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The most important N.J. cannabis stories this week: Telehealth is here, Booker on VP pick, smoking weed and y – NJ.com

Cannabis businesses prove resiliency against coronavirus.

As businesses and citizens struggle to get by while the House of Representatives and Senate continue to haggle over the terms of the next COVID-19 relief package, industry insiders say there’s a number of positive indicators to show the cannabis industry has long-term staying power.

Despite the inherent challenges of operating in a state but not federally legal business sector and the collapse of the public markets, cannabis companies have shown resilience.

“Over the last few months, the legal cannabis industry has seen an overall increase in sales and was deemed essential in nearly every state, though there is some variation from state to state and from business to business,” said National Cannabis Industry Association media director Morgan Fox. “However, the same problems that it faced before the pandemic — lack of access to banking and capital, no interstate commerce, unfair taxation and regulatory burdens, and prohibition generally — still apply and have been exacerbated in many cases.” (By Justin Zaremba | NJ Cannabis Insider)

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‘Even after the ballot question passes, it’s going to take a while for actually having adult-use on the market.’

Q&A with Alixon Collazos is a public affairs specialist working with the BGill Group, a full service public affairs, political consulting and digital media firm.

“The main area that I focus on over the last year and a half has been basically in the local government in community outreach. Part of my job has to do with gathering support, but the thing that I’m doing the most is educating elected officials at the local level. That has been my main part of it.

The level of education in terms of cannabis is diverse. So my frustration comes from the lack of information from the top to the local levels of government and communities.”

Collazos will be a speaker at NJ Cannabis Insider’s Aug. 25 panel discussion, “Cannabis Legalization and Your Town,” a conversation aimed to inform city planners on what options towns have ahead of possible legalization. (By Justin Zaremba | NJ Cannabis Insider)

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At long last, telehealth for medicinal marijuana is here.

The tele-health services that thousands of New Jerseyans have used to see their doctors without having to leave their homes during the pandemic are now available for registered medicinal marijuana patients, the state Division of Consumer Affairs has announced.

In-person visits are also temporarily waived for patients in need of a pain reliever on controlled dangerous substances list also will be permitted to skip the in-person visits and consult with a doctor over the phone, according to the order signed by acting Director Paul Rodriguez, for the Division of Consumer Affairs late Wednesday.

“New Jersey health care practices are again offering in-person services, but telehealth remains an important option for patients and providers,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a statement. “We are making it easier for patients to choose telehealth services for any reason, including to avoid an in-person visit due to the continuing risk of COVID-19.

Doctors who use telemedicine to prescribe CDS or authorize medical marijuana will be held to the same professional standards as for in-person visits and must comply with all of the important safeguards we have adopted to prevent diversion and misuse.”(By Susan K. Livio NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

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AHA says smoking weed is bad for your heart. Is there really enough evidence?

The American Heart Association has taken a stance on smoking cannabis, warning consumers that doing so could cause heart problems.

The association examined numerous existing studies and drew on them to issue its statement, which ultimately prompted alarmist headlines like, “weed is not good for your heart.”

While doctors agree there’s established research on the plant’s effect on the heart, they caution against making definitive determinations for now.

“I don’t think we have enough evidence to say weed is bad for your heart,” said Dr. Anuj Shah, a cardiologist based in Paterson. “But I think we have enough evidence to say it could be bad for your heart.”

More controlled studies, Shah said, could parse through various factors that make a person susceptible to heart attacks and strokes: Is there a more meaningful connection to lifestyle, other drug use, race and socioeconomic class than THC intake? (By Amanda Hoover | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

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Can Kamala Harris change Joe Biden’s mind on cannabis?

Former Vice President Joe Biden opposes ending the federal ban on marijuana.

On the other hand, his choice for vice president, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is the lead Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, which would remove the federal ban on marijuana and leave it to the states to decide whether to legalize the drug.

The legislation, which passed the House Judiciary Committee in November, also would take steps to help communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs and to ensure that minority-owned businesses and individuals got a share of the burgeoning legal cannabis business.

Which view will prevail in a Biden administration?

Biden would decriminalize marijuana use and expunge previous convictions for using cannabis, support medical marijuana and let states decide whether to legalize the drug for recreational use.

But he also would reclassify it on a federal level as a Schedule II drug, which would keep the drug illegal but allow research into possible medicinal purposes. The drug is now classified as Schedule I along with heroin.

The plant wouldn’t be illegal under federal law under U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act (which Harris co-sponsored).

Booker, D-N.J., said Biden has expressed interest in his bill.

“I know it’s something his team is going to be interested in, and I’ll have an open door to discuss those ideas and their implementation,” Booker said.

In fact, he said in an interview, Biden’s views weren’t that far away from his, describing them as “Let the states do what they want to do.” (By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

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NJ Cannabis Insider is a weekly subscriber-based trade journal produced by NJ Advance Media, which provides content to NJ.com and The Star-Ledger. Learn about NJ Cannabis Insider and its monthly live events and forums here.

For more information, you may reach us via email here.

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