In the realm of cannabis news specifically, topics that made headlines include legislative progress in several states, the release of statistics revealing new insight into consumption habits and new studies being commissioned, to name a few. Let’s take a closer look at some of the major headlines from the month of February.
Utah made substantial progress in its state legislature this past month. On Thursday, Feb. 27, Gov. Gary Herbert signed Senate Bill 121 into law, officially signifying a new chapter in the state's medical cannabis policies. The law features several amendments to the state's cannabis program, including removing the requirement that products be distributed in blister packaging (they will now be put in secure containers featuring a 60-day "use by" date), physicians will receive "dosing guidelines" instead of recommendations, telehealth visits will be permitted after the first in-person consultation and qualifying medical patients can seek to have prior marijuana possession convictions expunged in court, among other tweaks.
Beginning on March 1, residents in Utah will be able to apply for a medical cannabis card as part of the new program. To receive a card, a patient must have one of the qualifying medical conditions, meet with a medical provider who is registered in the cannabis program and pay a $15-dollar application fee. Dragonfly Wellness, the state's first medical cannabis pharmacy, is scheduled to open on March 2 and a handful of others are set to follow. Prior to the amendment bill being signed, Utah patients with qualifying conditions had been able to use medical cannabis with a doctor's level since December 2018, but had to cross state lines in order to receive medical cannabis. These amendments help increase the accessibility of medical cannabis for patients who qualify for the program.
While Utah works on ensuring its supply can meet the demand and acclimates to having a more sophisticated state-run medical cannabis program, patients will be allowed to travel out of state to purchase marijuana products until the end of this year, as long as they have an "affirmative defense letter." In 2021, patients must have a medical cannabis card issued by the state in order for possession to be considered legal. For a full list of qualifying medical conditions, please see here. Currently, recreational Marijuana use is illegal in the state of Utah and remains federally illegal at the time of this report.
Los Angeles, California
In Los Angeles County, California prosecutors utilized a new technology to wipe out or reduce as many as 66,000 old marijuana-related convictions years after the state legalized the drug in 2016. To help facilitate this process, the county partnered with Code for America. The nonprofit tech organization developed a computer algorithm that finds cases eligible for dismissal and then automatically fills out the forms to file for dismissal with the courts. The technology serves as a monumental advancement, particularly when it comes handling a large number of eligible cases and those that are difficult to identify due to court documents dating back decades. According to reports, the oldest felony cannabis conviction identified by the algorithm dated back to 1961. Previously, those who were potentially eligible for record clearing were tasked with filing their own petitions or hiring lawyers to help with the process. As reported, district attorneys have until July to decide whether to dismiss sentences or fight the reduction of convictions in eligible cases.
New York University
This month, New York University's Grossman School of Medicine released a new study detailing that the number of senior citizens who admit to using cannabis has increased significantly over recent years. Published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, the study estimates that cannabis usage has grown as much
as 75% between the years of 2015 and 2018 for people over the age of 65.
The study has some limitations, including relying on self-reported data and the exclusion of CBD products. The increase in usage, or at least vocal usage, indicates a shift in social stigma, as well as speaks to a growing curiosity in the potential medical benefits of cannabis products.
A team of Texas-based scientists have begun a new study focusing on how CBD could affect physiology in horses, specifically looking at if the cannabinoid could potentially help in reducing stress, inflammation and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The team, led by professor Kimberly Guay, is examining the subject closely, giving horses various doses of CBD and monitoring the animals' heart rate, levels of cortisol, inflammation and general behavior. The researchers aim to publish their findings next year, but could have some
initial evidence ready to be shared later this fall.