The Colorado cannabis landscape is shifting, and unionization is coming to the industry. Nature’s Root Labs in Longmont, Colorado just unionized employees through United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
Nature’s Root Labs sells CBD to Union Harvest in Florida, a company that then uses the raw product to make cannabidiol-rich CBD offerings for their customers. Now, the business has reached an official agreement with the UFCW that will provide a legal union option for the company’s workers.
“[The] agreement between UFCW and these companies in Longmont, Colorado marks a first of its kind, across-the-board unionized CBD joint venture that sets a precedent for even more workers in the industry to unionize,” claimed the release from UFCW.
Now, following this move, the option is on the table for more cannabis businesses with multiple locations or licenses in other states to unionize. In the past, this has kept businesses from being able to make such a move because of the federal illegality of cannabis and the disconnect between different state laws.
Other states have already started unionizing legal cannabis, including California, another early supporter of both recreational and medical cannabis industries. However, Colorado is a bit behind, as the state only started its first cannabis-related employee union in 2021.
Even Illinois has already managed to unionize. Cresco Labs in Joliet, Illinois voted to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers in January 2020, making the the first cannabis business in the state to have a union.
Nature’s Root Labs’ Future With UFCW
The workers became part of the UFCW Local 881, and according to Steve Powell, president of that union, the UFCW was “proud of these workers and looks forward to standing with them to negotiate a fair and just contract that will improve their working conditions.”
Now that there is an option for protecting workers rights and legally organizing the cannabis industry, many industry insiders and legal advocates feel this will be a step in a positive direction that will lead to even more industry growth.
“This is going to presumably increase employee benefits and employee wages,” said 9NEWS Legal Analyst Whitney Traylor. “It could lead to costs in other places, but I think the immediate impact that you’re going to see [wil be] more unions pop up in Colorado and other states.”
According to Traylor, this move is not small. It could have a big impact on the entire industry, given the fact that unionizing is something there has been a call for for a while now, but it’s not an easy or straightforward process to get it going.
She explains that the fact that Nature’s Root Labs were able to make this happen, even across state lines between Colorado and Florida, is a big deal and could have larger implications for cannabis unions in general, not just in Colorado.
“Some advocates have said that partnering with a national labor organization got politicians to trust them, because that meant officials were working with a familiar partner,” Traylor said. “I think we’ll see a change in the labor market. How far of a change? How much of a change? Time will tell.””Having a good relationship with our employees is important and a signed union contract is part of that,” Union Harvest Managing Director and Founder Justin Eisenach said in a statement to UFCW. “Now consumers will have a choice when they purchase CBD and can buy USA union-made, union-packed, union-sold products.”
With this bold, new move, the workers at Nature’s Root Labs will be able to move forward with an equitable and fair working environment, and cannabis workers in Colorado and other states will now have more hope of organizing and unionizing in the future.
Denver Cannabis Company to Expand Alzheimer’s Research
Denver is expanding Alzheimer’s research through the efforts of local company MedPharm.
The company plans to move forward with research efforts through a special Schedule I Researcher Licenses given specifically to the company by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“We’re interested in how cannabinoids affect the nervous system, the brain, and in particular, we’re very interested in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Tyrell Towle, director of chemistry and extraction at MedPharm.
Through their work and research, Towle hopes that MedPharm researchers will discover which cannabinoids can be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s or treating symptoms. This is the first time a research license for this type of work has been granted outside of state and city research licenses to study cannabis.
“When you’re talking about wanting to do an actual clinical trial, you need a diversity of people that participate and one state just does not have the diversity of people that are required,” Towle said.
Denver Company Moves Forward with Research License
Thanks to the new DEA research license, MedPharm will now be able to supply investigational medications across state lines for the purpose of clinical trials. They will also be able to partner on their research with other labs and possibly even apply for government grants.
“The doors are wide open at this point,” said Dr. Duncan Mackie, director of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.
In fact, this change shows that researchers can dive deeper than ever, looking into various types of cannabis compounds and how they affect, or don’t affect, different brain cells.
“Pretty much anything that comes from the plant, we can now actually look at it using the same mechanisms we would in drug discovery at a large pharmaceutical company, which has never been allowed,” Mackie said.
It took MedPharm years to get the license, but the hard work isn’t quite done yet for the ambitious Denver cannabis company. They now have to prove that they are putting it to good and fitting use.
“[It means] better research, and then that research will lead to better treatments with fewer side effects,” said Towle.
However, despite all the freedom for research the company has now, there are also some considerations and drawbacks. The license only allows MedPharm to conduct research on cannabis that was shifted through certain channels that have been approved by the government and DEA. To save time and money, they hope to eventually get a bulk manufacturing license so the researchers could test in-house products.
Denver’s MedPharm Drives Research Further
This isn’t the first time MedPharm made the news for groundbreaking research. Back in 2020, the company was granted the first Colorado cannabis research license to study dementia. It was also approved to conduct medical research by the city of Denver the same year.
“The possibilities are endless with the first of hopefully many medical marijuana research and development licenses issued in Denver,” Ashley Kilroy, Denver’s Excise and Licenses department’s executive director, said in a statement back in 2020 when the state license was granted. “Our hope is that this new license type will lead to effective treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other debilitating diseases so the full promise of legalized marijuana can be fulfilled.”
Through these grants, they carried out studies that lead to more understanding of cannabis and dementia.
“We will have 30 patients in the first study with multiple forms of dementia,” CEO Albert Gutierrez explained. “The participants will be broken into three groups—placebo, cannabinoid only and premier product. […] We will conduct brain scans and take blood samples throughout the study to monitor the improvement in cognition, memory, demeanor, decision-making ability and caregiver interaction.”
Now, just like then, the company is being given the chance to expand their research, and their reach, even further.
Colorado Releases Report on Impact of Cannabis Legalization
Colorado just released a new report from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice that is shedding light on the impact of marijuana legalization in the state, nearly eight years after voters there passed an historic ballot measure to end prohibition on pot.
The report, released this month, provides a wide array of data points detailing how legalization has affected law enforcement and marijuana use among Colorado residents. For example, the report notes that between 2012, when Colorado voters passed the amendment legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana, and 2019, “marijuana-related court filings declined 55 percent between 2012 and 2019, from 9,925 to 4,489.”
The report also found a notable spike in cannabis use among adults––perhaps not a surprise given the greater accessibility after the change in law. “In 2019, 19.0 percent of adults reported marijuana use in the past 30 days,” the report stated, “compared to 13.4 percent in 2014, a significant increase.”
That usage is particularly pronounced among men in Colorado: “Males have significantly higher past 30-day use (22.9 percent) than females (15.1 percent),” according to the report.
Colorado Breaks Down Usage
The highest 30-day use occurred among adults aged 26-34, nearly 30 percent of whom reported using marijuana in that span. That age group edged out adults aged 18-25 (28.8 percent) and those aged 35-64 (17.3 percent). Only about nine percent of adults aged 65 and older reported using marijuana in the last 30 days, though the report noted that group’s usage rate had more than tripled since 2014.
Moreover, the report provided insight into how Coloradans are consuming their weed. “Those reporting smoking marijuana flower decreased from 87.2 percent of users in 2016 to 76.1 percent in 2019. This compares to increases in eating/drinking (35.2 percent in 2016 to 43.0 percent in 2019), vaping (22.9 percent in 2016 to 32.0 percent in 2019), and dabbing (16.8 percent in 2016 to 19.6 percent in 2019),” according to the report.
The report pulled data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey—based on a sample size of 46,537 high school and 6,983 middle school students in 2019—as well as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, based on a sample of 447 respondents in 2018-19, to analyze the impact on youth. The findings showed very little change.
“[Healthy Kids Colorado Survey] results indicate no significant change in past 30-day use of marijuana between 2013 (19.7 percent) and 2019 (20.6 percent),” the study stated. “Also, in 2019, the use rates were not different from the national 30-day use rates reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In 2019, 20.6 percent of Colorado high school students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days compared to 21.7 percent of high school students nationally that reported this behavior.”
Juvenile arrests for marijuana decreased by 37 percent between 2012 and 2019, according to the report. The report also pointed to “a significant rate increase of marijuana-related emergency department visits during the era of medical commercialization, from 617.7 in 2011 to 1039.5 in 2014.”
Colorado voters made history in 2012 when they passed Amendment 64, which legalized recreational pot use in the state. The vote made Colorado the first state to embrace legalization, along with Washington, which passed its own legalization measure at the ballot the same year. Since then, a widening number of states and cities have followed suit, and there are signs that legalization is about to go national.
Earlier this month, Senate Democrats announced details of a bill that would regulate cannabis on the federal level.
The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, which is under the state’s Department of Public Safety, did include a caveat in its report, saying the “information presented here should be interpreted with caution.”
“The majority of the data sources vary considerably in terms of what exists historically and the reliability of some sources has improved over time,” the report stated. “Consequently, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization and commercialization on public safety, public health or youth outcomes, and this may always be the case due to the lack of historical data. Furthermore, the measurement of available data elements can be affected by the very context of marijuana legalization.”
University of Colorado to Study Relationship Between Exercise and Cannabis
University of Colorado, Boulder (UCB) just introduced a new study that looks at whether or not cannabis can enhance physical performance in athletes.
According to University Professor Angela Bryan, other studies have found that there is no evidence that cannabis enhances or improves physical performance. “There is very little research on this topic, and a lot of it dates back to the ’70s, but the available data suggests that cannabis is not performance-enhancing from the perspective of speed, power or strength. In one study, researchers had cyclists use cannabis, or not, and then assessed their performance on the bike. They looked at both speed and power, and both were decreased in the cannabis condition. Others have shown little or no difference in performance,” Bryan said in a university interview.
“One caveat: These studies were done with a lower-potency product provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for research and may not reflect what athletes are actually using these days, so more studies are needed. There is no evidence that using it a few nights before competition would influence performance days later,” she continued. Bryan is also the co-director of CUChange, and previous studies she conducted were also on the topic of cannabis and health.
University of Colorado Working with Grad Students for Answers
Bryan is overseeing a new study at the University that will be led by one of Bryan’s graduate students. Individuals who volunteer to participate in this study will be asked to run on a treadmill after having consumed a THC-based cannabis product. The test will be run both while the subject is under the influence of THC, as well as not under the influence. Unlike other studies, this one will have to be a mobile operation because UCB doesn’t allow cannabis on campus. So researchers will travel with a mobile laboratory to conduct their research.
“We can drive to a participant’s house, do some baseline assessments, have them go into their house, use the product, they get back into our mobile laboratory, and then we bring them to the lab to run on the treadmill,” Bryan commented. CUChange is currently accepting volunteers for its study on cannabis and exercise, who will receive up to $100 for participating. Criteria to participate includes men (21-40 years old) or women (21-50 years old) who have used cannabis in the past and are physically active and live in the Boulder or Denver areas.
Researchers are also looking to conduct a different study on the relationship between nutrition, insulin and cannabis, which is also open for applicants as well.
The discussion of this university study comes hot on the heels of Olympic track and field athlete Sha’Carri Richardson, who was recently disqualified from participating in this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan due to a positive THC test. Her disqualification has renewed interest in the topic of athletes and cannabis use, with numerous organizations rising up to support her and to denounce organizations like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) for their archaic bans on cannabis.
Bryan doesn’t believe that cannabis should continue to be a bannable offense in any sport. “Given there is no convincing evidence THC boosts performance, and it is legal in the vast majority of U.S. states and in entire countries, including Canada, I do not think it should be included as a banned substance for elite athletes or for any other kind of athlete for that manner. That said, I would in no way endorse Olympic athletes taking cannabis immediately before competing. My perspective is more that athletes using cannabis in their down time either recreationally or as an aid to recovery should not be held against them in terms of competition.”
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