POT TOPICS: Businesses relax policies on pot, Trudeau vows to legalize

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POT TOPICS is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s this week’s top stories:

Businesses are mellowing out over hiring pot smokers

A small but increasing number of businesses are dropping marijuana from the list of drugs prospective employees are tested for. Experts have said that testing for the drug excludes too many potential employees at a time when filling jobs is more difficult than it’s been in roughly two decades.

Small businesses grapple with maze of conflicting pot laws

As businesses rethink their approach to drug testing, some small businesses are having a hard time navigating the conflicting state and federal laws regarding medical and recreational pot. Unlike larger corporations, smaller companies don’t have extensive human resources and legal departments to help them sift through the laws.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

“There is a lot of conflict there, and many employers, they just don’t know what to do,” said Kathryn Russo, a lawyer at Melville, NY-based firm Jackson Lewis.

Trudeau promises pot will be legalized in Canada by summer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed Thursday to legalize marijuana for recreational use by the summer, defying calls from fellow lawmakers who want an additional year to consult with indigenous communities.

“Every single day Canadians are hurt and harmed by the current approach on marijuana. It’s not working,” according to Trudeau, who cited a 2009 study conducted by the World Health Organization that found Canada had the highest rate of underage pot use among 29 developed countries. “Our current system is failing our kids.”

Doctor pens op-ed backing cannabis as an option to treat opioid addiction in Illinois

On Sunday, Adie Wilson-Poe, Ph.D. wrote a column for the Sun-Times claiming cannabis is one of the most effective tools to treat opioid addiction. Wilson-Roe, who is on the faculty of the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, Mo., said cannabis is a “safe, sustainable option for pain relief that does not put its users at risk for overdose.” Wilson-Roe, who also serves as a scientific advisor to the cannabis startup Weedmaps, thinks Illinoisans in need of pain relief should have access to the drug.

The Illinois House is currently considering a measure that would expand the state’s medical cannabis program to give people who have been prescribed opioids a different option for treating their pain. The bill passed the Senate last month in a 44-6 vote.

New research appears to show that the use of medical cannabis can result in lower rates of opioid prescriptions.

States with legal medical cannabis programs — including Illinois, which has a medical cannabis “pilot program” — had more than 2 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed each year under Medicare Part D than in states that hadn’t enacted similar laws, according to a pair of studies published last month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

New Jersey governor says he tried cannabis ‘once or twice’

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy admitted this week to having experimented with cannabis a few times in his life. The Democrat is pushing to legalize pot for recreational use in the Garden State.

Gov. Phil Murphy exits a polling booth Nov. 7, 2017 after voting at the Fairview School in Middletown, N.J. | Bob Karp/The Daily Record via AP

Gov. Phil Murphy exits a polling booth Nov. 7, 2017 after voting at the Fairview School in Middletown, N.J. | Bob Karp/The Daily Record via AP

“Here’s the deal: I’ve tried marijuana literally once or twice many years ago, and I don’t have any desire to partake again,” Murphy wrote in a tweet Thursday. “But this effort isn’t about me — this is about social justice.”

Former editor submits offer to buy The Denver Post’s beleaguered pot-centric website

Last week, the Sun-Times reported that the editorial staff at The Denver Post’s marijuana vertical, The Cannabist, stepped down amid a stream of layoffs at the paper. On Friday, the publication’s former editor, Ricardo Baca, sent a letter of intent to the paper expressing his interest in buying the publication alongside a group of investors.

“The final deal, assuming we’re able to reach one, will determine the group we ultimately move forward with,” according to Baca, who said some of the potential investors specialize in cannabis investments while others operate outside the industry.

Baca has been in touch with The Denver Post’s editor-in-chief, Lee Ann Colacioppo, as well as the paper’s chief financial officer, Justin Mock, who encouraged him to send the formal letter of intent.

“Now the ball’s in their court,” Baca said. “I’m optimistic we can work something out.”

Baca noted that he’s talking to established daily newspapers and websites about picking up The Cannabist’s coverage should the deal go through.

“The Cannabist’s greatest assets has always been an entire newsroom of talented, hard-working reporters cranking away at city council meetings, state legislature sessions and suburban neighborhood meetings that happened to be writing on the unique conversations that arise when a community legalizes marijuana,” he added.

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