Get bite-sized recaps of the top cannabis industry news stories from the week of March 23 – March 27, 2020.
Once again, much of this week’s biggest cannabis industry news is related to the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This week, read about what’s going on with marijuana trafficking trends, legalization efforts in Arizona, the federal government’s request for public input on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and more.
Marijuana Trafficking Declines as More States Legalize Recreational Use
A new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that both federal prosecutions for marijuana trafficking and the number of overall drug possession cases declined in 2019. Federal marijuana prosecutions have steadily declined since 2012, the same year that states began to legalize recreational use. Marijuana trafficking cases numbered roughly 7,000 in 2012. As of the fiscal year 2019, the number of trafficking cases is fewer than 2,000.
National Institute on Drug Abuse Seeks Public Input on a Standard THC “Dose”
National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow published an article this week discussing the agency’s request for public input on developing a standardized “dose” of THC for marijuana products to help standardize cannabis research. The agency will accept email submissions from “the scientific research community and any other interested parties” until May 1.
Request for Information (RFI): Inviting Comments on the Establishment and Implementation of a Standard Unit Dose of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for Cannabis Research https://t.co/RkSzihPpbP
— NIH Funding (@NIHFunding) March 23, 2020
Most Industry Experts Believe Marijuana is ‘Recession-Proof’
Several cannabis industry experts told Marijuana Business Daily this week that they believe marijuana will hold up fairly well during a severe financial downturn. Some economy watchers, including Bank of America, have already declared the United States is in a recession. Experts believe that cannabis sales trends would behave similarly to those of alcohol, which held up during the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009.
Coronavirus Outbreak Leads to Recreational Marijuana Sales Drop After Initial Surge
Following an initial rush to stock up on marijuana products, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drop in recreational marijuana sales. Adult-use dispensaries reported an initial surge in sales after stay-at-home orders were first announced. Since then, sales have experienced a sharp decline. Marijuana Business Daily also reports that consumers are buying more marijuana edibles rather than pre-rolled joints, concentrates, and topicals.
Ghana Legalizes Hemp
Ghana’s parliament last Friday approved the Narcotics Control Commission Bill, which legalizes the use and cultivation of hemp. The new law allows cannabis containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for fiber, seed and health purposes. Oversight will come from the newly-created Narcotics Control Board (NACOB). Ghana joins Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, and Lesotho as African countries that have loosened laws surrounding cannabis.
Coronavirus Could Cause Delays in Marijuana Legalization in Several States
Nearly 20 states had active campaigns to legalize marijuana in some form at the start of the year. Many of those efforts are now experiencing setbacks due to the need to focus on the containment of the coronavirus. See which states have had their marijuana legalization efforts sidelined so far.
NORML Urges Consumers to Beware Claims Around CBD and COVID-19
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released a statement this week reminding consumers to beware of online misinformation regarding the use of whole-plant cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) as a cure for the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The organization claims that some marketers are targeting cannabis consumers by making “a variety of false or unsubstantiated claims” surrounding CBD as a novel COVID-19 therapy.
DEA Finally Moving Forward on Marijuana Research
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it’s making progress to register additional research-grade marijuana growers. The announcement comes three years after the agency started accepting applications. Currently, researchers looking to pursue federally-authorized studies on marijuana have only one approved source for cannabis materials. The agency had been under pressure to respond to the 37 pending applications it has received so far.
Americans Agree Medical Marijuana is “Essential”
A new poll from YouGov shows that 53 percent of Americans believe medical marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential services and allowed to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. Many states with legal marijuana have given the “essential” designation to dispensaries and have allowed them to continue operation despite stay-at-home orders that have required many businesses in other industries to temporarily close. A majority of people across all age groups, minus those 55 years and older, told YouGov that dispensaries are essential.
Arizona Voters Likely to Get the Chance to Vote on Recreational Marijuana
The Smart and Safe Arizona campaign to legalize cannabis for adult use says it has gathered more than the 320,000 signatures required to place a recreational marijuana legalization measure on the state’s November 2020 ballot. The campaign told Marijuana Moment they’ve gathered about 80,000 more signatures than needed but are taking a break from the further collection because of the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative would allow Arizona adults 21 years and older to buy and possess up to one ounce of marijuana from licensed retailers and to grow up to six plants for personal use.
Marijuana Companies Left Out of Coronavirus-Related Disaster Relief Funds
In a series of tweets this week, the Small Business Administration confirmed that marijuana companies are not eligible for relief funds associated with the coronavirus stimulus package approved by the United States Senate on Wednesday. Since cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, the marijuana industry will be denied coronavirus-related relief funds established with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The SBA recommended marijuana companies pursue relief solutions available from state and local sources.
With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services (OMB, 2 C.F.R. § 200.300).
— SBA Pacific NW (@SBAPacificNW) March 23, 2020