To say that the last three and a half months have been unprecedented would probably be the biggest understatement I’ve ever penned for The Marijuana Times. The spread of COVID-19 followed by massive civil unrest across the United States and surging unemployment have made the year 2020 one that those who have lived through it will never forget.
Every industry in existence has been affected in one way or another, to varying degrees. The cannabis industry has been no different. Activists and politicians have had to adjust, as have consumers and business owners.
And while the following is not a complete rundown of all the things that have been happening in the cannabis world, it is a good way to get caught up on news you may have missed while dealing with things in your own life.
On the political front, some lawmakers have seen the pandemic and unrest as a good opportunity to point out just how destructive drug policies have been, especially to minority communities. They are urging their colleagues to support marijuana law reform as a way to lessen the ability of law enforcement to target citizens on the pretext of enforcing laws that punish people who are not infringing on the rights of anyone else.
Depending on the state they are operating in, activists trying to get marijuana law reform measures on the ballot have seen varying levels of success. Those looking to legalize adult-use marijuana in Arizona were recently able to turn in some 420,000 signatures in an effort to get their measure on the November ballot. Activists in Montana were able to clock in with over 130,000 signatures covering two ballot measures, while those seeking to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska added almost 50,000 signatures to their efforts.
Unfortunately, voters in several states that looked like good prospects for adult-use legalization will have to wait for their chance, including Florida, Ohio, New York (which would have attempted legalization via the legislature) and Missouri. With in-person signature gathering severely hampered by efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and state legislatures being focused on other matters, many of the hopes for marijuana law reform in 2020 have been pushed to 2021 or 2022.
A plan to put legalization before voters in New Zealand also looks like it won’t be happening due to activists having to scrap plans for a nationwide roadshow, which pushed all their efforts to the digital realm.
On the “already legalized a long time ago” front, we have the state of Maine, where officials continue to limp toward adult-use cannabis sales that were tentatively scheduled for this spring, but that have now been pushed back to (maybe) this fall. Voters who approved legalization way back in 2016 in Maine continue to wait for some semblance of their will to be implemented.
Live sports have been another industry absolutely decimated by the COVID lockdowns, and for their part, the NBA has decided not to test players for recreational drugs (including marijuana) when play resumes later this year in Orlando. While it remains to be seen how long this policy will last, it’s clear that like many, officials with the NBA are realizing there are more important problems to deal with than whether players are toking up before or after games.
June also saw the final nail in the coffin for Medmen, once the largest and most valuable cannabis company in the U.S. The demise of Medmen has been on the horizon for quite a while, making the end not much of a surprise to those who have been following the saga.
On the medical front, many of you have probably seen claims online that cannabis is useful medically either for preventing or treating COVID-19, claims that have absolutely no proof to back them up. There are, however, researchers working to find out just what cannabis can do in that regard, including two scientists in Canada who are hopeful that cannabis strains can be used to work on the receptors that allow the coronavirus into the body in the first place.
Their study, published in April, reads in part: “Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract. Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility.”
It’s been a long three and a half months, and it looks like we aren’t even close to being out of the woods yet. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there are probably more catastrophes around the corner that we will have to deal with, including the unprecedented economic downturn we are in the midst of.
All we can do is take things one day at a time and stay as safe as possible, something I hope all of our readers are managing to do, whether you are doing it with the aid of cannabis or not.