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Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.

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Recent News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a final rule for domestic hemp production a mere two years after the plant was legalized.

Hemp was legalized when the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law. The law differentiated “hemp” from “marijuana” as cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC by volume and removed the former from the list of scheduled drugs—meaning hemp had been legalized, and authorities had cleared the way for a new cash crop. The USDA was tasked with developing regulations for the new program. The agency passed an interim rule in 2019 that allowed hemp production to begin across the nation.

But it took two years for it to finally get around to making a final rule. Last week the USDA released a 300-page document outlining the new regulations. The final rule will replace the interim rule 60 days from its publication—in March.

The agency has received over 6,000 comments on the rule since its inception. Many farmers criticized the interim rule for having testing standards that were too stringent and for its overly zealous requirements to destroy plants that are over the THC limit.

Some of the complaints were addressed in the final rule. Crops will now only be destroyed if their THC level is found to be above 1 percent, compared to the interim rule’s 0.5 percent cutoff. A rule that will require farmers to test their crop at Drug Enforcement Agency-certified labs will not be enforced until the end of 2022. Producers will also have a sampling window of 30 days, instead of the previous 15-day window, when the rule goes into effect.

The final rule shows a marked improvement over the interim rule, but some producers say it’s still too restrictive. USDA will continue testing hemp for total THC content, instead of delta-9 THC—which is the chemical believed to be responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. It will also continue testing hemp flower rather than the whole plant, although the new rule allows samples to be taken from further up on the stem.

Free Weed With COVID Vaccine

Cannabis users in Washington D.C. are cheering on plans to hand out free bags of marijuana to people who choose to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Activist group DC Marijuana Justice recently announced plans for a project called Joints for Jabs. The group wants to organize cannabis producers and home-growers to distribute free weed to patients receiving vaccinations. According to a press release, the project is meant to “highlight the need for further local and national cannabis reform while also advocating for equitable distribution of the critical vaccine” as well as generally celebrate the arrival of the vaccine.

“DCMJ notes that to safely share a cannabis joint without potentially contributing to the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, each user must be vaccinated—an objective that necessitates accessibility for all District residents,” the group wrote.

The group apparently planned to hold an Inauguration Day joint giveaway but said there won’t be enough vaccinated people to safely go through with it. Tentative plans for a summer inaugural event are being discussed, though. “President-elect Biden has indicated there will be a summer Inauguration event on the National Mall as is traditionally done in January,” wrote the group.

In 2017 DCMJ organized a massive joint distribution demonstration for President Donald Trump’s inauguration called “#Trump420.”

UFC No Longer Considers THC a Violation

Last week the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that the Ultimate Fighting Championship would “essentially” stop punishing fighters who test positive for THC.

According to ESPN testing positive for THC will no longer be considered a violation of the UFC drug policy, unless USADA proves that the drug was used to enhance athletic performance. All other phytocannabinoids have likewise been removed from the UFC Prohibited List. The new policy is being put retroactively in effect since Jan. 1.

“While we want to continue to prevent athletes from competing under the influence of marijuana, we have learned that urinary levels of carboxy-THC are highly variable after out-of-competition use and have poor scientific correlation to in-competition impairment,” stated UFC Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky in a press release. “THC is fat soluble, meaning that once ingested, it is stored in fatty tissues and organs in the body and can be released back into the circulation, and consequently carboxy-THC appears in the urine, sometimes long after ingestion. It is therefore not an ideal marker in athletes to indicate in-competition impairment.”

Weed ETFs Surge

Last week a number of Canadian cannabis companies reported first-quarter results that far exceeded their projections, and cannabis-related exchange traded funds (ETFs) have leapt in response.

ETFs are collections of securities that track entire sectors rather than individual companies. Last week Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEArca: MJ) jumped 8.2 percent, Cambria Cannabis ETF (TOKE) jumped 5.2 percent, Global X Cannabis ETF (NASDAQ: POTX) increased 10.6 percent, AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (YOLO) increased 4.9 percent, Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (NYSEARCA: CNBS) advanced 6.6 percent and The Cannabis ETF (NYSE ARCA: THCX) jumped 7.8 percent.

These incredible increases followed announcements that Canadian company Aphria (APHA) recorded fiscal second quarter gains that far exceeded analysts’ projections. The company reported net sales of 160.5 million Canadian dollars (around $126.57 million)—a 10 percent increase over the prior quarter. Aphria’s stock spiked 21.2 percent last week.

Tilray stock saw some incredible increases as well last week, jumping 23.6 percent. Canopy Growth (CGC) rose 7.6 percent, Cronos Group (CRON) rose 5.2 percent and Aurora Cannabis (ACB) rose 9.6 percent.

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