It’s on us – A millennial’s view of the legalization of cannabis

Again, for some perspective on how legalization of cannabis will impact the population, we turned to millennial reporter and all-round good guy, Kyle Moore.  This is his perspective on the rollout, and how he thinks the impact will be felt.

Nationwide cannabis legalization has been like a child who’s had too much sugar; hard to follow and a lot of adults trying to control it. Now, I get it, cannabis has always carried the burden negative stigma. It’s a controlled substance with psychoactive chemicals and self-impairing properties, and according to a 2016 study, has directly contributed to the hospitalization of over 77,000 Canadians.  Oh no wait….that’s alcohol.

Pure, processed, and unlaced cannabis can lead to mental health issues later in life if overused, similar to alcohol, and according to MADD, is found in the blood stream of around 300 people responsible for fatal crashes annually in Canada. Now, 300 deaths is clearly too many, but the number is still significantly less than alcohol.

The exact number of deaths where cannabis was a contributing factor is hard to calculate, but the number of overdoses and excessive use related deaths isn’t, because it’s zero. So then why does this plant that is significantly less dangerous than alcohol and has been proven to have medically helpful properties only becoming legally available for adult use now?

Well, it’s because the government needed to put a plan in place to be able to make adult use cannabis profitable, and also knew they needed a progressive demographic to support the new movement. Cue the millennial’s. With Oct. 17, 2018, the apparent date of legalization fast approaching after the government voted yes on Bill C-45, what does this mean for the young adults of New Brunswick?

Well, it means we have the chance to be the foundation of change surrounding cannabis. As adults who have been legally allowed to consume alcohol for only a few years, we are being introduced to legal adult use cannabis at a time when we are constantly learning and developing opinions on controlled substances. This consequently means we are being tasked with either re-enforcing any negative stigma, or rebranding cannabis in our own light; the choice will quite literally be in our hands.

As new and potentially unexposed consumers of mainstream cannabis, we are going to be a hugely influential demographic to the cannabis market because we’re the demographic that will be dedicated consumers for the longest time. Social media outlets have allowed us to see the benefits in places where cannabis has been legalized like Colorado, where they have seen cannabis sales help fund arts programs, infrastructure, and has also lowered crime rates.

These benefits will not be immediate as everybody of legal age adapts to the new market but if we as the youngest consumer demographic decide to support government regulated cannabis there’s a significance chance we will eventually see an uptick in provincial care and quality of life.

Cannabis NB will be offering 200-250 different skews (strains) of marijuana, a number the black market can’t compete with. This makes cannabis safer, and more specifically cultivated for each young adult user who walks through the doors of a Cannabis NB store. The area in which millennials are at risk in the province is the party culture and how legal adult use marijuana will be incorporated into parties and social interactions.

Cannabis NB will include as much health related information as possible when purchasing their products, but it’s going to be up to us to self-regulate and impose boundaries when it comes to consuming alcohol and marijuana in the same social setting. It would be naïve to believe it won’t happen, so it’s on each individual to control themselves. This is a massive opportunity to shape the way society and future generations approach cannabis and it’s going to start here and now with you and me.

Put simply, it’s on us.

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It’s halfway through July. Why aren’t any recreational marijuana dispensaries open yet?

July 1 always symbolized the starting gun for recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts, but that never meant the industry would be quick out of the gate.

Yet more than two weeks later, it’s still uncertain when the state’s first adult-use pot shop will actually open.

“I don’t want to put a date on it,” says Sam Barber, the president of Cultivate, a medical marijuana dispensary in Leicester that was issued the state’s first retail license for recreational sales earlier this month.

Cultivate obtained another license last Thursday, allowing the company to grow marijuana for recreational purposes at its existing Route 9 facility, where it already grows and sells the substance for medicinal purposes. Barber told that the cultivation license is “another step,” but said it could be awhile until they open.

After initially giving an estimate of “a few weeks,” Barber told reporters earlier this month that it would likely be September before they could begin retail operations. And while the company does need to pass a few final state-required inspections, the reason for the delay is mostly out of their control, which is why Barber is now reluctant to give any estimate on an opening date.

“At this point, we’re just focusing on making sure we’ve done everything that they’ve asked from us,” he said.

For one, even once Cultivate does have that final go-ahead, all recreational marijuana products still must first be tested by an independent laboratory — and no such labs have been licensed yet by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.

Steve Hoffman, the commission’s chairman, told reporters Thursday that the agency had received its first completed license application from a testing facility. Hoffman said the commission could vote to issue the lab a provisional license as early as its next meeting on July 26. With three labs already operating with the state’s medical marijuana program, Hoffman has said that once they get their licenses they should be “pretty much ready to go.”

But that still means it likely won’t be until at least August that any marijuana sales can begin.

What’s up with the overall delay?

As of Thursday, the commission had issued a total of five licenses to two companies, Cultivate and Sira Naturals, a Milford-based cultivation facility. They are in the process of reviewing 29 other applications and had 39 awaiting review. Hoffman says the commission is working as quickly as they can to approve licenses, but there’s a simple reason Cultivate still stands alone as the only provisionally licensed retail business in the state.

“[The commission] can’t act on applications that they don’t have,” said Jim Borghesani, the former spokesman for the 2016 legalization campaign and a cannabis industry consultant.

Nearly 200 communities in Massachusetts continue to have either outright bans or moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses within their borders. Attorney General Maura Healey recently ruled that temporary moratoriums — designed to give towns time to set up local regulations, such as zoning — could be extended through June 2019.

And even cities and towns that do allow recreational marijuana shops are dragging their feet, according to Borghesani.

“The big hold up really is on the local level,” he said.

Prospective adult-use pot businesses — even ones already operating as medical marijuana companies — have to obtain a “host community agreement” form signed off on by local officials. And, under state law, communities aren’t held to any timetable for reviewing the permits, which Borghesani says has resulted in unreasonable delays in the licensing process.

Municipalities can also require so-called impact fees from prospective businesses, which are supposed to be “reasonably related to the costs imposed” by a marijuana establishment operating in town.

Two state senators recently wrote to state regulators concurring with Borghesani’s concern about the “widespread” practice of towns using the host community agreements, including excessive impact fees, as a “form of prohibition.”

The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents the state’s cities and towns, has pushed back against those criticisms, arguing that municipalities are trying to do their “due diligence” on how to approach a new industry that still conflicts with federal law. Borghesani thinks they’ve had more than enough time.

“As soon as this was passed in 2016, towns should have started the process of figuring out where they were going to zone,” he said, noting that zoning for controlled substances has been something local communities have governed “for decades.”

Massachusetts also experienced lags in the rollout of its medical marijuana industry, which now has a total of 36 registered dispensaries. And though for different reasons, those delays may now be having somewhat of a carryover effect, even when shops do begin getting online.

“It’s not like Colorado where they already had a hundred medical dispensaries,” Barber said. “Massachusetts is still growing into that medical market.”

Industry experts have said they expect a supply shortage in the early months of the state’s nascent recreational market, in part due to its relatively underdeveloped medical marijuana industry.

Barber is aware of the increasingly pent-up demand.

For that reason, he says his company is just focusing on ramping up their production for once the the labs and licensing are finally straightened out. And sorry eager pot-smokers, even when pressed, Barber still wouldn’t say when exactly that could be.

“I can’t give you the date,” he reiterated.

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Oakland Struggles to Meet Goals for Social Equity in Cannabis Industry

“The purpose of the equity program is that we’re all starting off on a level playing field… And meanwhile, I’m sitting here with no income,” said one local ganjapreneur.

When Golden State voters legalized an adult-use marijuana industry in late 2016, cheers rang out across the cannabis mecca of Northern California. In Oakland, though, city leaders immediately began constructing a social justice-focused program to make sure that longtime residents and people prosecuted for past pot crimes would have a leg up on the deep-pocketed tech bros and CEOs looking to carve out a slice of the green rush. Now, half a year into the West Coast’s largest legal weed experiment yet, at least one Oakland ganjapreneur is calling foul on Oakland’s attempt at equity.

In a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, Otis Taylor told the story of Oakland-based cultivator and cannabis clone producer Alex Bronson. Through Oakland’s local equity program, Bronson, a lifetime East Bay resident with more than 30 years of growing experience, said that he was able to bring his once-illicit business into full state compliance.

To help small-scale entrepreneurs like Bronson compete in a market flooded by outside capital and giant firms, Oakland’s equity program allowed those larger businesses to skip to the front of the licensing line if they agreed to provide equity applicants with 1,000 square feet of business space, free of charge. Under a priority license “incubator” program, Bronson signed agreements with two larger cannabis companies, NUG and Joyous Recreation & Wellness Group, to give him a place to kickstart his clone sales operation.

But now, more than four months after Bronson expected to be growing compliant cannabis in an East Oakland warehouse, both NUG and Joyous have run into construction delays, leaving Bronson to run his business out of his small garage. According to the most recent timeline, Bronson will not have his promised space until November, a year after it was assured to him.

“The purpose of the equity program is that we’re all starting off on a level playing field. That’s why they got the priority license,” Bronson told the Chronicle. “That’s why they incubated us. And meanwhile, I’m sitting here with no income.”

Challenging the apparent bait and switch equity assistance promises, Bronson has challenged both NUG and Joyous’ local licenses, filing paperwork with the city to make sure they either follow through on their word in a more timely manner or shut down their own legal weed operations.

Upon hearing Bronson’s accusations, the Oakland City Council immediately revoked Joyous Wellness’ local authorization and called a hearing to hear the company’s side of the story. After an immediate appeal, the company was granted an extension before another hearing convenes later this month.

“There’s no enforcement of these agreements,” Bronson’s lawyer, Natalia Thurston, told theChronicle. “There’s no motivation for these people to follow through — unless the city does take action [to revoke permits].”

Before a separate hearing with attorneys from NUG scheduled for July 31st, a spokesman for that company’s lawyers admitted a slow churn in securing Bronson’s promised space, but placed blame on bureaucratic issues with Oakland’s construction authorities, and not NUG itself.

“What’s not to be expected is the city administrator’s office would not acknowledge that this delay, if anything, is the building department’s fault, not the general applicant’s fault,” Robert Selna, an attorney representing NUG, said. “The building department plays a significant role in the fact that Alexis Bronson doesn’t have his greenhouse space.”

If Bronson is made to wait until November before he can move his clone business into a larger space, as both NUG and Joyous Wellness are currently estimating, it may already be too late, with new licensing and upkeep fees due at the end of the year. After pouring thousands of dollars into turning his business legit and checking all of the boxes necessary for city-sponsored assistance, Bronson says that he is still waiting on the equity to arrive.

“Because I can’t deliver a consistent experience,” Bronson said to the Chronicle. “I don’t have enough room to produce clones week in, week out to compete with my competitors. This is allowing my competitors to get a leg up on me.”

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German Authorities Will Issue New Cannabis Cultivation Bid

In shocking news out of Deutschland, BfArM, the federal agency responsible for the management of the first tender cultivation bid, has issued a notice that it is ditching the first tender bid and will start from scratch.

According to Kermit the Frog, it’s never easy being green. It is also tough to be “first” in the cannabis biz. Anywhere.

One of the most remarkable features of the first years of state-level legalization in the U.S. was the sheer number of mistakes by the authorities in issuing licenses and bids for state-sanctioned cultivation and dispensation once the voters had forced legalization. There were several state-level “redos” and lots of legal mumbo jumbo thrown around as the green-rush kicked off at the state level.

Fast-forward a couple of years and it is clear this is not just an issue of the confused state of legalization in the U.S.

Canada too, on a federal recreational level, has moved forward in fits and starts. And even though a fall start date to the market has now been enshrined into law, the continued moving target of the same has been a topic of fraught conversations and bargaining ever since the country decided to move ahead with full Monty recreational.

Across the pond, things are not going smoothly on the cannabis front. In the first week of July, the much stalled medical cultivation bid in Germany finally came to a limpid end. It remains to see if there will be any legal “bangs” as it whimpers away.

The real news? There is going to be a completely new one.

A Do-Over

According to documents obtained by Cannabis Industry Journal, the Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (or BfArM) issued letters to original bid respondents in the first week of July. The letters appear to have been sent to all parties who originally applied to the first bid – far from the final top runners.

The translation, from German reads:

“We hereby inform you that we have withdrawn the above-mentioned award procedure…and intend to initiate a new award in a timely manner.”

The letter cited the legal decision of March 28 this year by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court as the reason the agency cannot award the contract. Specifically, because of “necessary changes to the tender documents…inparticular with regard to time, we have decided to cancel the procedure altogether and initiate a new award procedure.”

Per the letter, the new procedure will be published in the Official Journal of the EU. No date was mentioned.

An Expensive Surprise and a Global Response

Conventional wisdom in the industry about the fate of the first bid has been mixed since last September when the first hint of lawsuits against the procedure began to circulate. Highly placed sources within the industry have long had their doubts about the bid’s survivability, although nobody will talk on the record. The bid process is supposed to be secret.

Furthermore, for the last 9 months, BfArM has maintained that the agency would go full-steam ahead with the original tender. None of the major firms contacted by CIJ about this notification would confirm that they had received a similar letter, nor would they comment.

However, it is clear that another bid will be issued. Further, this time, it is also obvious to the extent that it was not before, the applicants will indeed hail from all points of the globe. On top of that, those who are qualified to respond and who missed it last time are unlikely to sit the bid out this time around.

German Parliament Building

It remains unclear of course, what the response of the finalists to the first bid will be. Including, theoretically,legal action forpotential damages. BfArM was, technically, held at fault by the court. This means that all the companies who made it to the previous “final round” have now suffered at a minimum, an expensive time delay where other outlays of cash were also required. That includes the leasing and retrofitting of high security real estate, but of course,is not limited to the same. If any of these firms do not obtain the bid in the second go around, will they sue?

At press time, there were no cannabis industry companies willing to comment on the matter as this is still a “secret” process – even if it now apparently has come to an end for this round.

Who Is Likely To Be a Major Contender This Time?

German firms who were sleeping the last time this opportunity arose (or brushed it off as a “stigmatized” opportunity) are not likely to sit the second tender offer out. Especially given advancements in legalization if not the industry both in Europe and globally in the period of time the bid has stalled.

Add to that Canadians, Dutch, Israeli and Uruguayan firms, and the mix of applicants this time is likely to be the who’s who of the global cannabis industry. Americans are still not qualified to participate (with experience at least). Why? No federal reform.

It is also likely to be even more expensive. Not to mention require easy and quick access to European-based or at least easily confirmable pools of cash. It is conceivable that successful applications this time around will not only have to prove that they have a track record in a federally legal jurisdiction but will also have to be able to quickly access as much as 100 million euros. And there are not many cannabis companies, yet, who can do that, outside of the presumed top 10 finalists to the bid.

Will Bid Respondents Be Limited To “Just” the Cannabis Industry?

It is, however, absolutely possible that this time around the bid could include a more established pharmaceutical player or two who realizes that the medical market here has absolutely proved itself. Within the space of a year, according to the most recent “market report” on the industry (from the perspective of one of the country’s largest statutory insurance companies – Techniker Krankenkasse), there are now just over 15,000 patients.

Cannabis, in other words, is no longer an “orphan drug.” It is also still, however, considered a narcotic. For that reason, seasoned European and German players may upset the market even more with an entry via this tender bid.

Here is what is certain for now. Domestic cannabis will not be harvested in Germany until at least 2020. And until that time, it will be a growing, but import-based market.

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Four issues to be resolved in cannabis legalization

For cannabis legalization to succeed the most crucial issue will be for those invested in its outcome to engage in a meaningful conversation about safety.

It’s now official: as of October 17, 2018, Canada will become the first G7 nation to legalize both medical and adult-use recreational cannabis. It’s a historic, disruptive and uncertain moment.

The Guardian newspaper recently pointed out that “all eyes” are now on Canada. Those eyes are watching to see how this public policy will be deployed and what the ripple effects will be on crime, health, consumer spending, public safety, job creation and more.

How legalization will roll out in Canada in the next 18 months will also have a significant impact on the rate and number of other countries following suit. The shift will have a series of implications, including decreasing prescription opioid use and helping end the disproportionate impact that criminalizing cannabis has on low-income communities and communities of colour. Furthermore, Canada’s bold cannabis policy has become linked to our global credibility, particularly as it relates to successfully undertaking significant policy shifts.

To increase the likelihood that legalizing cannabis will be successful, policy-makers, the cannabis industry and all those invested in the outcome of this legislation must come together to drive forward four urgent public conversations and changes. Support for legalization is fragile, and if public opinion turns sour, the political response is likely to be swift and damagingly prohibitive.

Here’s what we need to do to prevent a negative outcome.

Manage industry and public expectations

At the recent World Cannabis Congress, Anne McLellan, chair of Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, did an excellent job of managing expectations around the initial months after legalization. “This is transformative public policy. This is not going to be perfect in the first year or the first few years,” she told her audience. She stressed that lawmakers need to be adaptable and flexible regarding these new laws — traits that are uncommon in government and therefore require deliberate and proactive preparations.

She highlighted that, despite due diligence and widespread consultation within Canada and in other jurisdictions where cannabis is already legalized (including Colorado and Uruguay), the expectation should be that in whatever form the laws are finalized, they will need to evolve. “For the first decade that legalization is in place, we are all going to be learning and adapting…There will be surprises. We have to be flexible and nimble to adapt to the surprise,” she said.

This message needs to be shared widely, both with the cannabis industry — which, as one sector leader pointed out, is not a group generally predisposed to sympathy for policy-makers — and, more urgently, with the public at large.

It’s essential to create the necessary social licence to be able to pivot and amend specifics of the legislation while maintaining public confidence, and this will happen only if policy-makers establish the understanding that initial bumps in the road are inevitable in a shift of this magnitude and that they can be successfully addressed and resolved.

 Better engage the medical community

One misstep on the path to cannabis legalization has been the failure to engage positively with Canadian doctors, who will soon be on the front lines as more patients seek advice on and prescriptions for medical cannabis.

Most physicians are not adequately informed on cannabis treatment options or on how cannabis can be used alongside other prescriptions. Currently, eight out of nine physicians in Canada say they do not feel comfortable discussing or providing access to medical cannabis.

Lack of information is one of the reasons why the powerful Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been so vocal about its opposition to the medical cannabis system, but the CMA’s is a circular argument. Little support among the medical community means that little research is being undertaken, which means that little validation is available, which means that little support is forthcoming, and so it goes. A CMA spokesperson has explained that medical cannabis is a choice that many doctors are reluctant to prescribe because of the shortage of peer-reviewed research. This lack of sufficient research is the result of cannabis being illegal in most jurisdictions.

A successful transition to a medical cannabis regime alongside legal recreational use by adults requires better engagement with the medical community, from long-practising doctors to those currently in medical school. Future doctors are already advocating for deeper, more thoughtful cannabis education. The Canadian Federation of Medical Students recently published a white paper seeking this training, which hints that a more open approach to medical cannabis is popular among younger doctors.

Industry leaders, policy-makers and champions in the medical and research community must come together to create a variety of opportunities and means of providing this education, as well as regular forums for research updates and new study results — which are now expected to come in massive waves.

Stop the tax on medical cannabis

Successful public policy starts with consistent public policy, but this is not the state of the existing cannabis regulatory regime. Specifically, one of the most severe cannabis policy gaps is that, despite the plant being treated as a medicine under the medical cannabis regime, the government confirmed in the February 2018 budget that it would be applying a 10 percent excise tax to all cannabis, whether for medical or recreational use. This means that a medical cannabis patient will be subject to both provincial and federal sales tax — a poor policy position on a number of fronts.

The first problem is the inherent inconsistency of treating medical cannabis, which can be obtained only via prescription from licensed health care practitioners, differently from other prescription medications, which are tax-exempt. Second and most important, this policy position hurts a group that the federal government should be looking to support: people who are financially or otherwise vulnerable and using cannabis for legitimate medical purposes. In 2015, research funded by the University of British Columbia Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention found that more than half of respondents who use cannabis for medical purposes reported that they can never or only sometimes afford to buy enough to relieve their symptoms. A third of respondents stated that they often or always have to choose between medical cannabis and necessities such as food, rent and other medicines.

According to Jonathan Zaid, former executive director of the nonprofit Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, which has been campaigning against the idea of taxing the ill since the Minister of Finance first raised this proposal, this policy position is both unjust and unpopular. “A recent Environics poll found that a majority of Canadians (62 percent) are opposed to taxing medical cannabis,” said Zaid in March. “And to date, over 16,000 Canadians and a group of 12 non-profits have advocated for the elimination of it. Despite this fierce opposition, the federal government decided to forge ahead, implementing the new tax in its federal budget.”

Given the enormous amount of revenue that the government will collect on recreational-use cannabis, and the lack of public support for taxing medical use, eliminating the tax on medical cannabis should be a priority.

Have robust public safety conversations

This is probably the most important and urgent point of all.

Research commissioned by Business of Cannabis in partnership with Nanos Research earlier this year showed that Canadians are looking for the industry to do far more than it currently is to educate the public on safe cannabis use. Only 17 percent of Canadians agree, and another 25 percent somewhat agree, that the industry is taking sufficient steps to ensure safe and responsible use. This situation has to change, and there is much work to be done.

From explaining Canada’s world-class safety and tracking system that ensures quality control, to addressing concerns about the effects of cannabis on the developing brain, to dealing with worries about driving and cannabis use, a series of multistrand, multistakeholder conversations should be undertaken.

An article on McLellan’s speech to the World Cannabis Congress reports that she pointed out that most Canadians  “don’t use cannabis either recreationally or medicinally, and generally haven’t been paying close attention like those with a stake in legalization. So if the general public doesn’t understand what’s going with the laws, and something horrible happens in their community that they attribute to cannabis — such as a driver who is high and hits someone — the climate of acceptance could switch fast. ‘You are asking people to change their mindset. Don’t be dismissive, because you need those people to understand why this is happening, what to expect, and that we are all responsible actors. If not, they are the ones who have the political power.’”

It’s time for all actors invested in the success of this bold economic, social, health and cultural evolution to help drive forward these conversations and education campaigns, and to engage with as many Canadians as possible, as soon as possible.

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Governor Mary Fallin signed emergency emergency rules for medical marijuana that were adopted by the Oklahoma State Board of Health.

In a press release Governor Fallin  said, “These rules are the best place to start in developing a proper regulatory framework for medical marijuana, with the highest priority given to the health and safety of Oklahomans. They are also the quickest and most cost-efficient way to get the process actually started as required by the law passed by the people. I expect modifications could occur in the future. I know some citizens are not pleased with these actions. But I encourage everyone to approach this effort in a constructive fashion in order to honor the will of the citizens of Oklahoma who want a balanced and responsible medical marijuana law.”

Oklahoma City Representative Jason Lowe released a statement saying in part, “the law undermines one of the most participated in elections in state history and silences the voice of Oklahomans across this state. I am calling on the governor to immediately call for a special session so that the elected leaders of this state can implement the law as instructed by the citizens of Oklahoma.”

In regards to a special session, Mary Fallin said in her press release, “The Health Department has been working with 17 other agencies the past three months on crafting these emergency rules. Asking the Legislature to pass comprehensive legislation in a special session is not realistic.”

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Israeli Committee Clears Path To Marijuana Decriminalization

A key committee in Israel gave the green light to votes on a bill that would partially decriminalize marijuana on Monday.

The bill would impose fines, rather than criminal penalties, on individuals who possess or consume cannabis. First-time offenders would be fined 1,000 shekels ($275), second-time offenders would face a 2,000 shekel ($550) fine and third-time offenders would be given an option of admitting fault and paying a higher fine or completing community service—or they could ask to be sentenced. Any additional violations would be considered criminal offenses.

There is a caveat to the three-strikes rule, however. There’s a five-year window after each offense—so if you’re caught possessing cannabis more than five years after your first offense, for example, it will count as a first offense again.

The bill will not apply to minors, soldiers, prisoners or individuals convicted of other criminal charges, Arutz Sheva 7 reported.

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee unanimously approved votes on second and third readings of the bill on Monday. It will now head back for a full Knesset vote later this week. (The bill passed unanimously during its first reading in March).

According to a government press release, concerns laid out by lawmakers and law enforcement officials were rejected by the committee. Some lawmakers argued that the fines were too steep and the five-year window between offenses ought to be shortened. Others, including committee chair Elie Elalouf (Kulanu), voiced concerns about the lack of judicial discretion provided to courts when it comes to marijuana-related convictions.

“I fear that due to the fine amount and the lack of feasibility of exercising discretion, the judges will decide not to convict the defendant at all,” Elalouf said.

The head of Israel’s “Green Leaf” party, Oren Leibovitz, said that Israel was “on the way to complete legalization.” That message evoked a warning from Yoel Hadar, the legal advisor to the Ministry of the Public Security, who said that if the decriminalization bill was exploited and “transformed into a tool for legalization,” the government might not extend the law.

The way the bill is currently written, marijuana decriminalization would be treated as a three-year pilot program, after which the government will determine whether or not to continue the policy.

The current status of marijuana in Israel

Israel is known globally as a leader in cannabis research. It was one of the first countries to permit medical marijuana, with at least 30,000 registered patients currently enrolled in its program. While recreational marijuana use remains illegal, some like Leibovitz view the decriminalization bill as a step toward full legalization.

The country had a plan to export its medical cannabis—a plan that would have generated over $1 billion per year, according to one estimate—but it was derailed earlier this year. There have been several reports stating that opposition from the Trump administration was the deciding factor for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu told the heads of the ministries he ordered the freeze after receiving a call about the issue of exporting marijuana from Trump, who is against its legalization,” The Times of Israel reported in February.

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Cannabis for kids? Almost half of Canadian pediatricians didn’t know they could prescribe: survey

WATCH BELOW: Is weed good or bad for you? Everything we know about the health effects of cannabis

Dr. Michael Rieder wants it made clear that cannabis is not a side-effect free, cure-all.

The London, Ont., pediatrician has had many children referred to him by doctors who know Rieder wrote the Canadian Paediatric Society’s position statement on cannabis use and aren’t sure whether to prescribe.

Doctors should think twice before prescribing medical marijuana: guideline

The conversations, Rieder says, are rather interesting.

“The families usually come in with a certain set of ideas,” he says.

“Medical cannabis is imbued with a certain mythological character … a panacea for all ills quite unlike most other drugs.”

But it is still a drug.

It just happens to be one that providers know less about, Rieder says. They don’t know when to prescribe or how much or for how long. Although there’s a list of authorized providers from Health Canada, he notes, there isn’t a product monograph outlining side effects or possible risks in the short and longer term.

A spokeswoman for Health Canada, says the government is in the process of updating five-year-old information about cannabis so that it is in a “format similar to that of a drug product monograph.”

WATCH: Doctor says Canada not prepared for marijuana legalization

In fact, 49 percent weren’t even aware they can prescribe cannabis to children, according to a survey of pediatricians released Thursday by the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP), and 39 percent didn’t know they could prescribe to youth. More than three-quarters reported little to no knowledge about why cannabis might be used or what the correct dosage might be.

That’s not stopping minors from using marijuana for medical purposes. Half of the pediatricians who responded to the survey reported treating patients who were using medical marijuana in the year prior, for reasons both authorized and unauthorized. The vast majority, per the survey, saw five or less patients who used cannabis.

“We were amazed,” says Dr. Richard Bélanger, who helped conduct the survey for CPSP and who is also a pediatrician and researcher in Quebec. “It was a shock … but in the end, it really makes sense.”

Almost everywhere in Canada, Bélanger says, “pediatricians are treating complex diseases in children with sometimes fewer treatment possibilities than for adults.”

Parents encouraged to talk to their kids about the possible impact of marijuana use

Despite half saying they treated a patient who was using cannabis for medical reasons, only 34 said they personally had prescribed authorized cannabis use in the year prior. However, only a third of Canadian pediatricians and pediatric subspecialties responded to the 2017 survey (877 out of 2,816).

This survey is just one step toward untangling the confusion around how pediatricians can and should use medical marijuana, Bélanger says. With legalization coming Oct. 17, he says, there are still many health professionals saying they don’t have enough knowledge around prescribing cannabis.

“We have to continue producing knowledge around that and to inform pediatricians and health professionals working with kids,” he says.

WATCH: FDA approves first drug derived from marijuana to treat epilepsy

In particular, Bélanger wants to build a better picture of how cannabis is being used to treat minors in more rural areas. Most of the survey respondents were from major centers or university towns.

“We’re not exactly sure that it is a clear representation of what is taking place, let’s say, in northern Manitoba,” Bélanger says.

Regardless of where cannabis is being prescribed, Rieder says it’s important to make sure it’s being done so by a professional — especially as legalization prompts more people to inquire about medical marijuana.

Treating cancer in kids with cannabis

While there have been some studies pointing to its usefulness in treating children with epilepsy, he’s concerned around some children as young as five or six using cannabis to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Rieder says most inquiries he fields for cannabis are about calming children with ADHD.

“It’s a terrible idea,” he says.

“They may be a little bit more mellow and they may act up less in class but we know that cannabinoids have significant effects on some developing brains.”

As research continues and pediatricians arm themselves with the latest information ahead of legalization, Rieder says its important for parents to remember that cannabis is just like any other drug with “potentially good effects and potentially bad effects.”

“Like any drug, there are certain questions you should always ask,” he says. “What is the expected benefit? What’s the expected risk? How is it going to be followed up?”

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Legal Marijuana Is Coming to Canada. Investors Catch the Buzz.

CHESTERVILLE, Ontario — Inside garage-sized containers at one end of a cavernous warehouse in a former Nestlé factory south of Ottawa are rows of marijuana plants stacked atop each other, basking in the unearthly glow of grow lights.

They belong to Hamed Asi, an Ontario businessman who calls them his “vertical farm.” He has no background in growing marijuana, or in any kind of agriculture. His other line of business is installing office furniture; cubicles, filing cabinets and desk chairs fill the opposite end of the warehouse.

A financial boom not seen since the dot-com mania of the late 1990s has overtaken Canada. The legalization of recreational marijuana, scheduled for this autumn, is not only a momentous social change and public health challenge, but also a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs like Mr. Asi to be in on the birth of what they hope will become a multibillion-dollar industry.

Early signs of a boom abound: Marijuana growers have plowed millions into investments that, without having recorded profits yet, have stock-market values measured in billions. Down-on-their-luck towns like Chesterville, Ontario, hope that marijuana will reverse economic decline. Former politicians and law-enforcement officials who once opposed legalizing recreational marijuana have now joined or formed companies to cash in on it.

Some provincial governments forecast that tax revenue from marijuana sales will help balance their budgets. And companies offering every kind of service or product — from real estate to packaging — are all out for a piece of the action.

Mr. Asi’s dreams of wealth are sprouting here in a century-old former factory that once turned out pallets of Nestlé Quik bound for railway boxcars. A partner and operations manager at a company called the I.D.P. Group, he acknowledges the risks inherent in what has already become a highly competitive industry.

“You can’t just do this because everyone else is doing it,” he said in his office which is, not surprisingly, fitted with the latest in office furniture. “Worry? Yeah, 100 percent. We see how good this industry can be if you do it right, but you’ve got to really be diligent.”

This month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired the starting gun for Canada’s new gold rush by announcing that legalization of recreational marijuana will begin on Oct. 17, months later than the original plan of Canada Day, July 1. But, as in the earlier mania for technology companies, there are growing concerns that this boom could produce more disappointment than riches.

Mr. Trudeau’s government portrayed the legalization of recreational marijuana — Canada has had a medical marijuana system since 2001 — as a way to wipe out the black market, not as a potential job creator or moneymaker for either the government or investors. In effect, he promised a system in which marijuana would be available, but not promoted.

As a result, the federal government will license growers in Canada, and provinces will decide how it is sold to consumers. In some provinces, notably Alberta, the government went with privately operated shops. Others, like Ontario and Quebec, will essentially adopt a variation of the system of government-owned stores that has been used for alcohol sales since Prohibition ended.

Under regulations recently released, marijuana will generally be treated more like cigarettes than alcohol. Advertising will be severely restricted — as will the ability of Canada’s marijuana makers to turn themselves into household brand names. Packages must be uniform and plain, aside from vivid, yellow health warnings and tiny logos. Even baseball caps, T-shirts and all other logo-laden giveaways promoting marijuana brands will not be permitted.

Many of the big companies eagerly awaiting the October light-up date have their roots in the medical marijuana industry. But their styles have shifted.

Chuck Rifici, a founder and former chief executive of the company now called Canopy Growth (at more than 8 billion Canadian dollars, the most valuable marijuana company in Canada), once sported the clean-cut look one would expect from an accountant and former chief financial officer of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

But as he has shifted to selling marijuana as a way to get high — not just as pain relief — Mr. Rifici has abandoned suits and ties for designer T-shirts. His graying and less-than-trim beard give him the air of a rock star.

Bounced from Canopy in 2014, Mr. Rifici is now the chief executive of a competitor, Auxly, which has invested in 12 marijuana-growing operations. Among them is Mr. Asi’s operation in Chesterville, which has received 12 million Canadian dollars.

Shares in Mr. Rifici’s company once surpassed 1 billion Canadian dollars and are now worth about just over 500 million dollars. Its ability to raise money, however, has yet to be matched by an ability to make money. Auxly recorded more than 10 million Canadian dollars in losses in the first three months of this year.

The future after October, Mr. Rifici said, offers nothing but promise, as marijuana will start flowing out of stores and new markets beckon.

“The rest of the world is going to legalize this,” he predicted. “So the urgency for me is having the people and the capability to be a first mover in that new jurisdiction. I think one or two of the large multinational cannabis companies will be Canadian companies.”

But before Mr. Rifici conquers the world, he and his competitors first have to figure out how to make their home market work.

“The rules around cannabis start to look a little bit silly or a little bit over the top,” Mr. Rifici said. “Over time that will loosen a little bit. The industry is certainly pushing for it.”

That push, however, will meet forceful resistance from Canada’s medical community, which has repeatedly raised warnings about marijuana’s health risks, particularly for users under the age of 25.

“There’s already a lot of misinformation out there about it being natural and less harmful than tobacco and alcohol,” said Dr. Jeff Blackmer, a vice president of the Canadian Medical Association. “When there’s that much money to be made, funny things happen. We’ve learned that lesson from big pharma.”

Cam Battley, who once worked in the pharmaceutical industry and who is now the chief corporate officer of Aurora Cannabis (market value: 5.6 billion Canadian dollars; losses in the first part of this year: 20 million dollars), acknowledged that the soaring values of marijuana companies may not be justified in every case. But he also rejected suggestions that the dreams surrounding the industry may, well, go up in smoke.

“People should be cautious and do their homework on the cannabis sector,” Mr. Battley said. “We’ve become a mainstream industry in Canada. On this, we’re not seen as a wild and crazy country. I think the world trusts Canada to get cannabis right.”

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Oklahoma Ganjapreneurs and Lawmakers Up in Arms About Medical Marijuana Rollout

With the ink barely dry on Oklahoma’s new medical marijuana law, potential canna-business owners are already at odds with Governor Mary Fallin on how to implement the voter-approved program.

Oklahoma voters passed one of the nation’s most progressive medical marijuana ballot measures in late June, cementing the Sooner State as a new force in the Midwest’s burgeoning green rush. In the days since, trade groups representing potential ganjapreneurs have voiced daily disagreements with each other and Governor Mary Fallin over the best path forward for the program’s regulatory process, leaving industry insiders and lawmakers at odds.

In last month’s primary election, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, legalizing the possession and sale of state-sanctioned medical marijuana. Unlike restrictive programs in neighboring states, the Oklahoma ballot measure did not specify any qualifying conditions, and would instead allow doctors to recommend cannabis for any ailment they see fit. In addition to the open access provision, SQ788 requires that state regulators begin accepting cannabusiness license applications my the end of August.

Gov. Fallin had said before the vote that she would call a special session of the legislature to implement a more focused framework for the impending program. Once the bill passed, though, the Governor reconsidered her stance, and announced that she would not be seeking a special session. Instead, she’s turning all MMJ regulatory powers over to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, a newly formed division of the State Department of Health.

“After conferring with House and Senate leaders, we believe a special legislative session is not necessary to implement provisions of State Question 788,” Gov. Fallin said last week. “The Oklahoma State Department of Health has developed emergency rules that will ensure the health and safety of Oklahomans as well as being fair and balanced for the marijuana industry. The Health Department has been working with other agencies the past several months to develop a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical reasons. The voters have spoken, and it’s important that our state has a responsible system up and running to meet the deadlines outlined in State Question 788. If circumstances develop that adjustments to the Health Department rules are necessary, those can be addressed when lawmakers return in regular session early next year.”

As soon as Fallin announced the regulatory hand-off, local medical cannabis industry advocacy group New Health Solutions Oklahoma (NHSO) released a four page memo decrying the Governor’s decision, once again calling for a regulatory debate at the state House. Without firm rules for laboratory testing, inventory tracking, and other intricate aspects of the program on the books before licensing begins, NHSO executive director Bud Scott argues that the industry will kickstart the program while it’s still stuck in quicksand.

“Treating sick Oklahomans with medical cannabis requires establishing a new and very complex industry that includes growers, processing facilities, distributors, dispensaries, medical research, security and technology companies, and a variety of other professional services,” Scott said in the press release. “All of these sub-industries, and the thousands of jobs they represent, require responsible legislation establishing an orderly and fairly regulated marketplace.”

Breaking with that slow and steady approach, Chip Paul, a co-founder of Oklahomans for Health — the group that collected enough signatures to place SQ788 on last month’s ballot — is siding with Gov. Fallin. In an interview with Tulsa World this week, Paul complimented Fallin and the state legislature for keeping their nose out of the voter-approved measure.

“We’re in the proper place, and we should be dealing with the proper people,” Paul told theTulsa World. “Our [recommended] regulations are pretty close to the Department of Health’s. I don’t know why someone would call for a special session, that seems very costly and egregious.”

Outside of the debate on who should be responsible for regulating SQ788, a new Oklahoma advocacy group, Green The Vote, has begun collecting signatures on two potential ballot measures to legalize cannabis recreationally. As of press time, Green The Vote representatives say that they have more than half of the signatures needed to place the question on November’s midterm election. Advocates have called that potential ballot measure a “safe guard” in case regulators or lawmakers upend the language of SQ788.

For now though, it appears that state lawmakers will leave their hands off of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program, allowing Health Department officials to move forward with plans for a quick start and wide access — no matter what problems may stand in the way.

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