Marijuana continues to plant its roots across the nation

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Missouri’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened in St. Louis in October, but CBD Kratom has been selling Delta-8 THC since last year.

On Nov. 3, voters in both blue and red states chose to legalize cannabis. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, voters approved ballot initiatives for recreational use of cannabis. Mississippi and South Dakota approved its use for medicinal purposes, as well. Now, 35 states have some form of legal cannabis.

Many states have enacted their own laws regarding the production, distribution and use of cannabis. The plant and its derivatives, however,  remain illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act. Despite the illegality of the plant, the federal government has neglected to enforce compliance in states with legal forms of cannabis since the Obama administration.

In 2018, the state of Missouri passed Amendment 3, which legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. This means any Missouri resident with an approved medical cannabis card can consume, and even possibly grow, marijuana. After nearly two years, the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened in St. Louis in October.

For some, it seems this happened in Missouri almost overnight. Nick Pohlman, a Missouri resident, left the state to serve in the U.S. Navy prior to the medical legalization of the plant in Missouri. Now, Pohlman has a license to cultivate the cannabis plant in Missouri.

“The Missouri medical marijuana program is great,” Pohlman said. “It was easy to apply, especially as a veteran with my medical records while enlisted.”

Pohlman suffers from anxiety and would normally treat it with a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI).

“A lot of veterans can probably relate to it feeling weird transitioning to civilian life again,” he said.

However, Pohlman found Missouri’s own medical cannabis to provide him the greatest relief.

“It feels freeing that I can smoke marijuana responsibly and legally instead of relying on an SSRI,” Pohlman said.

While Pohlman finds Missouri’s medical marijuana program beneficial, the illegality of the plant causes issues. Pohlman, who was accustomed to handling firearms during his military service, is unable to purchase a firearm due to his medical marijuana card.

The federal government, which prevents patients such as Pohlman from purchasing firearms due to cannabis use,  created a broad gray area in the regulation of cannabis derivatives in 2018. President Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – commonly referred to as the Farm Bill – into law. The law effectively legalized hemp.

Under the bill, hemp was defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% of Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. This meant that the derivatives of hemp, such as cannabidiol, or CBD, are legal as well.

The Farm Bill led to numerous CBD and hemp products being sold around St. Louis at smoke shops, gas stations and even the video rental store Family Video. You can even buy hemp treats for your dog at Petsmart. St. Louis commuters can see billboard advertisements for hemp-based products all around the county.

The purpose of the 2018 Farm Bill wasn’t to introduce psychoactive compounds from the cannabis plant into shops around the country, but it did open Pandora’s box. The cannabis plant has nearly 100 different cannabinoids, THC is not the only one with intoxicating effects. Delta-8 THC is a compound found in the hemp plant and is being sold at stores around St. Louis, including CBD Kratom. While Delta-9 THC is psychoactive, Delta-8 THC is psychotropic.

CBD Kratom began selling Delta-8 THC last year. The packaging for these products states the compounds were derived from hemp and are completely legal. Billboard advertisements for CBD Kratom around St. Louis encourage consumers to ask about Delta-8 THC.

“Research on the effects of Delta-8 THC have shown the compound can help reduce anxiety, calm the body’s reaction to stress, improve mood and motivation, increase appetite and also assist with aches and pains,” Senior Project Manager for CBD Kratom Allison Garriga said. “Users reported psychotropic feelings of calm and an improvement in mood.”

While the effects are similar to Delta-9, Garriga asserted the difference between the psychoactive and psychotropic compounds is “significantly reduced side-effects of paranoia and anxiety [with Delta-8 THC].”

However, consumers such as Pohlman do not need a medical cannabis card to purchase Delta-8 THC or CBD from shops like CBD Kratom. In fact, Garriga said the federal government has not placed a minimum age on hemp product sales yet. However, CBD Kratom still maintains restrictions on purchases.

“For cartridges or other inhalants, we only sell to those who are 21 years-of-age or older,” Garriga said.

For non-inhalants, CBD Kratom’s policy is to sell to those over the age of 18. Garriga said Delta-8 THC products, which are made by CBD Kratom’s preferred partner beeZbee, are incredibly popular with customers.

The CBD market alone is expected to be worth $15 billion by 2025 according to Cowen and Co.,  and the legal marijuana market’s worth is forecast at $73.6 billion by 2027 according to Grandview Research.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012, nearly 20 years after California became the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis. Now, only 15 states prohibit cannabis in the United States. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.

The Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment and Expungement Act is scheduled to be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The MORE Act would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis. With cannabis widely available all over the U.S., it seems that cannabis has finally planted its roots in the U.S. legal system and will become increasingly available.

When asked if Delta-8 THC is here to stay, Garriga stated, “We see no reason why it wouldn’t be!”

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Caleb Sprous
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