in the U.S. have allowed licensed stores to remain open. Many have declared legal cannabis retailers “essential” businesses, noting the need among some patients for a consistent supply of medicine and the public health risks of sending consumers flocking to the unregulated market. Some, including Michigan, have allowed stores to begin offering curbside pickups in order to encourage social distancing.

In a follow-up statement released on Wednesday, NORML’s Altieri said the group “commends the decision of various state governments and local jurisdictions during this pandemic to designate medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the community. This designation permits them to continue to provide important services to patients who rely on them.”

“There are several million state-licensed medical cannabis patients in America. Because many of these patients are among our more vulnerable populations, it is essential that they maintain uninterrupted, regulated access to lab-tested products during this time,” he said. “Policymakers must not push these patients to the illicit marketplace because unregulated products may contain contaminants, adulterants, molds, pesticides, or other components that could potentially endanger their health.”

Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit group that supports access to medical marijuana, sent an open letter on Tuesday to governors across the country, urging them to keep stores open for medical patients and to adopt policies aimed at limiting customer interactions.

Policies in some areas have turned on a dime. San Francisco announced the closure of all storefront cannabis retailers as part of a shelter-in-place announcement, but hours later the city reversed that decision. For now, the local Department of Public Health said on Tuesday that the shops can remain open.

NORML on Wednesday also asked followers on Twitter to let the organization know if they were “arrested / prosecuted for simple marijuana possession during the COVID crisis.”

Meanwhile, coronavirus concerns and quarantines have forced drug policy reform activists to find new ways of organizing ballot campaigns that require in-person signature gathering. An effort to amend California cannabis law and a separate push to decriminalize some psychedelic drugs in Washington, D.C., have both asked officials within the past week to allow them to gather signatures online instead.

The public health response has also muddied New York’s path to legalization, supported by many legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Last week, lawmakers introduced revised legislation in an attempt to legalize adult-use marijuana. But while the governor has insisted that the policies be enacted through the budget ahead of an April deadline, some are skeptical about that prospect as state officials prioritize a COVID-19 response.

Whether or not legalization happens in New York this year, Cuomo said Monday that talks with nearby states about the need to coordinate marijuana policies have helped enable a better regional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The best way is for me not only to have a uniform policy within the state of New York, but to the extent you can, cooperate with surrounding states so you all have a common set of practices,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want to close down bars in New York, but Connecticut leaves the bars open. Why? Because then many people will get in their car and they’ll drive to Connecticut to go to a bar, which is the last thing we want.”

Regional Marijuana Talks Are Helping Coronavirus Response, New York Governor Says

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