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Wanted: Magic hemp detector

Is there a device capable of telling what the United States now considers legal dried hemp flower from still-illegal cannabis? The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wants to know.

Last year, America legalized hemp federally via the Farm Bill while leaving cannabis subject to the tightest restrictions available under U.S. law. Trouble is, few differences exist between the two plant types, with the Farm Bill separating them by THC content: anything with 0.3 per cent THC or less would be considered hemp, while everything above that threshold would be deemed illegal cannabis.

Those interested in selling “hemp/marijuana field test kits” to the DEA have until March 15 to express their interest, according to a document posted on a government procurement website last week.

“The purpose of this notice is… to determine if there are vendors in the marketplace capable of providing field test kits (color tests, instruments, etc.) that can… provide specificity to distinguish between hemp and marijuana,” the document said, adding kits “must be portable and rugged enough to be used in non-laboratory environments or ambient conditions.”

The fine line U.S. law has now created between what are effectively just different varieties of cannabis has already spawned an intense legal debate. One man arrested in Idaho last month is still waiting to learn whether the law will consider him a drug trafficker or a truck driver. Denis Palamarchuk, 36, was charged with felony drug trafficking in early February after Idaho State Police pulled him over with 6,701lbs of what the authorities claimed was marijuana in his truck. He and the owner of that cargo, Colorado-based Big Sky Scientific, argue it was industrial hemp and the police had to send a sample out of state, to Kentucky, for testing.

The results took over a week to come back and were never made public, but Big Sky is currently pursuing a court order for the cargo to be released. Clearly, the DEA is hoping to avoid similar confusion, though it is not immediately clear whether the required technology even exists.

–Jameson Berkow

ACGO issues its first three retail licenses

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario said Thursday that it has approved and issued the first three cannabis retail operating licenses in Ontario. The ACGO says The Niagara Herbalist in St. Catherines, The Honey Pot Cannabis Co. in the Toronto region, and Central Cannabis in London have successfully completed the public notice period. The ACGO noted that the three outlets are still progressing through the Retail Store Authorization process, which includes inspections by AGCO compliance officials, and have not been authorized to open. The 25 winners of the Ontario cannabis retail lottery are expected to open bricks-and-mortar stores on April 1.

Aleafia Health to list on TSX

Aleafia Health Inc. announced Thursday that the Company has received conditional approval from the Toronto Stock Exchange to graduate from the Toronto Venture Exchange and list its common shares on the TSX under the symbol “ALEF.” The company says its listing on the TSX is subject to TSX final approval which is conditional upon the completion of the company’s previously announced acquisition of Emblem Corp. In conjunction with listing on the TSX, the common shares will be voluntarily delisted from the TSXV before the commencement of trading on the TSX.

National Access Cannabis reports $20-million in retail sales

National Access Cannabis Corp. said Thursday it has achieved retail sales of $20-million since recreational marijuana was legalized on Oct. 17. The company says its sales figure represents a cumulative gross margin of more than 30 per cent. NAC is the largest private cannabis retail operator in the country with 23 retail locations, split as follows: 14 NewLeaf Cannabis stores in Alberta; and nine Meta Cannabis Supply Co. stores in Manitoba.

Sundial announces credit facility with Bank of Montreal

Sundial Growers Inc. said Thursday it has entered into a $30-million credit facility with the Bank of Montreal. The Calgary-based grower, which has two facilities in Alberta, says the credit line will enable the company to finance its European initiatives and satisfy general working capital requirements in Canada. The company says it is planning to build a third facility in British Columbia.

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