Julie Aitcheson, Author at Green Market Report

Julie AitchesonJuly 9, 2021
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6min11250

Parades, fireworks, and barbecues aside, July is notable for two other commemorative events much newer to the calendar than Independence Day. July is National Hemp Month, and the period from July 17-23 has been designated as Hemp History Week. National Hemp Month is the brainchild of cannabis company cbdMD, initiated on February 4, 2019 to promote the benefits and dispel myths surrounding hemp-based products. Hemp History Week is in its 12th year as an industry-wide, week-long educational campaign about hemp. As stated by its website, “The campaign aims to raise awareness about the environmental, sustainability, health benefits, regenerative agricultural potential, and new technological applications of industrial hemp.”

Hemp is thought to have first made the scene as early as 8,000 B.C. in Asia. The Chinese were the first people to be associated with cannabis and “Ma” is the Chinese word for hemp. Once the Chinese discovered the dioecious nature of the plant, the males were called his and the females were chu. The Chinese knew that the male plants were best for fibers for clothes, while the female plants made better seeds. The men would harvest the hemp, but the women were the weavers. They would begin weaving in autumn and through winter in order to make their own clothes and to sell whatever was leftover.

Fast forward to America and most pre-Revolution pioneers processed their hemp for their own purposes leaving little left over to sell. England may have wanted its colonies to send hemp back, but little was leaving the new country. The Americans were getting so good at making their own hemp products that they began importing less from England. The Americans were even moving beyond personal production and moving towards the manufacturing of hemp products. In 1718, a number of Irish spinners and weavers arrived. These women showed the colonists how to produce even finer hemp fabrics causing a spinning craze among the Boston women. The 1765 Boston Stamp Act caused a boycott of English products, which pushed the colonists to make even more hemp clothes. 

Farmers were even required to grow hemp or be fined. Clothing, ropes, ship sails, currency, and paper were all made out of hemp in America. It was one of the most important crops in building the strength of the early days of the United States.

That is until it was ultimately made illegal in the 1930s. The most popular narrative is that the Department of Prohibition in D.C. found itself at loose ends after Prohibition ended and started to target marijuana in order to justify the human and economic resources required to keep the department going.  D.O.P. head Harry Anslinger went to great lengths to demonize marijuana in the eyes of the American public, but some economists and historians also suspect that the that the prohibition was due to powerful political and economic interests around oil, timber, and cotton. Whatever the reason, hemp took a major hit and is still struggling to recover its reputation and standing in the marketplace.

The 2018 passage of the Farm Bill with the Hemp Farming Amendment intact removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, and since then the industry has grown by leaps and bounds in sectors ranging from health and wellness to textiles and building materials like “hempcrete”. Cannabis companies like Colorado-based Receptra Naturals are enthusiastically jumping on board to offer discounts during National Hemp Month and events are popping up around the country in a targeted effort to celebrate and educate people about the history of hemp. In past years, product manufacturers such as Dr. Bronner’s, Nutiva, and Manitoba Harvest have offered discounts to celebrate hemp. 

 Whether by encouraging hemp consumers to continue supporting the industry with their purchases or educating the populace on hemp’s role in the past, present, and future of the U.S., cbdMD and the industry collective supporting July’s hemp-positive calendar commemorations are hoping that targeted efforts to raise awareness and garner voter support for hemp will make 2021 one that will go down in Hemp History as one that established hemp as an economic and agricultural staple in the United States. 


Julie AitchesonJuly 3, 2021
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The fastest woman in the world might just be 21-year-old sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, but Richardson tested positive for marijuana during the Olympic trials last week and so we may not get the chance to find out in Tokyo. Richardson’s suspension has set news outlets alight with commentary as fiery as her now-trademark mane of hair. 

Her Flo Jo-esque nail art and flamboyant style have captured the attention of leagues of fans during her competitions, but what Richardson is best known for is the incredible discipline, charisma, and speed that propelled her from challenging circumstances into track stardom. She became an overnight sensation at the Olympic trials last month, where she won the 100-meter dash an incredible burst before the finish line. 

The results of Richardson’s race, obtained on June 19, have been disqualified because of her positive drug test by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which announced that she will be granted the minimum penalty of a one-month suspension. Due to the fact that Richardson’s 100-meter win at the trials has been disqualified, she can no longer compete in the 100-meter race at the Olympics. This decision has sparked outrage and debate over the Anti-Doping Agency’s decision and its continued designation of marijuana as a performance-enhancing drug. (Marijuana’s utility for stress relief, recovery, and calm still qualifies it as “performance enhancing” by agency standards.) The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which handed down the decision to suspend Richardson, uses three criteria to determine which drugs athletes are prohibited from using. In a paper published in Sports Medicine, the WADA criteria that keep cannabis on the list are explained as follows: 

  1. “Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk-taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.”
  2.  “Based on current animal and human studies as well as on interviews with athletes and information from the field, cannabis can be performance-enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines.”
  3. “Use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and that may have performance-enhancing properties is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world”.

The WADA criteria have received a lot of push back even from USADA itself, which withheld annual dues from WADA this year in protest of its inability to change more quickly in the face of changing times and compelling evidence of its necessity. The WADA criteria also do not satisfy Richardson’s supporters and those who claim that this might just be yet another instance of race-based discrimination and a demonstration of the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs on people of color. Women Grow, an organization focused on supporting female leadership in the cannabis industry, issued a statement in support of Sha’Carri Richardson, calling for the decriminalization of cannabis in sports and declaring that the athlete should not be suspended but supported. “She chose a plant over pills—what a brilliant choice of a holistic alternative.”  

Jushi Holdings, Inc., a vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis operator, issued a statement as well, recalling that in 2020 the UN, on the recommendation of the World Health Organization, “recognized the beneficial properties of cannabis when it removed the substance from the most restrictive global scheduling category”. Jushi’s statement further affirmed that cannabis is “not recognized as able to enhance or otherwise impact physical performance” and that the decision to suspend Richardson was not only unjust, but “a result that perpetuates the inequities cannabis prohibition has fueled over the course of decades.”

“Let Her Run” has become the rallying cry behind the movement to allow Richardson to compete in the Olympics and pressure WADA and USADA to reconsider their designation of marijuana as a performance-enhancing drug. The steady march towards legalization in all states and the fact that Richardson consumed the marijuana in Oregon, where it is legal to do so, gives weight to the argument to allow Richardson her Olympic moment. NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri echoed these sentiments in his own statement. “To use this as a rationale for denying this athlete, who is otherwise competing at the top of her sport, the ability to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics should be an unacceptable outcome in this situation. Let Richardson race.”

Though Richardson has been removed from the Olympic team for the 100-meter race, there is a small chance that she could be selected as a member for the women’s 100-meter relay race in Tokyo since the WADA ban will end before the relay takes place. This would be at the discretion of the Olympic Committee and USA Track and Field. Richardson is not counting on being allowed to run in the relay, however, nor is she letting it dash her hopes for making her mark in track and field in the future. “I still have games in me,” she told Savannah Guthrie in an interview for television’s “Today”. “I’ll be back and ready to compete.”


Julie AitchesonJune 30, 2021
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The Seeds of Change Report, released by Leafly for the first time this month, is an examination of how social justice, equity, and inclusion policies are implemented across the United States’ 19 legal cannabis markets as well as how cannabis legalization can implement eight key strategies to make the industry more fair and equitable. One of the most glaring statistics found in the report reflects that while Black people make up 14 percent of the population of the United States, only 2 percent of America’s estimated 30,000 cannabis companies are Black-owned.

This type of data is hardly shocking considering the systemic inequalities that disadvantage people of color at consumer, production and entrepreneurial levels within the industry. Leafly’s report offers context to these inequalities by providing a history of race and cannabis in the US as well as policy recommendations, academic resources for legislators, and actionable strategies that consumers can implement to advocate for changes within the industry.

Aside from ranking 18 states and the District of Columbia according to social justice, equity, and inclusion (SJEI), The Seeds of Change Report identifies eight distinct SJEI strategies for lawmakers to incorporate within cannabis legislation. States were ranked based on the degree to which they are implementing these eight strategies, which include: a mandate for automatic expungement of cannabis records; safeguarding rights and accessibility for medical patients; allowing reasonably regulated home growing operations; dedicating cannabis tax revenue to healing rather than harm; gathering robust data and sharing it widely; reducing stigma through proactive programs and supporting cannabis career development opportunities.

Findings from the report showed that although 1 in 20 Black Americans holds business equity in any company, Black Americans hold business equity in only 1 in 50 cannabis companies.  It also found that the criminal justice system, historical economic persecution, and healthcare access are the three leading barriers to cannabis opportunity in the US. Of the eight SJEI strategies identified by Leafly, homegrow and medical cannabis programs were the two most popular employed by states where cannabis is legal, though only 53 percent of legal use states are effectively implementing equity-focused licensing initiatives. There is a near-universal deficit in public health resources to help destigmatize cannabis, with 89 percent of legal use states posting low numbers in that regard. 63 percent of legal-use states are not reinvesting into disproportionately harmed communities with their cannabis revenue and/or taxes.  

The highest SJEI strategy rankings go to Colorado, California, Illinois, and New York, while Alaska, Maine, Montana, and South Dakota garnered the four lowest spots. Even given the rampant nature of systemic inequality in the US, Leafly’s numbers are sobering and point to an ongoing need to confront the fact that, according to Seeds of Change author Janessa Bailey, “Black and brown communities continue to pay the highest price for cannabis prohibition.” She is hopeful, though, that the eight SJEI strategies proposed by the report “lay out eight real strategies that any state can include within cannabis legalization to build an industry that is as accessible as it is profitable.”

 


Julie AitchesonJune 22, 2021
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As of April 2021, seventeen states, two territories and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to regulate cannabis for adult use. In addition, Connecticut and Rhode Island seem poised to legalize adult use cannabis, Louisiana has decriminalized marijuana possession and Montana is establishing its own marketplace. Those are big gains, and they just keep coming. According to a recent analysis conducted by cannabis marketing company Digital Third Coast, consumers want even more access, more convenience, and also more restrictions, at least when it comes to advertising cannabis.

Digital Third Coast analyzed Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)searches in all fifty states and 34 of the largest U.S. cities where cannabis is not yet fully legal. The analysis was rounded out by a survey of over 1,000 Americans who were asked to offer their views on cannabis legalization, use, and marketing. The drive for legality as expressed by respondents appeared centralized in the West, with Wyoming at number one and North Dakota coming in second. West Virginia took a surprising third ranking, making it an outlier among its western counterparts, including Iowa and Nebraska, which rounded out the top five. States with mixed legality that includes medicinal programs, different laws governing CBD usage and, in some cases, decriminalized cannabis, ranked lowest in “cannabis curiosity”. The Google search data revealed a high volume of interest in legalization from those living in states where cannabis is already legal.

The top five cities Google searching terms like “state cannabis legalization” (Birmingham, AL, Charleston, SC, Cheyenne, WY, Nashville, TN and Omaha, NE) are all places where cannabis is completely illegal, but that isn’t stopping Digital Third Coast’s cross-section of America from enjoying cannabis. According to their results, 60 percent of respondents reported as cannabis users. 92 percent of respondents supported legalization, with 45 percent claiming that leaving whether to consume cannabis as a “matter of freedom or personal choice” was their primary reason for that support. This was almost double those who listed “medical reasons and palliative care” as a primary motivation (25%).

Not only did the majority of Google search results and U.S. citizens surveyed point to overwhelming support for legalization, but one in three Americans wants to see cannabis sold in supermarkets, gas stations, and grocery stores. Seven in ten want to see cannabis legalized at the federal level, which suggests a significant acceptance around the normalization of cannabis use and its integration into day-to-day life, as does the fact that fully 26 percent of respondents feel that cannabis dispensaries should not be banned from opening near schools, houses of worship or residential areas. There was strong support for making 21 the legal age for using cannabis, while 37 percent felt that 18 years of age would be more appropriate. There was significantly less support at the low and high ends of the scale, with only 7 percent supporting 25 as an appropriate legal age for use and 5 percent in support of making it 16 years.

Digital Third Coast doesn’t make any big leaps when it comes to using their data to draw conclusions about the future of cannabis legalization, passing the buck to lawmakers and with good reason. With 81 percent of respondents reporting their feelings that legalization would be helpful to society, lawmakers will have to sit up, take notice, and take action to keep the growing number of cannabis-positive constituents happy.


Julie AitchesonJune 16, 2021
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If you feel like you’ve been catching a lot of Delta-8 THC content in the media lately, those aren’t just your social media apps hacking your brain. Hemp-derived Delta-8 THC is having a big moment in 2021 in terms of popularity and, most recently, in terms of concerns over legality, safety, and accuracy. This hot new cannabinoid has been branded as “legal marijuana” as the main intoxicating compound in cannabis but one most commonly derived from hemp for commercial use. Social listening data reveals that conversations around Delta-8 grew by a whopping 163% from December 2020 to April 2021, but all is not rosy for this latest trend in cannabis or for companies jumping into production to respond to the surging interest.

Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, and Montana are among the states that have explicitly banned sales of Delta-8 and at least four other states have already removed it from the shelves or otherwise restricted market access. The 2018 Farm Bill categorically removed hemp from the definition of marijuana and modified the definition of tetrahydrocannabinol to exclude tetrahydrocannabinol in hemp. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s interim rule turned that segment of the Farm Bill on its head, declaring derivatives of hemp containing delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol in excess of .3% THC and all synthetic cannabinoids as controlled substances. 

Delta-8, which does not occur in levels sufficient to make commercial products in a cost-effective manner and therefore must be processed from CBD, lands it in the “synthetic” category according to the DEA definition. Some argue that this categorization is flawed given that Delta-8 is a naturally existing phytocannabinoid and that converting CBD to THC occurs via isomerization (the transformation of one isomer into another)—a process that does not fall within the DEA’s definition of a synthetic process. Though solid regulatory footing remains hard to attain as the debate rages on, cannabis companies are forging ahead with new products and campaigns, with mixed results.

Delta 9 or Delta 8?

A recent study by Leafreport found that out of 38 products tested, 63% contained the wrong amount of Delta-8 and more than 50% had illegal (over .3%) levels of Delta-9, containing as much as 15.2% THC. Delta-9 THC and cannabis plants that contain it are federally illegal with the exception of hemp, which contains too little (.3% or less of dry weight) Delta-9 to cause psychoactive effects. 34% of products in the Leafreport study did not clearly list Delta-8 content on the label or online product description, and 68% contained the wrong amount Delta-8 THC. The products most vulnerable to misreported Delta-8 levels were pre-rolls and gummies. Leafreport used a rating system based on the recommendation of industry experts that Delta-8 products have anywhere from 90% to 110% of the amount stated on the label. Using this metric, a full 32% of the products tested merited an “F” (Fail) accuracy rating.

Women Are The Majority of Buyers

The Brightfield Group, a CBD and cannabis consumer data and marketing intelligence company, recently conducted a study to assess Delta-8 consumer, product, and regulatory trends and found that only six months into the Delta-8 trend, 23% of Americans were aware of it, particularly among younger, city-dwelling cannabis users. Brightfield’s numbers show that for a growing segment of the population, Delta-8 is an affordable, convenient way to experience psychoactive cannabis, particularly where Delta-9 is illegal. Women make up the majority (53%) of consumers and curiosity is still the driving factor for those who purchase Delta-8. A full 20% of Delta-8 consumers do not use Delta-9 THC, which points to something unique about Delta-8. Anecdotal evidence suggests that may be a smoother, milder high and fewer side effects like anxiety and paranoia. 

It remains to be seen whether evolving regulations will grant companies the latitude to continue capitalizing on consumer interest as well as the known and as-yet-unknown applications of Delta-8, but as long as Delta-8 keeps a legal spot on the shelves in some states, there will be the supply and demand to keep it there.


Julie AitchesonJune 11, 2021
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Dad’s come in all shapes, sizes, and pronouns, but whomever you’re honoring this Father’s Day, cannabis companies are lining up to make sure those 4/20-loving father figures are well-celebrated. Whether your pops is a CBD-loving sports enthusiast, a special occasion smoker or a full-on Canna Dad, there is a green gift idea out there to bring a smile to any face.

High 90’s, a flavored cannabis brand, offers a selection of eight different flavored pre-rolls (including Gelato, Pink Lemonade, and a lemon lime soda flavor called “Double Cup”) that are particularly popular with Millennials. With 30-40% THC concentrate in every roll, High 90’s uses natural terpenes to create their unique flavors. Given that, according to a 2020 Headset report on the demographics of cannabis consumers, Millenials lead Gen X, Gen Z and Baby Boomers in marijuana consumption these days, a special treat from High 90’s may be just the thing.

If the dad in your life is of the sporty variety, Terravita’s Sport + Exercise collection offers plant-based energy supplements, muscle rubs and soothing bath soaks that combine natural remedies and CBD for targeted benefits ranging from stamina and endurance to stress management.  For the dad that likes to take that get-fit energy outside, Offield brings its CBD sports drink into the mix, containing not only hydrating electrolytes, CBD and adaptogens but the amino acid L-theanine to keep nerves soothed even when the heart is pumping.

If mellow trumps sporty in your dad’s lifestyle playbook, then a deeper dive into the old days of grass that didn’t kick you’re a– may be in order. Dad Grass offers organic CBD pre-rolls for that “lazy-day feeling of smoking a J” without the head trip of THC. (The company also offers a “Mom Grass” version as well as some sly merch like pre-rolls that come in cassette tape, sardine tin, or hardware packaging to keep the kiddos out of your stash.)  And as long as you’re helping to set a chill mood on dad’s day, why not throw a soy wax blend Four Twenty Candle by Homesick into that gift basket? With mood-lifting notes of bergamot, cedarwood, sandalwood, patchouli and musk rounding out the scent of good, clean weed, this candle has all of the soothe and none of the stink.

But what better pathway to a dad’s heart than through the stomach? Athelas’ THC-infused chip dips in ranch, french onion, and southwestern flavors pack 10 mg of THC into each container if savory flavors float your father’s boat. If sweet is more his thing, Satori S’mores chocolate-covered marshmallow minis rolled in graham cracker crumbs and infused with 5mg of THC each will take him back to those carefree days at summer camp before the thought of fatherhood ever crossed his mind. So whatever smokeable, spreadable, soakable or edible treat might be your favorite patriarch’s pleasure this year, 2021’s most innovative brands have this Father’s Day covered. 

Can’t get dad PGA tour tickets? Gift him another luxury –  MONOGRAM’s No.01 OG Handroll,  a one-of-a-kind offering for a one-of-a-kind dad that implements a proprietary rolling technique that allows the flower to burn slowly and evenly for multiple sessions. The latest offering from MONOGRAM, the first cannabis line from Shawn ‘JAY-Z’ Carter, the OG Handroll is a one-of-a-kind pre-roll taking inspiration from the smoke experience of a premium cigar for a one-of-a-kind dad. Hand-rolled using a proprietary technique, the OG Handroll is designed to burn slowly and evenly for multiple sessions so dad can unwind well past the holiday.

For dads always on the go,  Caliva Flowersticks and Fun Uncle Cruisers vapes make the perfect convenient gifts that are both discrete and easy to tote along. Fun Uncle Cruisers are the perfect gift for the dad always on the go. Available in 5 best-selling strains as 510 Universal cartridges, all strains test over 80% THC making them a sensational value for the quality and flavor. Fun Uncle Cruisers come in an array of delightful flavors and are available in hybrid, indica, and sativa.

For the dads that like a sweet treat DELI Nickels Gummy Rounds are deliciously chewy and fruity, sugar-dusted and deliberately affordable meaning you  won’t break the bank. To further celebrate the rockstar dad in your life, Caliva is also offering 25% off Mind Your Head products (the cannabis line from Mickey Hart, 2x Grammy award-winning percussionist for the Grateful Dead) from 6/17 to 6/20.


Julie AitchesonMay 26, 2021
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CBD watchdog Leafreport just released findings from a study revealing that 56 percent of pet products have inaccurate label claims. As is the case with products formulated for humans, this can lead to a waste of money at best and unanticipated negative health outcomes at worst. Leafreport sent 55 pet CBD products for independent testing at Canalysis Laboratories in Las Vegas. Most of the products tested were CBD oils but there were also some edibles and topical products in the mix. At Canalysis, technicians tested the products and recorded the results in certificates of analysis. Leafreport then compared the amount of CBD shown on the COAs to the advertised CBD content of each product and looked at what other cannabinoids were detected by the tests. The results suggest that despite the progress made regarding consistent quality and potency of products, there is still a ways to go.

It’s no secret that reliable testing of CBD and THC levels in products is challenging, particularly when it comes to edibles. In a recent study by Johns Hopkins, researchers discovered that only 17 percent of edibles were accurately labeled in regards to THC concentration while only one product tested with an accurate THC to CBD ratio.  

Consistent with similar findings on CBD products for humans, Leafreport found that pet edibles and topicals are usually less accurate than oils and tinctures, with many companies scoring particularly poorly for their edible pet products. Furthermore, when a company claims that a product contains “full-spectrum CBD”, as many edibles marketed towards pet owners do, that means that the product should contain some level of THC (.3% or less). Despite this, 22 out of the 55 products tested by Leafreport had no THC at all. Only 44% of the tested products had CBD levels within 10% of the label, which is required for an “A” rating in the report. Some products were off as much as 98.5 percent from the label’s claim. 

Most products (58%) contained more CBD than advertised. Pet CBD oils actually performed reasonably well, but poor results for edibles and topicals negatively impacted the overall accuracy of CBD pet product labeling. Of all of the products tested, standouts for label accuracy included a CBD oil from Joy Organics and both CBD chews and oil from Seattle-based company Austin and Kat. Some of the worst results were posted by Petly CBD’s Small Dog Tincture, which was 36.9% off from the advertised amount, while Blue Moon Hemp’s CBD Dog Tincture contained only 11.2 mg of CBD instead of the advertised 250 mg. These results are certainly enough to make pet owners sit up, take notice, and demand greater accuracy in advertising, not just for the sake of their budgets but for the health and well-being of their furry friends.


Julie AitchesonMay 20, 2021
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The results of Field Trip Health Ltd.’s (OTC: FTRPF) first annual “State of Mind” survey hold few surprises for those who have followed the news around the effects of the pandemic on mental health. Field Trip Health is the largest provider of psychedelic therapies in the world and initiated this survey to look into the state of mental and emotional health in the U.S., and to get a sense of how receptive respondents are towards incorporating psychedelics into treatment. 

Though there have been positive stories about those who took time to reconnect with family, enjoy a slower pace of life, and exercise more during the Covid crisis, over eight out of ten Americans surveyed by Field Trip reported at least one symptom of depression. This contrasts with the 76 percent of respondents who self-identified their mental health as “good” or better, which demonstrates a possible lack of understanding around the metrics of mental health and as well as a disparity between those metrics and self-perception. Younger Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 posted the highest results in self-reported symptoms of depression, while only 10 percent of those 65 years and older reported the same. Out of all respondents surveyed, a striking 1 in 4 reported that they have felt that they would be better off dead or thought of injuring themselves. 

Field Trip’s survey also revealed that while a substantial number of respondents (42%) are relying on the support of a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professionals for support, many Americans have turned to drugs and other vices as coping mechanisms to deal with negative thoughts or emotions. Those mechanisms include alcohol (with 37% reporting increased consumption since the pandemic began), porn, overeating, and gambling. The use of prescription medications and opioids increased as well. The survey also revealed that women were more likely than men to indicate negative mental health states and appear to have borne the brunt of negative mental health outcomes during the pandemic in addition to (and no doubt compounded by) the negative impacts on their professional and financial security.

While the survey results might not have been encouraging as far as the current state of mental health in the U.S. is concerned, it was optimistic regarding the role psychedelics might play in addressing the fallout from the last fifteen months of pandemic stress. Despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans reported never having tried psychedelics, a full 37 percent would support the use of psychedelic-assisted therapies after a description of the process, 24% would be open to trying those therapies, and 23% of respondents were curious to learn more about them. With more states making moves to legalize the use of psychedelics for the treatment of mental illnesses including PTSD and other trauma-related disorders, the receptivity to psychedelics as a therapeutic adjunct reported by Field Trip suggests that when those therapies become available, there will be a sizable population ready to seek them out.

 


Julie AitchesonMay 14, 2021
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Job growth for the United States in April 2021 might not have quite matched expectations with a disappointing increase of 266,000 jobs and an unemployment rate rise for the first time since 2020, but executive search and staffing firm Cannabiz Team’s latest Cannabis Industry Salary Guide for Q2 2021 tells a different story for the cannabis market. With 320,000 full-time cannabis jobs in the U.S., the cannabis industry ranks as the fastest-growing industry in America. As cannabis legalization spreads, projections have cannabis hitting $35 billion dollars in sales and providing 500,000 full-time jobs by 2024. Cannabiz’s report covers the rising demand for skilled staff, how this is driving compensation, and how big-name MSO’s are starting to scout outside of the industry for top-dollar talent.

At present, adult-use cannabis is legal in 17 states and D.C. and medical marijuana is legal in 36, with Connecticut, Minnesota, and Hawaii poised to follow suit. This not only means heightened demand for products, more growing operations, and production facilities coming online, and more business owners applying for licenses, but more jobs all around. Cannabiz’s Q2 jobs guide highlights where the “hot jobs” are in this expanding market, including those within supply chain management, large-scale cultivation, product and brand development, finance and accounting, administrative infrastructure, and retail. Cannabis salaries are up across the board in these sectors and others, with double-digit increases for experienced managers and C-suite executives. The report attributes these increases to competition and a shortage of employees with specialized cannabis experience or transferable skills. 

New recruits from outside the industry are coming from all corners of the U.S. economy, most significantly from the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, agricultural, medical supply, CPG, technology, and retail industries. John Deere, Proctor and Gamble (NYSE: PG), and Tesla are among the country’s largest companies from which multi-state cannabis operations are sourcing recruits. 

Unsurprisingly, California comes in first in the number of total cannabis jobs at 58,000, with Colorado and Florida nearly tied for second with 35K and 31K total cannabis jobs respectively. Oklahoma and Pennsylvania hover at the bottom of the “Top Cannabis Jobs” list by state with 17K and 16K respectively. 

With a cannabis company’s Chief Financial Officer’s earning potential placed at a high of over $400,00 a year according to Cannabiz data, it’s easy to see where those double digit increases fall, especially since jobs at the public-facing retail end, say for a budtender, top out at a high of around $40,000 a year. Lower-paying jobs did see a salary increase as well, though only in the single digits- a gap that stands to narrow as legalization, investment, and expansion maintains momentum for the cannabis industry.

 


Julie AitchesonMay 5, 2021
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The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has worked for the last 35 years to shift the perception around psychedelics as a treatment tool for mental health issues. Now, with the release of data from its Phase III trial with the FDA for the use of MDMA (ecstasy) to treat PTSD, MAPS’ work has coalesced into findings that could change the mental health treatment landscape as we know it. 

MDMA is on the cusp of FDA approval to treat PTSD, not just for military veterans, but for an array of people who have suffered from abuse and other trauma-inducing events. In 2017, the FDA granted MDMA “breakthrough therapy status” in anticipation of approving it as a medication for mental health, and the release of MAPS’ latest statistically significant findings constitutes a huge leap towards legalization. 

The conversation around the legalization of psychedelic drugs is not new to the mental health community. Trials testing the efficacy of psychedelics such as LSD for mental illness began as early as the 1950s. By the 1960s more than 1,000 papers had been published about LSD as a treatment for depression, alcoholism, schizophrenia, and as an adjunct to psychotherapy. These trials lacked the scientific rigor necessary for legitimacy in the eyes of the FDA, but due in no small part to the work of MAPS, legitimacy is no longer the stumbling block it once was.

 MDMA showed efficacy for treating PTSD in six MAPS Phase II trials, providing a cost-saving and clinically beneficial treatment for those with severe or extreme chronic PTSD resulting from any cause. The Phase III trial is the first of any psychedelic-assisted therapy. It was a randomized, blinded study designed under an FDA-approved Special Protocol Assessment. 90 patients with severe, chronic PTSD were enrolled in the trial and randomized to receive either MDMA or a placebo. The results, according to the lead author of the paper, Jennifer Mitchell, Ph.D., were significant. “People with the most difficult-to-treat diagnosis, often considered intractable, respond just as well to this novel treatment as other participants. In fact, participants diagnosed with the dissociative type of PTSD experienced a greater reduction in symptoms than those without the dissociative subtype.”

The Phase III trial data revealed that 67% of the group who received MDMA no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis after three treatment sessions (compared to 32% of the placebo group). 88% of participants in the MDMA sessions experienced a clinically significant reduction in symptoms, as opposed to 60% of the placebo group who received therapy alone. Mitchell attributes MDMA’s effectiveness to its role as a catalyst in therapy, which often involves recalling, and frequently reactivating, previous trauma. “The unique ability of MDMA to raise compassion and understanding while tamping down fear is likely what enables it to be so effective.”

Researchers are currently enrolling participants in a second Phase III trial and MAPS is formulating plans for additional studies to evaluate MDMA’s efficacy for mental health conditions not yet explored, as well as other protocols beyond one-on-one sessions, including group therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy focused on couples. The fact that MDMA is currently classified as a Schedule I drug and defined as having “no medical benefit” means that the only way to receive MDMA-assisted therapy right now is through clinical trials. However, the FDA has given its blessing to an expanded access program so that 50 patients can access MDMA-assisted therapy before it is approved and MAPS has committed to confronting accessibility and equity issues from its own side of the table. While not a sure thing, with MAPS’ latest data and continued efforts in alignment with FDA requirements the hoped-for 2023 FDA approval of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD is closer to becoming a reality than ever before.


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