Vets want weed

The drumbeat for legalization continues

Guten morgen.

Today, Germany might become the next country to legalize cannabis! We’ll be watching and writing up what you need to know for Monday. 

We’ve got a jam packed newsletter for you all, so let’s get to it. 

A 7.5-minute read from JB and JR

💡What’s the big deal?

And the drumbeat continues… 🥁🥁🥁

What happened: Some of the largest and most powerful veterans groups called on the Biden Administration to “expeditiously” ease federal restrictions on cannabis, NBC News reports

The groups include Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, American GI Forum, the American Legion, and others. 

What they want: Basically, the vets want to be able to use medical cannabis, prescribed through the VA, in order to treat mental health issues like PTSD when they return home from war.

As it stands, the VA is unable to prescribe cannabis to patients because it remains a Schedule I drug at the federal level. But the VA last year recommended against the use of cannabis for treating PTSD — even though 82% of service members surveyed by the American Legion indicated they wanted it. 

What they’re saying: “The men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces often face difficult physical and mental challenges upon returning home,” the vets said. “As such, we hope that in treating the wounds of war — both visible and invisible — that our servicemembers and veterans would have access to the widest array of possible treatments.”

“We understand that the administrative scheduling process involves several steps, but the sooner the DEA moves forward with a reclassification of cannabis, the sooner it could potentially be integrated into the Veterans Health Administration — our nation’s largest healthcare system,” the veterans groups wrote. 

Back up: Add vets to the growing chorus of influential groups waiting on the DEA to reschedule, or even fully de-schedule, cannabis. 

In January, twelve Democratic Senators — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumerwrote a letter to the DEA asking the agency to remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended that cannabis be moved to Schedule III last year.

What else: In a move that’s likely not coincidental, a group of law enforcement leaders — Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarcerationwrote a letter urging the Biden Administration to push the DEA to classify cannabis as a Schedule III drug, per the HHS recommendation.

What happens next: We hate to hammer home the point, but the ball is firmly in the DEA’s court. Again, we’ll know when we know, but where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire (pun not intended).  

🥊 Quick hits

🇩🇪 Germany is set to legalize cannabis today, if the vote passes. A key committee in the Bundestag approved the bill on Thursday, setting up a full floor vote today. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is confident the legislation will pass, though some questions remain.  

📉 Anson Funds, a notorious Toronto-based hedge fund that mostly shorted cannabis companies, is changing its tune, per Bloomberg. It’s now going long on cannabis. 

🍁 Canada’s federal government is launching the Cannabis Industry Forum, composed of a group of industry leaders, to make concrete recommendations on how to improve the country’s struggling cannabis industry. 

🍪 Cookies, the flashy and popular yet frequently sued cannabis brand, is being sued again for $100 million by its retail partner in California, MJ Biz Daily reports

❤️ A compromise bill to legalize cannabis sales in Virginia passed out of a crucial state House committee on Thursday. If passed, cannabis sales would start on May 1, 2025 in Virginia, though the licensing process will start in September.

🗽 NY, NY
Enforcement in NY doesn’t seem to be working

Driving the news: New York regulators have levied more than $25 million in fines on unlicensed cannabis shops in the city — but they’ve only been able to collect $22,500, The City reports

Back up: By now, you’re probably familiar with the boom in illicit cannabis shops all over New York City.

The state has tried, and mostly failed, to shut them down in order to provide opportunities for those who are trying to do it the legit way. 

Why? For one, the Office of Cannabis Management wasn’t built to be a pure enforcement agency, and it’s too understaffed to adequately deal with the thousands of illicit sellers.

And second, there just aren’t enough legal stores to meet demand, and there won’t be for some time. 

As we’ve written before, New York’s laudable social equity goals are just lip service if consumers can’t buy legally. 

What they’re saying: “The way forward is to make sure that we have more legal stores operating on our streets,” New York Sen. Jeremy Cooney, the chair of the state’s Senate Cannabis Committee, told The City. “It’s a parallel track – one is to close down stores and make sure enforcement is happening, the other is to make sure that new ones are opening. We’re not moving fast enough.”

Be careful about what you combust

What happened: Cannabis contaminated with mold, lead, arsenic, and pesticides can cause life-threatening illnesses in consumers — and even legal weed isn’t immune, reports The Wall Street Journal.

But wait, isn’t legal weed tested? You’re much safer buying legally than not. But still, regulations haven’t kept up with the proliferation of legal weed in many states around the US.

And in the absence of national standards, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulating the entire cannabis supply chain, states are left to their own devices, with mixed results.

What’s more, cannabis testing labs are often loosely regulated, and many of them “cheat” their results — by passing samples that fail contaminant tests or by inflating potency — to gain and maintain market share. 

It’s an open secret within the industry. 

Okay, and: SF Gate reporter Lester Black found that banned pesticides keep showing up in legal products in California, particularly in vapes.

And while research shows that legal products are less likely to contain these pesticides than legal products, the public is still often kept in the dark when brands fail tests. 

It’s up to the media to reveal these secret “embargoes,” Black reports. 

Our take: While we’re no longer in the Wild West days of cannabis in the US, national standards handed down by the federal government would go a long way for both consumer trust, and to reduce instances of contaminated products.

Without coherent federal policy, we worry that people will continue to get sick — and if they do, it will be quite difficult to trace the contaminated supply back to where it was sold. 

At the same time, people get sick from all sorts of contaminated legal products. We don’t ban eggs when there are salmonella outbreaks. 

But until we have federal regulation, it’s buyer beware.

🚀 Deals, launches, and partnerships

New York City is getting another new dispensary: Silk Road NYC, the first Bangladeshi-owned pot shop, will have its grand opening in Jamaica, Queens at 10 am today. 

And in other New York news, cannabis company Etain will open White Plains’ first dispensary on March 1, in partnership with investment firm RIV Capital

If that wasn’t enough New York news, Issa Vibe, a female-owned New York City brand, launched its first product line — a 0.5 mg disposable vape, on Thursday. 

Canadian cannabis company Tilray is launching two infused cold brew teas — in Peach Cranberry and Wildberry Hibiscus flavors — under its premium Solei brand in Canada. 

Vape company Ispire is partnering with Berify in a joint venture to develop secure solutions for “age-gating” vaporizers and e-cigs. 

Cannabis real estate lender AFC Gamma is splitting off its cannabis business into its own company. Its commercial real estate portfolio will become Sunrise Realty Trust, and keep its Nasdaq listing. 

🎒 What we’re reading

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