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Massachusetts Exceeds $1 Billion in Cannabis Sales

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Amidst the hype and anxiety of election headlines, Massachusetts officials announced that the state has now collected more than $1 billion in gross cannabis sales since legalization first began.

This information comes from a seed-to-sale tracking system that is mandatory in the state through the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. The Commission reported that as of October 30, the state’s 80 cannabis retailers had reached over $1 billion in sales ($1,000,521,905 to be exact). Now two years after cannabis was legalized in the state, the numbers are expected to continue to increase.

During the first year of legal sales across Massachusetts (in November 2018), cannabis retailers across the state made $393.7 million in total sales. In 2019, the state collected $444.9 million in sales. This represents a huge leap in sales and reflects the growing popularity of recreational cannabis in the New England state. “This sales milestone represents licensees’ ability to successfully support a safe, accessible, and effective adult-use industry, and I am pleased the resulting tax benefits will have a significant impact on communities throughout the Commonwealth,” said Commission Chairman Steven J. Hoffman. “These numbers also speak to Commission licensing and enforcement staff working around the clock to make sure these businesses and their products comply with all of our regulations, especially the health and safety provisions. Each year, as this marketplace matures, the public will continue to see progress on state mandates and Commission objectives, including our commitment to equity, and the steps we have taken in 2020 are evidence of that.”

As of this year, sales were even higher, coming in at $539 million in spite of the COVID-19 closures that rocked the country. Massachusetts was one of the few states that didn’t deem cannabis businesses essential.

Now that businesses have reopened in Massachusetts, the Commission is making sure that social distancing, sanitation, curbside service and other safe practices are the norm. Despite taking those precautions and cutting down on the number of people inside stores, sales have continued to climb. Over the past two years, Massachusetts has collected $122 million in tax revenue, which funds various state programs.

The Commission’s goal is to come up with a reliable database that will provide information to law enforcement and state officials to make sure that cannabis is not getting into the hands of youth or the illicit market. By closely tracking sales, the Commission is able to both provide economic information and make sure the industry is staying safe.

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United Nations Reclassifies Cannabis

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The United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs has voted to reclassify cannabis as less dangerous than other, more harmful substances.

On December 2, the commission officially voted to reclassify cannabis from its current position as a Schedule IV substance. The commission meeting was made up of 53 member states and took place in Vienna, Austria. The decision to reclassify was close, a mere two-vote difference at 27 to 25, with Ukraine declining to vote. Countries who voted in favor of reclassification included the United States, many countries in Europe, China, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. This decision comes over a year-and-a-half after the World Health Organization recommended cannabis reclassification in February 2019.

Nearly 60 years have passed since the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs went into effect, which originally classified cannabis as a Schedule IV substance. Other substances in this classification include heroin, among other dangerously addictive substances.

The New York Times notes that this landmark decision won’t make any immediate waves in terms of how governments decide to categorize cannabis. However, the United Nations’ decision will likely affect future decisions because of its global influence—and has the potential to help cultivate even more interest and acceptance in studying the plant and its many properties. “This is a huge, historic victory for us, we couldn’t hope for more,” Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, an independent substance researcher, told The New York Times.

Although cannabis’ reclassification is a welcome change, the commission did reject a proposal, referred to as Recommendation 5.5, to exempt CBD with less than 0.2 percent THC. “The establishment of the 0.2% THC limit is not supported by scientific evidence, and the proposed wording does not exclude divergent interpretations concerning the calculation of that limit,” said Germany’s UN representative, Gerhard Kuentzle, told Hemp Industry Daily. “However, we would welcome further consultation with all relevant stakeholders on the recommendation on the appropriate level of the international control for cannabis preparations with low THC content.”

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Man Serving Life in Prison for Cannabis Petitions for Compassionate Release

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A man from Saint David, Maine who is currently serving life in prison due to a cannabis-related conviction has asked to be released from prison due to testing positive for COVID-19.

At 64 years of age, Michael Pelletier, is elderly, disabled and serving a life sentence for smuggling cannabis. His conviction included running illegal cannabis across the Canadian border between January 1, 2003 and March 31, 2006. He was also convicted of money laundering, Social Security fraud and other crimes in July 2007.

Now residing at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, Pelletier was one of approximately 90 inmates who contracted COVID-19 in September 2020. Following his recovery, Pelletier is planning to request that he be released from his sentence to live out his days in Florida with a family member who can take care of him.

The US attorney’s office in Maine is against Pelletier’s release, but stated that he does meet the requirements for compassionate release. In order to qualify, prisoners must be age 65 or older, have served at least 10 years (or 75 percent) of their prison term and are in a state of deterioration and failing health. According to the Bangor Daily News, Pelletier is prediabetic, “nearly obese” and unable to push himself in his wheelchair, which he has been confined to since he was 11 years old.

Pelletier’s defense states that he qualifies for compassionate release from prison so that he can be safe from future COVID-19 outbreaks outside prison walls. The defense also brings up the fact that cannabis is no longer illegal in many parts of the US and Canada.

Pelletier has received an official date set for his request to be released. Outside the prison walls, his family is rooting for him. His sister launched an online petition asking President Donald Trump to pardon Pelletier. The petition currently has 114,780 signatures out of a required 150,000, as of Tuesday, December 1.

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Thailand to Allow Cannabis Compounds in Makeup and Food

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The Government of Thailand released the details of an initial proposal that would allow cannabis leaves, branches, bark, trunks, stems, fibre and roots in certain food, fiber and makeup products.

These regulations will officially be created by the country’s Food and Drug Administration, according to Narcotics Control Committee member Dr. Kiattiphum Wongrajit. These regulations will also include text specifying that hemp seeds, hemp extract, CBD and THC, as long as it does not contain more than the maximum 0.2 percent THC content.

Similar to cannabis regulations in other countries, Thailand’s cannabis industry will be government-mandated, and cannabis can only be cultivated by authorized growers. However, FDA secretary-general Paisal Dunkhum stated that they don’t plan to implement a limitation on how many plants can be grown by those who are authorized. In addition to this, the report also proposes rules for official research teams and recommendations on how doctors will also be able to prescribe cannabis products in certain cases.

While other Southeast Asian countries have not made progress on the cannabis front, Thailand was the first to legalize medical cannabis. Now, the country is poised to be a major leader in the industry. The government has already invested over $4 million into indoor growing in order to produce premium crops.

Earlier this year in January 2020, the Thailand government unveiled a cannabis leaf mascot to help educate people on the benefits of medical cannabis. The government also made its plans to deliver one million bottles of cannabis oil through its first approved indoor grow facility. “Thailand has shown itself to be a leader of legislative reform among Asian nations, in relation to medical cannabis,” said Barbara Pastori, head of cannabis market intelligence firm Prohibition Partners told Bloomberg in January 2020. “This is likely to be the case with recreational cannabis also, particularly if there remains strong political will to do so.”

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