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.”
Stay safe out there, friends. pic.twitter.com/5V0VMjIybZ
— NORML (@NORML) March 18, 2020
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.
Cannabis is an essential medicine for many San Francisco residents. Dispensaries can continue to operate as essential businesses during this time, while practicing social distancing and other public health recommendations.
— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) March 17, 2020
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.”
Anyone out there still being arrested / prosecuted for simple marijuana possession during the COVID crisis? Let us know.
— NORML (@NORML) March 18, 2020
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.”
Dr. Oz Claims DEA And FDA Blame Each Other For Keeping Marijuana Illegal
According to celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz—or Dr. Oz—representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have each told him they’re on board with legalizing marijuana. And the agencies blame each other for blocking efforts to end prohibition.
In a recent interview, Oz was asked about his professional opinion on cannabis. The host of the popular daytime program of his namesake called marijuana “one of the most underused tools in America” and went on to say that he’s had conversations with individuals from both DEA and FDA who generally share his views about the plant.
“We ought to completely change our policy on marijuana. It absolutely works,” he told interviewer Fatman Scoop, adding that another daytime TV host Montel Williams, who has multiple sclerosis, convinced him of the medical utility of cannabis. “Now I’ve seen this helping people with sleep issues, with pain issues for sure, and a lot of people who have serious medical problems getting relief—and here’s the thing, you can’t die from it. I’m unaware of any case when anyone has overdosed.”
“It’s a lot safer than alcohol. It’s safer than narcotics. It ought to be used more widely and we can’t even study it that easily because of the way it’s regulated,” he said. “You know what, I called the DEA—they said, ‘we don’t want this to be illegal. Your government ought to change that. But we got to enforce the law.’ I call the FDA that regulates the drugs, they say, ‘we think it ought to be used, but until the DEA says it’s allowed, we can’t let people prescribe it everywhere.”
While Oz didn’t disclose specifics about his conversations, such as who he spoke to or when the phone calls happened, it is the case that federal marijuana reform outside of Congress falls largely within the jurisdictions of both agencies. And DEA has denied multiple rescheduling requests, justifying the inaction by stating that FDA has determined that cannabis doesn’t have proven medical value and carries a risk of abuse.
Oz, who previously asserted that marijuana could represent a tool to combat the opioid epidemic and has made other public comments about the plant’s therapeutic potential, said “I’m hoping the federal government at some point—someone’s going to say, ‘come on, this is a farce, open it up for the entire country.’ That way, the right people can begin to prescribe it.”
Although Oz advocate for marijuana reform, he also clarified earlier this year that, despite rumors, he is not involved in a CBD company that falsely attributed an endorsement to him.
Could not agree more with @tomhanks. This is a fake and misleading advertisement intended to take advantage of consumers using false claims and our likenesses illegally. I am not involved with any cannabis companies. https://t.co/EBNvnh0jdM
— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) January 21, 2020
“I have never smoked pot in my life, never gotten high, and I only bring that up because I’m not someone who’s saying this because I personally would use it,” he said in this latest interview. “I just as a doctor think it make sense.”
Don’t Drive High On Marijuana Even If You’re Being Chased By An Axe Murderer, Federal PSA Says
The latest push by the federal government to deter marijuana-impaired driving is coming to TV, radio and the web. Its message? Even if you’re being chased by an axe-wielding psychopath, it’s not worth driving high.
The ad, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council, is the first TV spot developed by Vox Creative, the advertising arm of Vox Media. In it, two men run for their lives from a would-be murderer, dodging axe blows while reciting reasons not to drive stoned.
The men ultimately find a vehicle to escape the scene, but the driver pauses before he turns the key in the ignition. “Wait wait wait,” he says. “I can’t drive. I’m high.”
(Don’t worry. The two would-be murder victims swap seats and end up getting away safely while the sober one mans the wheel.)
“The rules around marijuana use can be confusing. But when it comes to marijuana use and driving, all you need to remember is one rule: Driving impaired is illegal everywhere.”
The Ad Council campaign also includes radio and online advertisements. A 30-second version of the video will run on TV, while a longer, 80-second version (embedded above) will reportedly run on Vox.com and the brand’s ad marketplace, Concert.
“Many marijuana users don’t see a problem with driving after use, but research shows marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of distance, and decrease coordination – all skills necessary for the safe operating of a vehicle,” the Ad Council said in a statement accompanying the new video. “Our campaign targets young men aged 18 to 35, many of whom reject the common stereotypes of marijuana users.”
Stereotypes or no, the campaign reminds consumers that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 U.S. states—even if cannabis itself is legal in a growing number of them.
“The rules around marijuana use can be confusing,” its website says. “But when it comes to marijuana use and driving, all you need to remember is one rule: Driving impaired is illegal everywhere.”
Beyond the video and radio ads, the awareness push also includes a number of self-aware signage with messages such as “This is an ad that says you shouldn’t drive high.”
As more states have considered legalizing marijuana in recent years, highway safety has become a major focus. Opponents often contend that increased roadway risks themselves are enough to tap the brakes on reform.
In a typical example, the Washington Post’s editorial board in 2014 came out against legalization in Washington, D.C., citing “negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving.”
While being impaired no doubt increases drivers’ danger to themselves and others, some critics have complained that the risks of marijuana-impaired driving have been overblown, used as a fear tactic to chill cannabis reform. They argue that research on cannabis and driving is still thin and conflicted, and that the drug’s effect on driving pales in comparison to alcohol and some prescription drugs.
A report commissioned by Congress and published last year cast doubt on the dire warnings of THC-impaired driving. “Although laboratory studies have shown that marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance, studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved as a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage,” the Congressional Research Service wrote.
NHTSA, part of the Department of Transportation, has long acknowledged that THC concentration in drivers’ blood levels does not correlate with driver impairment. (The campaign even includes that fact on its website. “Unlike alcohol, there is no correlation between rising THC level and driver impairment,” it says. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive high: “Some research studies have found that peak performance deficits are observed long after peak THC level occurs.”)
The lack of a clear correlation between marijuana and impaired driving has been enough to push some jurisdictions to reconsider per-se THC limits, under which drivers can be charged with a DUI based on the amount of THC in their blood regardless of any evidence of actual impairment.
In Pennsylvania, lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would force police instead to prove impairment. The legislation would exempt medical marijuana patients from the state’s existing DUI law, and police would instead have to demonstrate that a patient’s driving was actually impaired by the drug.
Meanwhile, Congress is taking steps to require states to study the impacts of marijuana-impaired driving. Legislation introduced last month would force states that have legalized cannabis, and only those states, to consider how to educate and discourage people from driving while high. Advocates have questioned that approach, noting that while impaired driving is an important issue, it’s not limited to states with legal cannabis.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to take a number of steps related to marijuana-impaired driving, including directing federal agencies to prepare a report on “the establishment of a national clearinghouse for purposes of facilitating research on marijuana-impaired driving.” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), a sponsor of the bill, also wants the report to outline how researchers in states that haven’t legalized marijuana can still access cannabis from dispensaries to study the drug’s effects on driving.
Congress rejected another amendment, however, that would have required NHTSA “carry out a collaborative research effort to study the effect that marijuana has on driving and research ways to detect and reduce incidences of driving under the influences of marijuana.”
Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia
HBO Teams Up With Marijuana Companies To Sell THC Gummies Promoting New TV Series
HBO is partnering up with major marijuana businesses to market a line of promotional cannabis edible gummies meant to bring attention to an animated series premiering next week, the entertainment giant announced on Monday.
The 10mg THC gummies are made by the marijuana company Kanha and will be available at select California dispensaries as well as via delivery from Eaze. Each blend was developed to produces effects the network says reflect the personalities of the four main characters from “Close Enough,” which will be streaming on HBO Max starting July 9.
“It has been so thrilling for my team and I to create a campaign that feels so authentic to Close Enough,” Peter Sherman, senior vice president of program marketing at HBO Max, said in a press release. “When crafting any campaign, our aim is always to create an experience for the audience that feels genuine and exciting, and this partnership with Kanha hits the nail on the head. We’re so excited about this one and we can’t wait to see how fans react.”
What’s interesting about the promotion—beside the fact that a major, international media company is working with the cannabis industry—is that the series doesn’t even seem to have much to do with marijuana. It’s an adult-themed comedic animated show that touches on themes like raising children and navigating careers. The trailer doesn’t even mention cannabis.
So instead, it seems HBO is simply embracing the culture of consuming marijuana while enjoying TV.
“Kanha’s partnership with HBO Max is an exciting opportunity to showcase our delicious, award-winning gummies to a brand new audience,” Cameron Clarke, CEO of the parent company Sunderstorm, said. “We can’t think of a more playful, fun collaboration to announce to our fiercely loyal fans. We’re thrilled to partner with one of entertainment’s biggest media giants to help bring the adult characters in their new show to life through our gummy flavors and profiles.”
In celebration of the new series #CloseEnoughMax, @HBOMax releases limited edition cannabis-infused edible gummies in partnership with @bySunderstorm's @KanhaEdibles: https://t.co/J2REn3EPHj pic.twitter.com/I1u3JffGwk
— HBO Max PR (@HBOMaxPR) June 29, 2020
Here’s how HBO described each of the flavors that are based on the show’s characters:
JOSH: Cool dad, husband, and future world-famous video-game designer, Josh likes to chill with his Indica Strawberry Gummies.
EMILY: Emily is logical, organized, a planner — everything her husband Josh is not. She’s a loving mother and a strong working woman who tries to have it all. Busy mom Emily gets it done with her Sativa Pineapple Gummies.
ALEX: Alex is Josh’s neurotic best friend from high school. He lives in the walk-in closet of the apartment he shares with Josh, Emily, Candice, and Bridgette (his ex-wife, but it’s not a big deal). When Alex wants to get lost in thought, he stays cool and carries on with his Hybrid Watermelon Gummies.
BRIDGETTE: Bridgette is a glamorous social media influencer — at least in her mind. ‘Working’ is more of a hobby she squeezes in between partying. Bridgette stays on top of partying and her social game with her 1:1 Pink Lemonade Gummies.
Eaze CEO Ro Choy said that the partnership with HBO Max “is so exciting and it’s a great way to connect with audiences.”
“Eaze is all about high product standards and the best value for customers, and we’re pleased to align with one of the biggest and most respected names in entertainment,” he said.
The promotion begins on Monday and extends through the end of July, or until supplies run out. There are 20 California dispensaries that carry the products, and Eaze will offer them through deliveries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/JasonParis.