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New York’s governor calls cannabis rollout a ‘disaster’

Plus, a new way to test for impaired drivers, and more

Good morning. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul called New York’s cannabis rollout a “disaster” in an interview with the Buffalo News editorial board, and Maine is still struggling with Chinese-linked illicit grow operations. 

All that, and more in today’s Cultivated Daily. 

A 7-minute read from JB and JR

💡What’s the big deal?

Hochul calls NY’s cannabis rollout a ‘disaster’

Whoa, what? New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is fed up with the beleaguered rollout of the state’s cannabis market.

It’s been nearly three years since the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was signed into law, and the illicit market still persists across the Empire State. 

Numerous lawsuits have held up the rollout, and many entrepreneurs, who’ve put their money and careers on the line, are understandably fed up. 

What she’s saying: “It’s a disaster,” Hochul told The Buffalo News editorial board. “I will not defend that for one second.”

“You have to go back to the very beginning,” she continued. “Prior to my time (as governor), the legislation was crafted in a way that was not poised for success.”

Back up: Hochul said in her view, one of the key problems with New York’s cannabis law is that it immediately made cannabis legal, but created a byzantine system that is slow and inefficient at awarding licenses and getting stores open.

She wants local law enforcement to have more “teeth” in shutting illicit cannabis shops down, particularly in New York City. 

And more: The state’s Office of Cannabis Management, the chief regulatory agency, is understaffed: They employ just 14 investigators while thousands of illicit cannabis shops are open for business across the state.

Perhaps that’s something Hochul could help fix?

🥊 Quick hits

Hawaii’s legalization bill has been formally introduced into both chambers of the state’s legislature. Advocates want revisions, however. 

The Czech Republic’s Economic Council wants the country’s proposed cannabis legalization plan to include a regulated commercial market. The draft legislation would allow for home cultivation and cannabis social clubs, but no regulated market. 

Spain’s Health Minister promised that the country’s medical cannabis legislation would be ready in the next few months.

Maine is struggling with illicit cannabis growers

What happened: Illicit cannabis growers are proliferating in rural Maine — with many linked to China, according to a widely reported US Border Patrol Memo.

That report revealed that there are an estimated 270 Chinese-linked grows in Vacationland, raking in over $4.7 billion. 

On Tuesday, police raided three homes, bringing the total number of busts in the state to seven this month. 

Back up: Maine’s Congressional delegation called on the Department of Justice to crack down on these illegal grow operations. 

In a January 25 letter, Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, along with Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to provide more support to Maine state authorities to get rid of these illegal grows.

“While these illegal operations may be secretive, they are often not hard to spot for neighbors in these tightknit communities,” the letter reads, per the Portland Press Herald.

New test determines whether a driver recently consumed with 96% accuracy

Driving the news: Fears that legalization would lead to stoned drivers — and a correlated uptick in accidents — have spurred numerous researchers and startups to try and develop an accurate test for cannabis impairment. 

But because THC is fat soluble, most traditional blood tests are inaccurate as the compound can remain in the body for months. They can only tell if a person used cannabis sometime in the past few days or weeks, not whether a person is acutely impaired.

And breathalyzers haven’t yet been proven effective.

What’s new? Researchers have found that looking at specific metabolites ratios in a person’s blood can tell with 96% accuracy whether a person consumed cannabis in the last 30 minutes, according to a new study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the journal Clinical Toxicology.

That’s a much more instructive measure to gauge whether or not a driver is impaired. 

While the researchers cautioned that more study is needed to assess whether their test can determine whether or not a person is too impaired to drive, it’s a big step in solving the impairment problem. 

What they’re saying: “When you are using a test that has implications for people’s jobs or for convictions, you generally want to have something that’s very specific,” Michael Kosnett, a researcher at the University of Colorado, told Marijuana Moment regarding the study. 

Read more: Cultivated took a look at Impairment Science’s pitch deck, a startup that has developed an app that can quantifiably determine whether or not someone is impaired from drugs, alcohol, or even sickness and tiredness without a breathalyzer or a blood test.

West Virginia’s legalization plan

What happened: West Virginia lawmakers have a new plan for the revenue from the state’s push to legalize cannabis.

Lawmakers including Democratic State Sen. Mike Caputo wrote Senate Bill 585, which if passed would legalize cannabis, to specify that half of the revenue would fund West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), the state’s struggling insurance program for public employees, reports DC News Now.

What they’re saying: “I think it’s simple. We are in a PEIA crisis, everybody knows that. Nobody seems to want to put some money to offset the costs of state employees,” Caputo said. 

What’s next: Despite the obvious use case for the revenue, West Virginia Republicans are, perhaps predictably, opposed to legalization. If the state’s legislature doesn’t legalize cannabis, then some lawmakers will push to include a referendum on the November ballot.

🎒 What we’re reading

Nonprofit labor-focused news outlet More Perfect takes a look at monopolies in cannabis.

📈 Deal or no deal

Canadian cannabis company Organigram said it completed its first shipment of cannabis to Germany. 

Village Farms International has started construction on a cannabis cultivation facility in the Netherlands.

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