As the cannabis industry grows, generating an estimated $10 billion in
annual sales, states are increasingly approving medical marijuana
programs and passing adult-use laws.
But for marketing agencies, marijuana dispensaries and cannabis
brands, advertising the pot brings its own hurdles.
Online platforms with prime advertising space like Facebook and Google
do not allow drug, or drug-related promotions on their sites, leaving
a large share of marijuana advertising to blogs and podcasts,
newsletters and print media. And while experts say Facebook and Google
- -- which control the lion's share of digital advertising in the
country -- are unlikely to change their policies until pot is
legalized at the federal level, and television and radio come with
their own sets of rules, industry members are left to navigate a
complex web of state-by-state regulations.
[continues 595 words]
As one of the first lawyers in Pennsylvania to venture into the legal
world of medical marijuana and hemp, I have had the pleasure to work
and assist with the development of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana
program. I could not be happier to see these dispensaries opening and
helping the sick get relief.
However, a problem has developed that will make it very difficult for
many of the patients who most need the medicine to receive it.
The problem stems from the law's requirement that a medical marijuana
dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care
[continues 622 words]
At the height of a heroin epidemic in Vancouver, British Columbia,
Inspector Bill Spearn -- then a rookie cop -- was assigned to a beat
in the heart of the crisis.
It was 1996, and though he had been responding to overdose after
overdose in Downtown Eastside, one of Canada's poorest postal codes,
Spearn wanted no part of the harm-reduction measures the city was
considering to save the lives of people in addiction.
A safe injection site, where drugs could be used under medical
supervision, was out of the question: "I thought it would be a big
magnet," he told a crowd at Temple University Medical School on Monday
night. "I thought it would empower people to use drugs." A few years
later, with the debate still raging, he left the neighborhood for
another position in the police department.
[continues 729 words]
A marijuana advocate who invited hundreds of people to his pot-smoking
party at a Philadelphia warehouse has been fined, ordered to perform
community service and sentenced to four years' probation.
Philly.com reports that Richard Tamaccio Jr. was sentenced Wednesday
after pleading guilty in January to felony drug charges. His lawyer
described him as a "true crusader" for marijuana legalization.
Prosecutors say Tamaccio was charged for facilitating the sale of
marijuana at the party last April and for possessing about nine pounds
of marijuana plants and products at his home.
The city in 2014 made possession of small amounts of the drug
punishable only by a citation and a fine, but marijuana sales weren't
Twenty-one other people were also arrested at the party.
The inspiration arrived in a haze at a Paul McCartney concert a few
years ago in San Francisco.
"People in front of me started lighting up and then other people
started lighting up," said Matthew Springer, a biologist and professor
in the division of cardiology at the University of California-San
Francisco. "And for a few naive split seconds I was thinking to
myself, 'Hey, they can't smoke in AT&T Park! I'm sure that's not
allowed.' And then I realized that it was all marijuana."
[continues 1149 words]
In Kensington, this much is clear: No other neighborhood in
Philadelphia has seen more overdose deaths, or more visible suffering
amid a city opioid epidemic that claimed an estimated 1,200 lives in
2017. Along with neighboring Fairhill, it occupies less than 2 percent
of Philadelphia's land area, but 18 percent of all city overdoses
occurred in that small space, according to an Inquirer analysis of
On Tuesday night, when city health officials arrive in the neighborhood
for a community meeting on the epidemic, they'll come armed with dire
statistics and information on the city's 18-point plan to fight the
crisis. But they won't have an answer to the question that's roiled the
neighborhood since the plan was announced in January: Will Kensington
host the first safe-injection site in the city, and possibly the
[continues 677 words]
The number of Pennsylvanian babies born with drug withdrawal symptoms
increased 10-fold in the past decade and a half, a symptom of an
increasingly deadly opioid epidemic plaguing the country, according to
a new state report.
In fiscal year 2017,15 in 1,000 Pennsylvanian newborns were diagnosed
with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a dramatic increase from fiscal
2001 when only 1.2 in 1,000 newborns had the diagnosis, the
Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council said in the report,
which was released Wednesday.
[continues 225 words]
Pennsylvania's commercial medical marijuana program is set to more
than double in size.
State officials Thursday announced the program was entering its second
phase, expanding from 12 to 25 cannabis producers and adding 23 more
The state also is launching a unique research effort that will run in
parallel to the established commercial program, conducting clinical
investigations into marijuana and selling to the public.
"From what I've seen and heard, there seems to be a high interest in
doing research around pain management and as a replacement for
opioids," John Collins, director of the state marijuana program, said
in a phone conference with reporters.
[continues 411 words]
Midway through a community meeting in Northeast Philadelphia on the
opioid crisis Monday, a man stood up at the back of the room and yelled
out a question to city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley: "Doctor, where
do you live? Can we put a safe injection site next door to you?"
The crowd of 150 in the Fox Chase community center applauded and burst
into shouts in a display that vividly showed the tough sales job the
city is facing as it tries to fulfill a promise to allow a place where
people in addiction can use drugs under medical supervision. As heroin
has been adulterated with the deadlier opioid fentanyl, often without
the user's knowledge, the overdose death rate has soared. Quick
administration of a reversal medicine can save lives.
[continues 678 words]
Is a marijuana dispensary an "unlawful" business? A federal judge in
Philadelphia will decide.
This arcane dispute over language in the deed of a marijuana
dispensary in Northeast Philadelphia could carry outsized
implications: A ruling by U.S. District Judge Gene Pratter could
affirm the superiority of federal law, which considers marijuana
illegal, over state law, where in Pennsylvania and 29 other states, it
Pratter's decision came Thursday in a strongly-worded memo that
described the case as "a fundamental clash between state and federal
[continues 739 words]
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has issued new regulations for
medical marijuana clinical research programs.
The regulations, released Friday, outline the process for an
accredited medical school with an acute care hospital to become an
approved "Academic Clinical Research Center" that can engage in
medical marijuana-related research projects with "clinical
registrants," an entity that can grow, process and dispense medical
The regulations also detail the application process for prospective
clinical registrants, how research studies are reviewed and approved
and how researchers may interact with the commercial medical marijuana
market. The health department will approve a maximum of eight clinical
[continues 270 words]
A former Pennsylvania narcotics agent will plead guilty to conspiring
to launder money from a seizure of nearly $1.8 million in illicit drug
proceeds in 2014, federal court records show.
By pleading guilty Timothy B. Riley, a retired state attorney
general's office agent, could be sent to prison for up to 20 years and
fined up to $500,000, according to a plea agreement filed in U.S.
District Court in Harrisburg.
Federal authorities charged Riley, 48, of Philadelphia, on Feb. 23
with accepting three cash payments totaling $48,000, which he knew was
stolen from a drug dealer. Riley then deposited the money and used it
in financial transactions, according to David Freed, U.S. attorney of
Pennsylvania's Middle District.
[continues 397 words]
Pennsylvania's recently launched medical marijuana program may have
unintentionally created a minefield that employers and patients across
the state have only begun to navigate:
Patients who use marijuana could end up losing their jobs as a
At a fact-finding hearing in Philadelphia City Council on Wednesday, a
panel of lawyers, business interests, and medical professionals hashed
over the murkier employment issues stirred up by the law.
The upshot: Patients currently have few -- if any -- workplace
protections. And until a lawsuit is filed, it's unlikely that patients
will know how strong those protections might be.
[continues 523 words]
When New Jersey State Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a 62-page bill
and primer on how to legalize marijuana almost one year ago, he
chuckled when asked if it had a prayer of passing.
The legal sale of recreational marijuana had not yet begun in any
other East Coast state, and yes, Chris Christie, the Republican
governor at the time, had threatened a veto.
The bill, Scutari insisted, would give lawmakers time to digest and
debate the issue so that a palatable package would be "ready for the
[continues 1067 words]
You think your taxes are high?
For medical marijuana dispensaries in the United States, they can be
stratospheric. Cannabis retailers face an effective tax rate of up to
85 percent, and that won't be reduced by the new tax law.
Most mainstream businesses pay effective tax rates of about 15 percent
to 30 percent.
"It's a burden," said Chris Visco, co-owner of TerraVida Holistic
Centers, which opened one of Pennsylvania's first medicinal cannabis
shops on Feb. 17 in Sellersville. "People think that we're getting
rich. It's really not the case. The profit margins are going to be
really narrow after taxes. And you have to still pay local and state
[continues 815 words]
Too much demand. Not enough supply.
Less than two weeks after it launched, Pennsylvania's medical
marijuana program is a victim of its own success.
The two open marijuana dispensaries in the Philadelphia region
reported Friday they had sold out of most medicines and might not be
restocked until after March 15.
"We have no inventory," said Chris Visco, co-owner of the TerraVida
Holistic Center in Sellersville, Bucks County. "We took a shipment on
Wednesday. On Thursday we had the biggest sales day we've ever had. By
this morning, all we had left were a handful of disposable vape pens,"
a type of electronic cigarette loaded with hash oil.
[continues 298 words]
The amount of industrial hemp cultivated in Pennsylvania is about to
The Department of Agriculture this month approved 39 research projects
that will allow cultivation of about 1,000 acres of marijuana's
non-psychoactive cousin. Last year, 14 growers produced a total of 36
acres of hemp statewide.
In the southeastern region of the state, permission to grow hemp was
granted to farmers in Bucks, Chester, Lancaster, and Montgomery
Counties. Those cultivators will be required to pay a $2,000 permit
fee. After the paperwork has cleared, the state Bureau of Plant
Industry will submit orders for hemp seed to the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency which must approve importation of the seed into the U.S.
Industrial hemp is grown for fiber and seed. It must maintain a
concentration of the psychoactive compound THC below the 0.3 percent
Limited quantities, sticker shock, and some mislabeled product.
The first week of medical marijuana sales in Pennsylvania was marked
by these birthing pains. On the whole, retailers and the Department of
Health said the launch of the nascent industry - expected to grow into
one of the nation's largest markets - had largely gone "as hoped."
"We've been working to get medicines to patients as quickly as we
can," said department spokeswoman April Hutcheson. "To see that come
to fruition is a big win for the moms with sick children and all the
patients who needed this medication."
[continues 526 words]
Philadelphia is evolving into a safe haven for cannabis consumers even
as arrests increase across Pennsylvania. Newly-elected District
Attorney Larry Krasner announced Thursday that he would drop any
marijuana possession cases brought to the court by police.
A 2014 decriminalization ordinance allowing tickets caused common weed
arrests to decline by more than 85 percent. Still, I reported last
year that hundreds of racially disparate cases were still being
brought to Philly courts each year for less than 30 grams of buds.
[continues 639 words]
The medical marijuana dispensary that opened in Camden County in
September 2015 is the busiest of the five that have opened in New
Jersey since the program began seven years ago, according to a
Department of Health annual report.
Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center, in an industrial
park in tiny Bellmawr, served 2,762 patients and sold nearly 885
pounds of cannabis in 2016, the report said. The state had nearly
10,800 registered patients as of the end of last year.
[continues 603 words]
The Rothman Institute at Jefferson, one of the nation's largest
orthopedic practices, announced Thursday it would collaborate on a
study to investigate the benefits of medical marijuana for patients
suffering from chronic and acute pain.
Rothman will work with Franklin BioScience, a Colorado-based cannabis
grower and retailer. Franklin BioScience expects to open a medical
marijuana dispensary in late-March called Beyond Hello in Bristol
Township, Bucks County.
"There's a link between access to cannabis and reduced opioid
overdoses," said physician Ari Greis, a Rothman pain management
specialist who will oversee the research. "We're all being cautiously
optimistic that it could be helpful to some of our patients. Because
we're leaders in orthopedic medicine, we feel this is an opportunity
we can't pass up."
[continues 513 words]
Robert Consulmagno walked into TerraVida Holistic Center in
Sellersville around 9:30 a.m. Saturday and left half an hour later
feeling hopeful for the first time in a while.
"Help is on the way," Consulmagno said, lifting his purchase –
a vape pen and cartridge of 500 mg of "Keystone Kush" – to
applause from dispensary staff. "I've been waiting a long time for
Consulmagno, a disabled Marine veteran who suffers from bipolar
disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, was the first person to
buy medical marijuana from TerraVida, one of two dispensaries to open
in the Philadelphia area Saturday. The other, Keystone Shops, is in
Devon. Pennsylvania's first dispensary opened Thursday in Butler,
followed by others in Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, and Enola on Friday.
[continues 917 words]
Thank you, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, for giving me
cover so I don't wind up being painted as the "worst person in the
world," the label Keith Olbermann used on his TV show to hang on
people he didn't like.
I have been silent as the opioid epidemic raged because I had no
clear-cut solution. The debate currently swirls around the idea of
city-approved "safe injection sites," more formally known as CUES --
comprehensive user engagement sites.
[continues 545 words]
Three weeks ago, after Philadelphia announced that it would encourage
the opening of a safe injection site, I praised the decision as a bold
kind of leadership. It showed that the city was stepping on the
national stage in the middle of a life-and-death catastrophe.
I still think that. Now the city has to sell it.
Sure, it's only been three weeks. But in the absence of an immediate
city PR strategy for saving lives - it feels funny even writing that -
you can feel myths proliferating. The city cannot simply react to the
discourse. It must help lead it.
[continues 805 words]
A coffee-like plant from southeast Asia was classified Tuesday as a
dangerous opioid by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Kratom is an unregulated plant imported from southeast Asia which is
commonly sold in convenience stores and used as a home remedy to combat
pain and opioid withdrawal, among other uses.
The FDA posted reports of kratom-related deaths on its website in
December and again earlier this week.
Here are a few examples of kratom-related deaths from those reports:
[continues 519 words]
States with medical marijuana dispensaries saw "a significant decline"
in opioid deaths over a 10-year period, according to a report
published this week by the Journal of Health Economics.
"The evidence suggests that Pennsylvania will see a reduction in
opioid dependence and a reduction in overdose deaths" following the
opening of the dispensaries, said David Powell, an economist for the
RAND Corporation, in an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News.
Pennsylvania is launching its first dispensaries next week, with the
first medical marijuana products expected to be available to
registered patients on Feb. 15.
[continues 390 words]
A Philly nurse on safe injection sites
"You want me to do what?" "Where's your compassion?" "What a waste of
resources!" "I have an obligation to help people stay healthy."
These are conflicting responses I imagine nurses and health-care
professionals may have when asked to provide care at safe injection
sites, places where people can use drugs under medical supervision.
There aren't any such sites right now. But the City of Philadelphia
announced that it will encourage setting them up. Should health-care
professionals participate? It's a dilemma wrought with ethical, moral,
legal, and regulatory issues and more questions than answers. As a
nurse, I can understand and appreciate both sides.
[continues 551 words]
Should New Jersey residents be able to grow their own marijuana at
A top-ranking Garden State assemblyman thinks so.
Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer) is the deputy majority leader in the
Assembly and a prosecutor in Lawrence Township. He's also running to
be mayor of New Jersey's capital city.
Gusciora believes residents should be allowed to cultivate up to six
cannabis plants indoors for their personal use if recreational
marijuana becomes legal in the state.
"Looking at the marijuana laws in place in California, Oregon,
Washington and the like, I thought that homegrown should be an
essential element of the New Jersey law, too," Gusciora said.
[continues 332 words]
A new multi-site study has found that children with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to engage in substance
use than youngsters without the disorder and had higher rates of
marijuana and cigarette use going into adulthood.
The study's takeaway message, suggested lead author Brooke Molina,
should be that parents of children with ADHD need to keep in touch
with their children's activities and friends, even into the teenage
"They should keep their antenna up," said Molina, a psychiatry
professor with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
[continues 433 words]
It was an idea born in the middle of a devastating epidemic with an
ever-rising death rate. It drew the ire of state officials, threats to
arrest those who operated it, and fears that it would encourage drug
use and addiction.
No, Philly did not just approve of 'Hamsterdam'
It was a needle exchange to prevent reusing hypodermic needles, and
the year was 1991.
Twenty-seven years later, those involved in the struggle to open
Prevention Point - still Philadelphia's only needle exchange - say the
parallels are clear between that fight and the city's decision to
encourage the opening of safe injection sites, where people in
addiction can inject drugs under medical supervision and access treatment.
[continues 853 words]
On Tuesday, Philadelphia officials took a bold step in addressing the
opioid crisis that has increasingly plagued the region, by supporting
the creation of medically supervised facilities where heroin users can
safely inject drugs.
While other cities, including Seattle and Baltimore, are also moving
toward the safe site model, no city in the United States yet has an
operating, sanctioned injection facility. The policy is controversial
and polarizing, raising questions by public officials and citizens
about legality, morality, and how to address a public health crisis -
not to mention the logistical details of where and how such sites
[continues 207 words]
Safe injection sites where addicts can shoot up in a supervised
setting could be a hard concept for many to grasp as anything but an
invitation for users to inject poison into themselves with the city's
To believe that, though, would be a mistake. Philadelphia announced
Tuesday it would support the idea of sites that would not only provide
medical supervision to addicts but give them access to treatment and
other services. Such a move won't solve the deadly opioid crisis, but
is intended to be damage control ... literally. Such sites may
control the fatal damage that drugs are inflicting, in a crisis that
has laid waste to thousands of lives and families.
[continues 443 words]
When I think about the people I've met in Kensington over the last
eight months, the people who've opened up to me about their addiction,
about their lives, talking to me from the cardboard mattresses and
train bridges and alleyways and library lawns where they live, I think
about the ones I haven't seen in a while.
No, Philly did not just approve of 'Hamsterdam'
Could City Council block Kenney's proposed safe injection sites?
I think about how many of them by now are dead.
[continues 752 words]
When it comes to legalizing marijuana Congressman Dwight Evans (D-Pa.)
is "one thousand percent on board."
When it comes to legalizing marijuana U.S Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) is
"one thousand percent on board," he told me by phone on Thursday afternoon.
Evans officially signed on to HR 1227 Wednesday, a bill that would
remove cannabis and hemp from federal drug scheduling completely.
"This is what the people want in the state," said Evans.
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act is sponsored by Rep.
Tulsi Gabbard, a rising Democrat from Hawaii, and Rep. Tom Garrett, a
more libertarian-styled Republican from Virginia.
[continues 265 words]
A 10th medical marijuana grower has been approved to begin cultivation
in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Health. Holistic
Farms LLC was granted permission Friday to plant its first cannabis
crop in Lawrence County, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.
That leaves only two of the 12 companies with permits yet to be
approved. AES Compassionate Care plans to open in Chambersburg in the
south-central part of the state; AgriMed Industries of Pennsylvania is
expected to operate in Carmichaels, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. It
was unclear why they have yet to receive approval. Grow houses must
undergo several inspections and be plugged into the state seed-to-sale
tracking system. Representatives of the companies could not be reached
[continues 181 words]
Pennsylvania will no longer provide the names of medical marijuana
patients to law enforcement agencies.
The state Department of Health made the announcement late Friday
afternoon in the wake of an Inquirer and Daily News story that called
attention to the fact that marijuana patients would not be able to buy
The department also called for the federal government to reclassify
marijuana, essentially demanding that it legalize cannabis on a
national level. Currently, the Drug Enforcement Administration
considers all forms of the plant to be "without any accepted medical
use," "highly addictive," and on par with LSD and heroin. Last week
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed Obama-era policies and
said federal prosecutors had the discretion to crack down on
participants in state-legal marijuana programs.
[continues 376 words]
The second coming of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania is entering its
second year, with greater opportunities available to interested
farmers, researchers and entrepreneurs thanks to the expanded scope of
the Department of Agriculture's pilot program.
But you still need approval from the state to grow hemp, and the Jan.
19 application deadline is fast approaching. Here's what prospective
applicants need to know:
How to apply: Here's the agriculture department's industrial hemp
landing page, and here's a direct link to the application.
[continues 863 words]