What’s next for hemp and cannabis in Florida • Acreage Holdings’ multimillion dollar boost • & more…


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What’s next for hemp and cannabis in Florida?

On Thursday, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee held a meeting by conference call, and we decided to listen in. Two major topics emerged: whether smokable hemp would be allowed in the final hemp rules, and whether lawmakers would earnestly revisit a 10% THC cap for medical cannabis flower. 

First, on hemp. The state has drafted final rules for its program, and will wrap public comment at the end of October. So far, what’s circulating is likely to be what is sent to the USDA for approval, as no major changes have been suggested after internal review. The program is on track to be up and running by the end of 2019.

Jimmy Johnston, a plant specialist at the University of Florida’s Industrial Hemp Program and the North Florida chapter president of the Weed For Warriors Project, asked, “Where do we stand on smokable or inhalable products?”

Steven Hall, general counsel for the agriculture department, responded, “The statute on hemp extracts only references that the department is going to regulate those that are to be ingested, which means by any definition going into the digestive tract. Which is not smokable or inhaled. So, the department is not going to regulate them.”

He continued, “I’m not going to opine on what I think that means. I will tell you there are lawyers who will tell you that that means that if it’s not regulated that means you can do what you want to. And there are some that say this is a highly regulated area and if it’s not specifically allowed then you shouldn’t do it. I would encourage everybody to take their own counsel. But I suspect a lot of people will be … selling those products.”

The conversation briefly turned to edibles regulation, which the state health department is working on, along with potential new labeling requirements for cannabis products. 

Then, the conversation turned to a 10% THC cap proposed by Rep. Ray Rodrigues earlier this year. Barry Gordon, the chief medical officer of the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic, said, “we can fully expect the 10% THC cap to be revisited in the coming session because Rep. Rodrigues said that it would be revisited.”

Gordon then spoke of a House Health & Human Services Committee meeting held earlier this month during which Rodrigues brought in Bertha Madras, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, to speak about cannabis. Cannabis legalization is likely to be on the 2020 ballot, as there are already two efforts underway, one backed by MedMen, as Cannabis Wirereported last month. Gordon described her presentation as “a very stunning one hour rebuke of cannabis.”   

In response to a question by Gordon asking if he would agree with the point about the THC cap being revisited, Ron Watson, the director of governmental relations for state medical cannabis company MuV, said, “I would say it’s in play,” adding, “But I would suggest everything is in play right now. They seem to be focused on rec, but the vaping issue could be in play as well.”

Sally Kent Peebles, a partner at cannabis-focused consulting firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, asked if the doctors in the ag department’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee could deliver a “rebuttal” in front of those same lawmakers. Elaine Geller, the vice president of legislative affairs at Amercanex, said, “I think we need to be very aggressive about this,” and, regarding lawmakers, “not expect them to do the right thing, as they very rarely do.”

The group agreed that it would make sense to ensure they have a coordinated and loud voice as lawmakers prepare for robust debate on adult use cannabis in 2020. 

CBD shows promise as a complementary therapy for some leukemia patients. 

Mexican researchers have shown that cells derived from acute lymphoblastic leukemia of T lineage “are highly sensitive to CBD treatment.” The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Death & Disease

“CBD directly targets mitochondria and alters their capacity to handle [mitochondrial calcium] overload,” the research noted. So, “at lethal concentrations, CBD causes mitochondrial [calcium] overload, stable mitochondrial transition pore formation and cell death.”

Ultimately, this is what is believed to be the possible leukemia cancer cell-killing mechanism, though researchers suggest CBD could be an added treatment, rather than replacement. 

“Our results suggest that CBD is an attractive candidate to be included into chemotherapeutic protocols for T-ALL treatment,” the research concluded.

Acreage Holdings’ $18 million boost.

The company announced Friday a property sale and leaseback deal with GreenAcreageReal Estate Corp., a REIT that focuses on cannabis properties, for properties in Massachusetts, Florida and Pennsylvania. The deal includes $18 million directly to Acreage, as well as more than $70 million investment into the properties. Another deal for properties in Illinois and Connecticut is forthcoming. 

Choom’s executive reshuffling. 

The Canadian adult use cannabis brand, which counts Aurora as a major investor, announced Friday that its new CEO will be Corey Gillon, who joined the company as president in July. Choom’s current CEO, Chris Bogart, will become president, and the company’s COO Michael Forbes will step down.

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