University of Utah to Open Medical Cannabis Center, Seeks DEA Approval

Researchers at the oldest college in Utah are opening a medical cannabis research center and seeking for a DEA-approved grow site in order to overcome some of the regulatory hurdles. 

On Nov. 21, the University of Utah announced the launch of the new center and its initiative. University of Utah Health, in partnership with the state of Utah, launched a new research initiative to push forward the scientific understanding of medical cannabis and help patients and providers make better informed health decisions.

In the years following the launch of the Utah Medical Cannabis Program, Utah State Legislation identified a great need for more medical cannabis research to catch up with the growing number of unproven medical claims. To do this, and fund the center, the Utah State Legislature approved House Bill 230, and it was signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on March 15.

High Times reported last March that the University of Utah confirmed that it’s starting the early planning phases to build a Center for Medical Cannabis Research. On July 1, the University of Utah established the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) to create research opportunities to support the efficacious application of cannabis in our state.

Could the center help provide evidence to support medical claims in the future? “The Center for Medical Cannabis Research is focused on creating opportunities for researchers to have the necessary support to begin answering these types of questions,” Valerie Ahanonu, B.S., senior manager of CMCR, told High Times in an email.

“As cultural views on cannabis have shifted and states have opened access to patients seeing benefits with medical cannabis, research within the field has been a leading proponent to bolstering or dispelling these claims. From epilepsy to oncological supportive care, we have seen research bring to light aspects of safe cannabis use that address patients’ needs and identify risks surrounding cannabis use as well.”

Ahanonu continued, “The CMCR plans to be a hub for translational research that through pilot grants, funds collaborative studies and trials that not only focus on advancing our understanding of evidence based medical cannabis outcomes, but also focuses on addressing the standards and quality of medical cannabis products made available to patients. By creating a network of multidimensional researchers working collectively we hope to inspire a bench to bedside model that advances the overall understanding of the therapeutic benefits and risks of medical cannabis.”

The CMCR listed several core strategies to achieve this goal:

  • Supporting research about medical cannabis within the University of Utah and statewide
  • Improving patient, provider, and pharmacist education about cannabis risks and benefits
  • Working to instate an DEA-approved grow site for research-grade medical cannabis

Local leaders are hopeful. “This is one of the premier research institutions in the nation,” said Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, MBA, who represents District 22. Dailey-Provost sponsored the bill that funds the CMCR. “We couldn’t ask for a better place to keep the heart of a meaningful research program than the University of Utah.”

Dailey-Provost is a doctoral candidate in public health at University of Utah Health, and believes the university is well-equipped to handle this type of research, and she also recognizes the great need for more data. “We keep hearing from providers that they just don’t have enough information to comfortably recommend this for patients,” Dailey-Provost says. “What we ultimately need is reliable, evidence-based research information on the medication that we are already offering to patients in the state of Utah.”

Jerry Cochran, M.S.W., Ph.D., interim director for the CMCR, describes the spectrum of research the center will support as “bench to bedside.” Starting with pilot grants to help scientists begin projects on medical cannabis, the CMCR will promote research ranging from chemical characterization of the active components of cannabis through to late-stage clinical trials. 

The center will partner with the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah to create educational materials to inform the public about medical cannabis. The Genetic Science Learning Center will develop materials designed to help reach patients and providers with the knowledge to make informed decisions. 

The CMCR also plans to work with the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library to produce an accessible database of the most rigorous and up-to-date information in the field.

Hurdles of Medical Cannabis in the U.S.

The center acknowledges the roadblocks they face as medical cannabis research is hampered due to the federal status of cannabis. “One significant hurdle to cannabis research is the limited supply of research-grade medical cannabis, especially from sites that are approved by the DEA,” the university reported.  “The CMCR aims to eliminate this bottleneck by supporting the establishment of an DEA-approved cannabis grow site for research.”

Setting the stage for change in the way medical cannabis research is hampered at the federal level, on Dec. 2, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, H.R. 8454,” (the Cannabis Research Bill).

In Utah, medical cannabis patients began applying for ID cards on July 4, 2019, and medical cannabis cultivation began in summer of 2020. Regulators finally issued dispensary licenses in Jan. 2020, about one year and two months after the law passed. Medical cannabis sales began in October 2020, about two years after voters approved the law. 

But doctors in Utah are reluctant to give out recommendations for medical cannabis as they know it has been marketed as a cure-all and that there are many unproven medical claims. “In certain circles, medical cannabis is being pushed as a cure-all, but I think it’s going to help certain things and not others,” Cochran said in the news release. “Science needs to take the lead in this area so that we continue to help people.”

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New Hampshire Cannabis Commission Fails To Reach Agreement on Legalization Plan

A New Hampshire commission formed to create a cannabis legalization plan for the state held its final meeting this week but failed to produce any recommendations after months of deliberation. 

The 19-member commission convened this summer to consider a plan to legalize cannabis for adults under a program that would see retail sales of weed handled by state-run cannabis shops, similar to New Hampshire’s model for alcohol sales. But after months of discussions about a draft legislative proposal from Republican Senator Daryl Abbas, the commission ended its work on Monday without adopting the plan or issuing any recommendations.

Some members of the panel placed blame for the commission’s failure to reach a consensus on a proposal on Republican Governor John Sununu, who has opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana for years. Earlier this year, however, Sununu said he would consider a legalization plan that put the control of cannabis dispensaries in the hands of the state liquor commission, which would oversee shops run by franchisees selected by the state. The governor also threatened to reject any legislative plan that did not meet his specifications.

“The governor is open to discussing a franchisee-based system, but the success of such a model is in the details,” the governor’s office said in a written statement to local television news. “The governor has been clear that any system meets his outlined framework – or be met with a veto.”

Before the commission ended its work on Monday, Sununu added new conditions that he said would have to be met in order for him to approve a pot legalization plan. In addition to his previously stated requirements, the governor wanted a statewide limit of 15 cannabis retail shops and a ban on lobbying by and political contributions from the licensed cannabis industry.

Democratic Senator Becky Whitley, a member of the commission, criticized the governor for his demands, which came on the day of the panel’s final meeting.

“At the very last meeting, the last half-hour, now, all of the sudden, we’re considering things that flew in from the governor’s office last-minute?” said Whitley. “This is not how we legislate.”

Governor Faces Resistance On New Conditions

While discussing the governor’s new conditions, the commission heard testimony from Paul Morisette, a New Hampshire resident who is a partner in Maine-based East Coast Cannabis, who said that the requested cap on cannabis retailers is not enough shops for the state.

“You are not going to collect the tax you are projecting in fifteen stores,” Morrisette told the commission in testimony cited by New Hampshire Public Radio. “You are setting up the liquor commission to fail.”

But a representative from the governor’s office said that Sununu is set on the 15-store limit.

“I can tell you from the point of view of the governor’s office, we are adamant about that number,” said David Mara, Sununu’s advisor on addiction and behavioral health.

The commission also heard from Frank Knaack of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who told the panel’s members that the governor’s requested ban on cannabis industry lobbying and political contributions is likely illegal.

“It’s definitely something of concern, something we haven’t seen before in other aspects of New Hampshire law,” said Knaack.

After the committee wrapped up its proceedings on Monday, Whitley cited Sununu’s late demands as the cause of the commission’s inability to find consensus after months of meetings.

“Disappointed but not surprised,” Whitley wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “@GovChrisSununu yet again interferes with legalization in NH. Setting up a responsible, regulated adult-use market for cannabis will recapture $$$ currently going to our neighboring states AND it’s what Granite Staters want.”

The failure of the commission to develop a cannabis legalization plan for New Hampshire, the only state in New England that has not ended the prohibition on weed, leaves the prospect for reform in the near future unclear. But even before Monday’s meeting, Republican Senator Tim Lang noted that any proposals adopted by the commission would be subject to further discussion in the legislature.

“This isn’t the end,” said Lang. “We are just getting to the beginning.”

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Drug Trafficker Turned Informant Offers Up Private Island in Hopes of Leniency

An international drug trafficker with possible business ties to a reputed “super cartel” as well as the Italian mafia has handed over the ownership rights to his multi-million dollar private island in an attempt to try and reduce his sentence. 

Known drug kingpin Raffaele Imperiale made headlines in 2016 when police raided one of his homes in Naples and found two original Vincent Van Gogh paintings estimated to be worth more than $58 million each. The paintings had reportedly been stolen in a heist at the Vincent Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam in 2002. He spent five years on the run before being arrested in Dubai in 2021 and extradited to Italy in 2022. 

Imperiale is now staring down the barrow of a lengthy prison sentence after evading arrest in Dubai for several years. He faces over 14 years prison time if convicted, but Imperiale has been cooperating with authorities by giving them information on international crime syndicates he brushed shoulders with during his heyday. According to the Guardian he also offered prosecutors something much bigger: his man-made private island off the coast of Dubai. 

The island called “Taiwan,” not to be confused with the East Asian country, is reported to be worth anywhere from $60 to $80 million. Imperiale is believed to have spent the majority of his time on the run at this island, and on Monday he signed it over to Italian prosecutors.

“It is clear that Imperiale wants sentence reductions,” said the prosecutor, Maurizio De Marco to the Guardian. “We are assessing the validity of his statements, but there seem to be no doubts about their genuineness.”

Imperiale appeared in Italian court Monday alongside 20 other defendants to face charges related to the enormous criminal empire he was allegedly at the helm of. Italian authorities have also alleged Imperiale has close ties to the Camorra mafia family as well as an international “super cartel” that trafficked drugs from South America through five or more European countries including Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates, according to Europol. The super cartel controlled around ⅓ of the cocaine trade in Europe before authorities arrested 49 suspects believed to be associated with the group in 2022. The super cartel was allegedly led by Imperiale and:

  • Ridouan Taghi, formerly the most wanted criminal of the Netherlands
  • Daniel Kinahan, believed to be the boss of an Irish criminal group
  • Bosnian drug trafficker Edin Gačanin.

Authorities have alleged that Imperiale helped run one of the 50 largest drug trafficking operations in the world and had a virtual monopoly secured over nearly all the cocaine produced in Peru. The Guardian said Imperiale got his start running a cannabis cafe in Amsterdam that he inherited from his late brother.

Imperiale led a tale worthy of another Godfather movie during his time as a criminal. He was rumored to have spent over $400,000 every single month while he was on the run in Dubai, according to the Guardian. When Italian authorities searched one of his homes in March, they found over 80 firearms and other weapons, including a grenade and three Kalashnikov rifles, hidden underneath Imperiale’s garage floor. He also had over 5,000 rounds of ammunition, according to Reuters.

Additionally, controversy was stirred up in Italy shortly after Imperiale’s extradition. According to Sunday World, two Italian judicial officers were caught disposing of documents related to the Imperiale case during the course of their job duties. A hidden camera caught the employee putting certain documents into a bin under her desk.

“[They] systematically destroyed, suppressed and concealed, making them untraceable, the following true public documents, represented by documents and / or entire files relating to criminal proceedings pending at the Judicial Offices of the District of the Court of Appeal of Naples,” said officials with the Guardia di Finanza to Sunday World

The accused judicial workers told authorities they were trying to lighten their own workload by disposing of the documents, many of which were discovered in the garbage by police who made photocopies of everything. 

No word had yet been released at the time this article was written on whether or not Imperiale’s island offering will have any definitive effect on his sentencing. 

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From the Makers of the VOLCANO – The Breathtaking New VENTY

  1. A Game-Changing Vaporizer

German innovation has once again taken center stage with STORZ & BICKEL’s introduction of the VENTY, one of the highest-performing portable vaporizers on the market. As the world’s only medically certified manufacturers of vaporizers and makers of the iconic VOLCANO series, STORZ & BICKEL have come up with truly game-changing features for the new slim, fast, and customizable VENTY. Jürgen Bickel, founder and managing director, introduced the breathtaking new portable device in the company’s latest keynote on October 17th.

©Andi Singer
  1. Unmatched Speed: Ready When You Are

The first and probably most interesting standout feature of the VENTY is its lightning-fast heat-up time. Equipped with two powerful Li-ion batteries, an intelligent software design, and an innovative mini-heater, STORZ & BICKEL’s new powerhouse reaches the desired temperature within an unmatched 20 seconds. This promises minimal waiting and a seamless vaping experience. About the use of the VENTY, Jürgen Bickel stated: “It technically still is a session vaporizer, but it comes very close to an on-demand device. I just turn it on while walking down the stairs, and the VENTY is always ready for powerful, spontaneous, and discreet moments.” With this astonishingly short heat-up time in a portable device, the German manufacturer and market leader is indeed breaking records, unleashing potential.

©Andi Singer
  1. Find Your Sweet Spot

Distinguishing itself from competitors and giving users full control over their vaporizing experience, STORZ & BICKEL engineered the first portable vaporizer of its kind to offer an adjustable airflow. Moreover, the VENTY is one of the highest-performing portable devices on the market, with an impressive maximum of 20 liters of air per minute. STORZ & BICKEL thereby nearly doubled the amount of cool, tasty vapor in comparison to its predecessor and all-time throne holder, the MIGHTY+. The VENTY’s customizable airflow settings ensure an exceptionally low draw resistance while allowing users to tailor each session to their exact preferences. On top of that, the VENTY includes a newly developed flowmeter that measures the negative pressure of the inhalation and dynamically adjusts the heating to match the draw. This results in consistent and excellent vapor production, no matter the intensity of the inhalation. These new features, combined with the VENTY’s temperature precision, which is modifiable and visible for the user directly on the device, make it as easy as it has never been before to find your own personal sweet spot.

©Andi Singer
  1. Smart, Sturdy, Sleek: Setting New Standards, Again

STORZ & BICKEL, never shy about groundbreaking innovations, re-designed their patented convection and conduction heater and cooling technology for the VENTY. Moreover, the company came up with a new and, so far, the most sophisticated heating management system these pioneers have ever built. The re-shaped Cooling Unit and housing encapsulating the heater are made of medical-grade PEEK – a material used in medical engineering and aerospace. The ingeniously efficient new mini heater provides the fastest heat-up time of any STORZ & BICKEL vaporizer so far. It consists of an electrifiable, thus heated, wire around the heating block with holes in its center, through which air is drawn. At its maximum stage, the VENTY boasts a maximum power usage of 130 Watts at 16 Amps and therefore exceeds the currently highest-performing portable vaporizer from STORZ & BICKEL – the MIGHTY+, with a maximum of 40 Watts – by far, setting new industry standards again. The smart new VENTY supports Bluetooth and is customizable with the STORZ & BICKEL Web App. Various settings can be accessed and adjusted, like the desired temperature from 40°C – 210°C (104°F – 410°F), two pre-set Booster temperatures, the display’s brightness, vibration settings, and an ECO-charge mode. The new device allows users to modify the vaporizer to their personal taste, while software updates over the air can be implemented – all from the convenience of their smartphones. Crafted according to the high standards for medically certified manufacturers, the VENTY guarantees superior quality in performance and endurance. Therefore, it complements an active lifestyle, offering a breath of fresh adventure, whether on a mountain peak or oceanside. The VENTY is splash-proof, all materials are food-safe, and the housing is non-heat-conductive, making it touch-proof, despite the power unleashed inside this smart, sturdy, and sleek device.

  1. Quality Made in Germany 

STORZ & BICKEL is the unattained global leading brand for high-end vaporizers and is truly unique as the world’s first medically certified manufacturer of vaporizers. Based in Tuttlingen, Germany, STORZ & BICKEL continuously drives the advancement of vaporization technology, providing a safe and efficient means of consuming cannabis for medical as well as recreational purposes. For more than 20 years, the company and their commitment to quality, innovation, and compliance have consistently delivered exceptional products that meet and exceed the highest industry standards. From the iconic VOLCANO series to the new portable VENTY, the state-of-the-art vaporizers of STORZ & BICKEL, Made in Germany, seamlessly blend reliable innovative technology with timeless elegance and promise an elevated everyday vaporization experience.

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Green Wednesday Adult-Use Cannabis Surpassed $9 Million in Sales

The day before Thanksgiving, often referred to as “Green Wednesday” in the cannabis industry, saw a record number of sales once again. According to data collected by Jane Technologies, recreational sales on Nov. 22 reached $9,209,061.73—an 18.12% increase from Green Friday sales data in 2022, which landed at $7,795,803,80 last year.

Adult-use cannabis sales on Nov. 22 had also increased by 90.5% in comparison to sales on the three previous Wednesdays, including Nov. 1, Nov. 8, and Nov. 15, which collected a total of $4,833,890.74.

In products for Green Wednesday sales, flower led the way with the most sales, clocking in at $3,352,845.91, followed by vape-related products at $2,533,166.62, edibles at $1,207,840.33, pre-rolls at $963,026.92, and lastly, extracts with $448,520.89.

According to its website, Jane Technologies serves dispensaries in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Among these, the states with the highest sales revenue included Illinois ($2,868,215.31), California ($1,084,388.39), New Jersey ($880,127.66), Maryland ($758,727.23), and Washington ($709,599.95).

Jane Technologies CEO and Cofounder, Socrates Rosenfeld, said in a press statement to Business of Cannabis that the cannabis industry’s future is continuing to grow.  “As we approach 2024, the US cannabis industry finds itself at an exciting point in time. With the government’s recent actions on issues like SAFER and rescheduling, the end of cannabis prohibition has never felt closer to becoming a reality,” Rosenfeld said in a press release. “With future consumer growth expected to be exponential and large mainstream brands anticipated to enter the space, current Industry operators must continue to invest in scalable solutions to remain competitive.”

Medical cannabis sales on Green Wednesday, however, continue to drop. While medical sales reached $8,166,102.75, it was an 11.1% decline compared to last year’s sales at $9,191,493.38.

Product popularity was similar to that of adult use sales, with a slight variation. Medical cannabis flowers reached $3,922,135.11, followed by vape-related products at $2,174,895.66, edibles at $896,241.66, extracts $592,565.12, and lastly, pre-rolls at $327,542.51.

The states with the highest collection of sales varies a bit more than that of the adult-use sales, with Pennsylvania in the lead ($2,577,176.05), followed by Florida ($1,229,439.36), Ohio ($756,845.71), Maryland ($585,176.82), and Virginia ($561,534.87).

Black Friday reports are still rolling in, but traffic was high in many markets. Reports from Michigan show long lines and interest for special deals, according to Levels general manager Drew McCarthy. “Black Friday is a big stressful day, after a big stressful day,” said McCarthy. “So, we wanted to give back to people and be able to have them not just take back the product they bought, but something extra to go and share with people around them and kind of go and promote that holiday spirit.” 

According to BDSA data analyst Brendan Mitchel-Chesebro, Black Friday weekend continues  to reflect increased interest and traffic. “Black Friday consistently experiences the highest surge in cannabis sales of any holiday, other than 420,” Brendan Mitchel-Chesebro said, according to The Fresh Toast. “These insights are important for retailers looking to optimize their holiday strategies. By preparing for increased foot traffic with increased staff and an ample supply of popular products instead of leaning into promotions, retailers will win with consumers this holiday season.”

Green Wednesday and Black Friday continue to be one of the major cannabis sales holidays of the year. This year, some state cannabis agencies joined in to promote sales and support. The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) posted on social media to deter black market sales and encourage legal sales. “Don’t follow the hordes of shoppers today! Friday shop smart, shop licensed cannabis,” DCC wrote online. “To find your nearest licensed retailer please visit:”

The New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) shared efforts to support cannabis dispensaries as small businesses.” While you grab some #BlackFriday deals, take a note from #NYCCB member, Hope Knight and support #SmallBusinessSaturdays at one of your local dispensaries,” OCM wrote

Additionally in Connecticut on Thanksgiving Day, liquor stores were closed and other stores that sell alcohol and were open on that day were not permitted to sell alcohol. However, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection issued a notice stating that cannabis sales are permitted on Thanksgiving.

The holiday season is also the time of year we begin to see cannabis brands offering support to local communities. Puff Cannabis handed out an estimated 2,500 turkeys this year for people in need, which was twice the amount that the brand gave out in 2022. “The goal of Puff Cannabis Company from the beginning has been to offer top- notch cannabis products while building a knowledgeable and customer-focused team,” said Puff Cannabis founder Justin Elias. “We are honored to have grown to 12 dispensary locations throughout Michigan in only four years, with many locations on tap to open in 2024.”

MariMed, which operates in Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, Ohio, and Delaware, announced that it would be donating 800 turkeys this year as well. “Doing our part to support the communities we serve is an important part of MariMed’s mission to improve people’s lives every day,” said MariMed CEO Jon Levine. “This is the third consecutive year of our Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, which has become a wonderful tradition that our entire MariMed family rallies behind. We’re proud that we can help ease the financial burden for so many people at this time of year.”

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