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Pot Topics: Medical weed use up 80% in Illinois; Mormons back Utah pot plan

Pot Topics is the Sun-Times weekly round-up of the latest cannabis news. | AP file photo

Pot Topics is the Sun-Times weekly round-up of the latest cannabis news. | AP file photo

Pot Topics is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the latest news for this week:

  • Medical marijuana use in Illinois jumps by 80 percent
  • Michigan lawmakers vote to outlaw pot-infused alcoholic drinks
  • Pepsi won’t jump into the cannabis market
  • Chicago pot company releases vape pens to support breast cancer awareness
  • Mormon church supports medical marijuana compromise in Utah
  • Canadians will be able to bring pot on domestic flights

Medical marijuana use up 80 percent in Illinois

The Sun-Times curates a weekly round-up of cannabis news. | File Photo

A report found that medical marijuana use in Illinois has increased by 80 percent. | Adobe file Photo

A new report from the Illinois Department of Public Health says medical marijuana use has jumped by 80 percent in the state.

More than 46,000 Illinoisans have used medical marijuana this year, mostly to treat PTSD, fibromyalgia and cancer, according to the report. Other common qualifying conditions are spinal cord disease and injuries, traumatic brain injuries, post-concussion syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Officials believe the number of medical pot patients in Illinois will continue to increase.

The Alternatives to Opioids Act, which Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law in August, further expanded the state’s medical cannabis pilot program by giving opioid patients access to the drug. The law also eliminated the requirements for fingerprinting and criminal background checks that delayed the state’s application process.

Michigan Legislature votes to outlaw pot-infused alcoholic drinks

A bartender at Wipeout Bar & Grill makes cocktails that have paper straws on June 21, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

The Michigan House voted this week to ban cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages across the state. | Getty file photo

Michigan lawmakers passed a bill this week that would ban cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages in the state.

In a 101 to 4 vote Tuesday, the Michigan House voted to approve the measure, which prohibits the use, possession and sale of pot-laced wines, beers and mixed drinks. The Michigan Senate backed the legislation last month in a 35 to 1 vote.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is now considering the bill, which supporters consider a pre-emptive move in case the drug is fully legalized next month in a statewide ballot initiative.

Cannabis-laced drinks have recently grown increasingly popular. This weekend, attendees at the Yes We Cann cannabis popup in Logan Square will be able to sip cocktails infused with CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating chemical found in cannabis.

Meanwhile, alcohol companies like Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona and Model beers, and Lagunitas Brewing Company have started developing non-alcoholic beverages that include cannabis. On Thursday, Molson Coors announced it would begin selling similar drinks in Canada, where pot will be legalized on Oct. 17.

Pepsi has no immediate pot plans

Cindy Crawford sips a Pepsi in a 2018 Super Bowl commercial. | Photo courtesy of Pepsi, distributed by the Associated Press

Cannabis stocks took a dive Tuesday after PepsiCo Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston said the company wasn’t planning to invest in pot.

Hewitt explained Pepsi’s rationale during an earnings conference call, according to CNBC.

“I think the difficulties in investing in that category, particularly in the U.S., where federally these things are still not legal, are quite a considerable challenge,” Johnston said during the call. “So we look at everything, but certainly no plans at this point to do anything.”

The announcement sent some key cannabis stocks tumbling on Tuesday. Tilray, a Canadian pot producer that trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange, was hit the hardest, dropping 16 percent by the end of the day, CNBC reported. Other pot stocks trading in the U.S.A. and Canada also fell.

Johnston’s announcement comes a few weeks after Coca-Cola said it was watching the market for drinks infused with CBD.

“The space is evolving quickly,” Coca-Cola said in a statement last month. “No decisions have been made at this time.”

GTI selling vaporizers to support breast cancer awareness

Chicago-based GTI is selling its “RHYTHM for a Cause” vape pens to support breast cancer awareness. | Provided photo

Chicago-based cannabis company GTI is teaming with three breast cancer organizations to raise awareness of the disease with a new pot vaporizer.

The “RHYTHM for a Cause” vape pens will be sold throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through October. The vaporizers are currently available at all GTI-run dispensaries in Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as other participating pot shops.

GTI has partnered on the project with METAvivor in Maryland, Living Beyond Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania and the Loop-based Lynn Sage Foundation, which funds breast cancer research at Northwestern University and Rush University.

“We believe it’s our duty to raise awareness for how cannabis may temporarily relieve pain, even nausea, and restore appetites for people bravely battling cancer,” said Jennifer Dooley, Vice President of investor relations and corporate development at GTI, which is also one of the state’s largest pot cultivators.

“Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month and partnering with like-minded organizations in our communities to achieve this mission is what this is all about,” Dooley added.

Mormon church backs deal to allow medical pot in Utah

The Mormon church joined lawmakers, the governor and advocates to back a deal Thursday that would legalize medical marijuana in conservative Utah after months of fierce debate.

The Mormon church is backing a deal that would legalize medical marijuana in Utah, even if the ballot initiative fails in the November election. | AP file photo

The Mormon church joined lawmakers, the governor and advocates to back a deal that would legalize medical marijuana in conservative Utah after months of fierce debate.

The compromise comes as people prepare to vote in November on a medical marijuana ballot initiative that held its ground despite opposition from the powerful Mormon church.

Gov. Gary Herbert plans to call lawmakers into a special session after the midterm election to pass the compromise into law regardless of how the initiative fares. If it passes, it will be revised under the terms of the deal. If it fails, the Legislature would consider a law under the new framework.

The agreement in such a conservative state underscores the nation’s changing attitude toward marijuana. Medical use now is legal in more than 30 states and also is on the November ballot in Missouri. So-called recreational marijuana goes before voters in Michigan and North Dakota. If passed, it will be a first for a Midwestern state.

The Utah-based faith had opposed the ballot proposal over fears it could lead to more broad use, but ranking global leader Jack Gerard said they’re “thrilled” to be a part of the effort to “alleviate human pain and suffering.”

Though it still must go to a vote, the deal has the key backing of both the church and leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature, who said the regulations in the hard-won agreement have their seal of approval. Unlike the ballot initiative, the compromise won’t allow people to grow their own marijuana if they live too far from a dispensary. It also doesn’t allow certain types of edible marijuana that could appeal to children, like cookies and brownies.

Canada will allow travelers to take pot on domestic flights


Canadians will soon be able to take pot on domestic flights. | Sun-Times file photo

Canadians will be able to take over an ounce of weed on domestic flights when the drug is legalized in the country later this month.

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneu announced Tuesday that travelers will be able to take up to 30 grams of pot on all domestic flights, according to The Globe and Mall.

“As long as the flight is domestic, then people are allowed to bring up to a certain quantity for their personal use,” said Garneau, who warned that international travelers should leave their cannabis at home.

Also on Tuesday, the Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority said it was working to ensure that the agency’s rules jibe with the new law, according to the report.

“We have been working with Transport Canada since the government passed the cannabis legislation to ensure our protocols are consistent with government policy,” CATSA spokeswoman Christine Langlois said. “We expect to finalize our procedures in the coming days.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

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