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Our marijuana news recap for May 2021 covers the most important cannabis industry stories of the month. May was a big month for cannabis reform and legislation, some good, some bad. In Mississippi, the Supreme Court threw out a voter-passed medical cannabis initiative. In Alabama, medical cannabis was legalized. Here’s a rundown of May’s trending stories.

DEA Will Grant Cultivation Licenses for Cannabis Research

In a historic move, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it would be granting cannabis cultivation licenses to third-party applicants for the purpose of cannabis research. Currently, the only supplier for cannabis research in the United States is the National Center for the Development of Natural Products at the University of Mississippi.

Colorado & New York Ban Delta-8 THC & Other THC Isomers

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-8 THC, has been on regulators’ radar as of late. In May, New York and Colorado regulators banned THC isomers derived from hemp such as delta-8 THC.

Colorado

In Colorado, regulators banned THC isomers (including delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10) derived from hemp in foods, drinks, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. They argued that these chemically modified cannabinoids were “non-compliant with the statutory definition of ‘industrial hemp product.’”

New York

New York joined at least 11 states that have already addressed these cannabinoids. The Department of Health issued clarified hemp regulations to state that hemp-derived cannabinoid products may “not contain synthetic cannabinoids, or cannabinoids created through isomerization.”

Mississippi Supreme Court Throws Out Medical Cannabis Initiative

Earlier in the month, a Mississippi Supreme Court struck down a medical cannabis legalization initiative that voters overwhelmingly passed in November 2020. The court ruled that the initiative should be thrown out due to the state’s out-of-date ballot measure system

The state secretary of state announced he would not challenge the Supreme Court justices to change their rulings. Instead, he would call Governor Tate Reeves to set up a special session of the legislature to fix the technicality that caused the initiative to be thrown out.

Minnesota Approves Medical Cannabis Flower Use

In late May, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill that allows registered medical marijuana patients who are 21 or older to buy and use medical cannabis flower. The law will go into effect no later than March 2022. 

The initiative also makes way for:

  • Curbside pickup for medical cannabis patients
  • Increases the number of patients a caregiver can serve from 1 to 6
  • Allows the commissioner to remove qualifying conditions if petitioned

Alabama Legalizes Medical Cannabis

It’s official. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill that legalized medicinal cannabis use making it the 36th state to do so. The law went into effect immediately.

Under the bill, patients with the following qualifying conditions could use medicinal cannabis:

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  • Autism
  • Cancer-related weight loss
  • Crohn's
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy or condition causing seizures
  • HIV/AIDS-related nausea or weight loss
  • Panic disorder
  • Parkinson's
  • Persistent nausea not related to pregnancy
  • PTSD
  • Sickle cell
  • Spasticity associated with diseases including ALS and multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries
  • Terminal illness
  • Tourette’s
  • Chronic pain for which conventional therapies and opiates should not be used or are ineffective

Patients would have a possession limit of “70 daily dosages” at one time. Each dose would have a maximum of 50 milligrams.

In addition, edibles and smokable cannabis products would be prohibitive. Medical patients could purchase topicals, transdermal patches, suppositories, lozenges, gummy cubes, tinctures, oral tablets, and liquids for inhalers.

West Virginia Opens Patient Registration for Medical Cannabis Cards

Almost 4 years after voters legalized medical cannabis, regulators are finally letting eligible patients register for medical cannabis cards. Patients must first obtain a recommendation from a registered physician and then apply for a patient identification card on the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) website.

New Hampshire Expands Medical Cannabis Patient Eligibility

Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire signed HB 89 expanding the number of patients eligible for medical cannabis. The law allows doctors to recommend medical cannabis for patients with moderate or severe insomnia as well as pediatric patients with an autism spectrum disorder. The law goes into effect on July 21.

The governor also signed HB 163, which directs the state’s health department and medical dispensary staff to provide patients with materials and counseling on the dangers of cannabis use during pregnancy.

Georgia Expands Medical Cannabis Program

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 195 effectively expanding the state's medical cannabis program. The law would establish up to 30 state-licensed retailers of high CBD/low-THC oil. The law takes effect on July 1, 2021.

In 2015, eligible patients would possess oil extracts containing not more than 5% THC, but the law did not set up a regulatory framework for patients to obtain these low-THC products.

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Over the next few months, regulators are expected to award licenses to eligible applicants to start growing cannabis and manufacturing oil extract products.

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