Virginia’s Cannabis Arrest Rates Skyrocket: The Leafly Legalization RoundupLisa RoughNovember 30, 2015
This week brings some unfortunate but enlightening news from all sides of cannabis culture. One city in California is facing dispensary and delivery shutdowns, Colorado is (still) in hot water over pesticide use, and a report from Virginia shows the sobering statistics of an illegal state’s war on cannabis. The good news is that Illinois’ new cannabis industry is hiring, and Israel students want to see a change in drug policy. Catch up on the latest cannabis news by checking out our roundup of recent updates!
U.S. Cannabis Updates
The Newport Beach City Council approved an ordinance banning dispensaries and delivery services in the area amid protests from the community. This ordinance prohibits the cultivation, processing, distribution, and delivery of medical marijuana in Newport Beach, and comes as a response to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 9th.
Although the law will not go into effect until January 1st, 2016, one of the stipulations of the law is that local jurisdictions must take action now if they want to impose bans or moratoriums on medical marijuana; otherwise, the state will become the sole regulator for medical cannabis in the state of California.
A troubling report from CNN confirmed that high levels of banned pesticides have been turning up in medical and recreational marijuana products that are sold to the general public. Various samples tested positive for a neurotoxin known as imidacloprid, which was banned for use on marijuana crops. Even brief exposure to the chemical can have serious side effects, such as irritation, dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, and vomiting. The tests found that products contained more than 100 times the legal amount and resulted in 2,362 products being pulled from the shelves, having been deemed unfit for public consumption.
The report comes directly after an executive order from Governor John Hickenlooper was issued urging local agencies to destroy products that contain high levels of pesticides and contaminants.
Cultivators in Southern Illinois, Murphysboro, and Anna have been given the green light to begin cultivating strains for Illinois’ medical cannabis program. Two companies, Ieso and Wellness Group Pharms, have begun the process of cultivation, although it will be several months before any product will hit dispensary shelves. Ieso will be using a 23,000 square-foot greenhouse at the cultivation center in Southern Illinois Airport, and Wellness Group Pharms has a 27,000 square-foot facility in Anna that has started production.
Tom Jennings, co-manager of Ieso, said that they’re starting with a staff of 14, hiring for another six positions, and will likely expand in the future (check out Ieso’s careers page if you're interested in applying for an open position). Paul Montes, managing partner of Wellness Group Pharms, said that they have a team of eight and will be hiring more employees as they grow their team and security for the facility. If you’d like to join the Wellness Group "Phamily," you can download their job application.
In the ultra-conservative state of Virginia, a report released by the Drug Policy Alliance highlights a disconcerting pattern that has emerged in the state’s arrest records for marijuana. Despite a nationwide drop of 6.5 percent in arrests for marijuana possession between 2003 and 2014, arrests in Virginia for marijuana possession skyrocketed by 76 percent during the same time period. Not only that, but there was a clear racial disparity in marijuana arrests – the state saw an increase of 106 percent in arrests of black people between 2003 and 2014, accounting for 47 percent of Virginia’s arrests even though its population is only 20 percent black.
In the meantime, just across the river in Washington, D.C., as of November 6th, the District’s marijuana arrests dropped a whopping 99.2 percent. In an area once rife with arrests for marijuana possession (and once home to a clear racial disparity in arrests as well), so far this year there have been a total of exactly seven people arrested for marijuana in D.C.
A bill is under consideration by the Wisconsin legislature that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabidiol oil for those with severe seizure disorders who qualify. Senate Bill 221 would amend the Wisconsin Constitution to distinguish between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so as to allow physicians to recommend the use of the oil to be dispensed by an approved pharmacy or doctor.
Families with children who suffer from seizure disorders tearfully petitioned legislators to pass the bill at a hearing for the bill last week, but unfortunately the Wisconsin Medical Society has already come out against the legislation, citing a lack of research.
International Cannabis Updates
A cannabis crop bigger than the Sydney Football Stadium was discovered on a secluded walking trail in New South Wales at the Bundjalung National Park. More than 8,500 plants, worth an estimated $6.2 million, were surreptitiously planted in a patch of juvenile plants surrounded by a fence 150 meters by 50 meters (164 yards by 54.6 yards). The entire crop was seized by the NSW’s Cannabis Eradication Program and incinerated in a massive bonfire, the likes of which we can only imagine.
A recent poll showed that the vast majority of Israeli college students believe that Israeli drug policy should differentiate between cannabis and much harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. The National Union of Israeli Students found that 89 percent of students would like to see a change in drug policy to reflect the difference between the types of drugs. Additionally, 43 percent said that cannabis should be legalized and sold under government regulation, while 2 percent favored a free-for-all system in which anyone could buy or sell drugs. The percentage of respondents who favored total prohibition on cannabis also dropped from 14 percent last year to 11 percent in 2015.