Pot Topics is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s this week’s top stories:
- Cannabis-related epilepsy drug could be for sale within weeks after major new move by DEA
- Did Tesla CEO Elon Musk use a marijuana-related number for his stock price? The FEC says yes.
- A new policy allows travelers to bring pot to Los Angeles International Airport. Can you also take it on your flight?
- Jamaica starts shipping weed oil to Canada
DEA shift on CBD oil could open floodgates for more medical marijuana drug research
Epidiolex, the first pot-derived medication to gain federal approval, was cleared for sale Thursday when the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it was being rescheduled into a lower drug class.
In June, the FDA approved Epidiolex to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. The strawberry-flavored syrup, which was developed by U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals, is made with CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating form of cannabis that’s been found to reduce seizures.
The DEA downgraded Epidiolex from Schedule I — a class that includes marijuana, heroin and ecstasy — to Schedule V under the Controlled Substances Act. Unlike the more restrictive classification, Schedule V drugs are said to represent little potential for abuse.
“With this final step in the regulatory process competed, we are working hard to make Epidiolex available within the next six weeks as we know there is excitement for a standardized version of cannabidiol that has undergone the rigor of controlled clinical trials and has been approved by the FDA,” GW Pharmaceuticals CEO Justin Gover said in a statement.
Pot stocks surged Thursday after the DEA announced its decision. Unsurprisingly, one of the day’s biggest winners was GW Pharmaceuticals, which rose 7 percent to an all-time high, according to CNBC.
In an interview Thursday with Business Insider, Gover said the company is already seeking federal approval for a pot-based oromucosal spray that’s used to treat spasticity from multiple sclerosis. Instead of CBD, the medication uses THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the cannabinoid that gets users stoned.
Despite the reclassification of Epidiolex, the FDA stopped short of broadly rescheduling all CBD products, as some speculated would happen. In a statement, the agency made clear that marijuana and its derivatives will remain illegal under federal law “except for the limited circumstances that it has been determined there is a medically approved benefit.” In those cases, pot will be made available for public use.
“DEA will continue to support sound and scientific research that promotes legitimate therapeutic uses for FDA-approved constituent components of cannabis, consistent with federal law,” acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement. “DEA is committed to continuing to work with our federal partners to seek ways to make the process for research more efficient and effective.”
SEC cites Musk’s pot reference in fraud lawsuit
The Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Tesla CEO Elon Musk, claiming he sent false or misleading tweets last month about having secured funding to take the electric car company private at $420 a share.
The lawsuit hones in on that figure, which is commonly associated with pot use.
Musk proposed taking Tesla private in an Aug. 2 email to board members, noting that “constant defamatory attacks” were harming the brand, according to the suit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Musk calculated the $420 price based on a 20 percent premium over that day’s closing share price, which he thought was a “standard premium” for such transactions.
However, the suit claims, Musk’s calculation actually resulted in a price of $419. But the embattled tech visionary rounded up the value to $420 because he had recently learned “the number’s significance in marijuana culture” and thought it would amuse his girlfriend, the Canadian singer Grimes.
Musk then sent a series of tweets Aug. 7 detailing his proposal. Between Musk’s first related tweet and the close of trading that day, Tesla’s stock price rose by more than 6 percent. The following day, Tesla shares jumped by nearly 11 percent.
The suit, which accuses Musk of securities fraud, seeks to bar him from serving as an officer or director of any publicly-traded company.
“Corporate officers hold positions of trust in our markets and have important responsibilities to shareholders,” said Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division. “An officer’s celebrity status or reputation as a technological innovator does not give license to take those responsibilities lightly.”
On Thursday, Musk said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the S.E.C.’s “unjustified action.”
“I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors,” Musk added. “Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way.”
Earlier this month, Musk got into more hot water when he appeared to puff on a joint during an appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience.” As the video went viral, Tesla announced that Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton was departing after only a month on the job due to public attention and the fast pace of the job.
The company is under renewed pressure to turn a sustained profit starting this quarter, as Musk has promised. However, the company burned through $739.5 million in the previous quarter and lost a quarterly record $717.5 million.
Travelers can bring pot to LAX, just not on their flights
A new policy posted by police at Los Angeles International Airport allows travelers to bring small amounts of pot to the country’s third-busiest flight hub, but the posting warns that petty possession could still amount to a federal crime if TSA agents sniff out your stash.
On Thursday, Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said agents won’t confiscate cannabis from travelers but will instead call police to handle the issue.
“TSA’s focus is on terrorism and security threats to the aircraft and its passengers,” Dankers said. “Whether or not the passenger is allowed to travel with marijuana is up to law enforcement’s discretion.”
Travelers at LAX found with less than an ounce of cannabis flower or 8 grams of concentrated pot will be turned loose “because there is no crime,” airport officer Alicia Hernandez said.
However, marijuana laws shift from one state to the next. For example, it’s illegal for travelers to bring bud to Denver International Airport despite Colorado legalizing the drug for recreational use in 2012.
Due to the conflicting laws, Douglass Kidd, the executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers, advised fliers to leave their pot at home.
“The first thing the TSA is going to do is if they find something that is illegal for federal purposes is they’re going to refer it to local law enforcement,” Kidd said. “Now local law enforcement may say, “We’re not going to do anything.’ But still, the delay could cause you to miss your flight.”
Jamaica sends first shipment of weed oil to Canada
Jamaican authorities announced Thursday that the country had sent its first shipment of cannabis oil to Canada.
The deal was set in motion when an import permit from Canada’s public health department was obtained on behalf of Timeless Herbal Care, a medical cannabis company based in Kingston, Jamaica. The company was then granted an export permit from the Ministry of Health Jamaica.
Since decriminalizing marijuana in 2015, the small island country has moved to establish itself as a global weed hub.
“Jamaica is uniquely positioned to be a global player and we are committed to providing the leadership and resources required for opening the international markets including Canada and Europe for our licensed and regulated Jamaican companies,” said Audley Shaw, the country’s minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
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