In this week’s cannabis news round-up, Kentucky residents now have access to medical marijuana; Switzerland moves ahead with trialing an adult-use market; Illinois records best first quarter sales in adult-use since sales began; and a former Michigan House Speaker is charged with accepting bribes for licenses.
Illinois Reports Record Cannabis Sales
Cannabis retailers in Illinois have experienced their best first quarter on record since sales began in January 2020, making nearly $4 billion since the market came online, reports Cannabis Business Times.
According to sales data supplied by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, licensed dispensaries in the Prairie State sold more than $383 million worth of adult-use cannabis in the first three months of 2023, indicating a roughly 6% increase over 2022.
The most recent quarter’s revenue was supported by $134.8 million in sales for March, the fourth-best month on record. Customers made approximately 3.3 million purchases during the month, and five Fridays—the busiest day of the week for cannabis retailers—during that 31-day span helped boost those numbers.
Former Michigan House Speaker Charged with Accepting Bribes for Cannabis Licenses
A former Republican speaker of the Michigan House collected more than $100,000 in bribes from would-be cannabis business owners in exchange for assistance in acquiring licenses, reports Politico.
According to the case’s prosecutors, Rick Johnson received more than $100,000 in cash bribes and free flights while controlling which businesses could enter Michigan’s marijuana industry. It’s reported to be the biggest public corruption scandal to hit the state’s capital in 30 years. Johnson served as speaker of the House for three years from 2001 to 2004. After leaving office, he operated a lobbying company in Lansing before chairing the Michigan marijuana licensing board from 2017 to 2019.
Three other defendants are charged alongside Johnson: Business owner John Dalaly is charged with paying bribes, and lobbyists Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. All four defendants signed plea deals admitting guilt to the charges.
“[The marijuana industry has] been held out as an equalizing opportunity,” says Mark Totten, US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. “Yet what we’ve learned today is that one of its key leaders…acted corruptly and did so at a moment that mattered most for those who want to get ahead in this industry.”
Kentucky Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill into Law
Kentucky became the 38th state to enact medical marijuana access after Democratic governor Andy Beshear signed the measure on March 31, reports Marijuana Moment. Gov. Beshear, who had repeatedly called on lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State, signed Senate Bill 47 at a ceremony in the capital city of Frankfort.
“Far too many of our people face the obstacle of having chronic or terminal diseases like cancer, or those like our veterans suffering from PTSD or Kentuckians living with epilepsy, seizures, Parkinson’s or more,” Gov. Beshear said. “These folks want and deserve safe and effective methods of treatment.”
In accordance with SB 47, patients who meet specific criteria can access medical marijuana for diseases including cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The legislation permits the selling of unprocessed cannabis flower for vaporization but forbids patients from smoking. The bill also permits the use of other cannabis forms, including capsules, tinctures and topical applications. Patients will be allowed to keep 30 days’ worth of cannabis at home and 10 days’ worth on their person.
Switzerland to Legalize Cannabis in Trial Program
The Swiss government has authorized plans to legalize the sale and consumption of cannabis in Zurich, the country’s biggest city, in a trial intended to evaluate the social and economic advantages of regulating adult-use cannabis, reports Forbes.
Beginning this summer, 2,100 Zurich residents who are participating in the trial will be able to purchase the medicine in predetermined amounts for personal use from pharmacies, medical facilities and social clubs across the city.
As part of the study, which is carried out in partnership with the University of Zurich, participants will be required to respond to a questionnaire every six months regarding their consumption patterns and health impacts.
“The idea is to get robust real-world evidence that serves policymaking for new [national] regulation on cannabis,” said Barbara Burri, project manager at Zurich’s municipal health department. Evidence from the trial will be published on a rolling basis from next year.