MCG Press Clips 6.26.24 (2024)

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High-Class Cannabis

BY MAGGIE DRESSER

JUNE 25, 2024

High-Class Cannabis - Flathead Beacon

At the Cannabis Counter located in downtown Whitefish, shoppers can wander into the marijuana dispensary on Baker Avenue to enter a bright storefront with a minimalist design, accented with a pastel color scheme and deliberately placed floral arrangements.

The absence of Grateful Dead jams in the background seems strategic as customers, including some who are first-time users, browse marijuana flower, edibles, tinctures and THC seltzers. Each strain is separated into five “feeling categories” that range from sleep to socialize. Next to the wall of feelings, a separate section with an illuminated green sign labeled “gummies” makes it simple for customers to find the store’s No. 1 selling product.

Next door at Haskill Creek, a retail shop pairs with the Cannabis Counter to offer customers products ranging from organic beauty supplies to supplements, and face misters to wellness planners. A café selling healthy smoothies and espresso will eventually occupy the north side of the building. While the cannabis and retail stores are separate, they are under the same ownership and share the same vision of holistic self-care.

“We wanted to make the products really accessible,” Haskill Creek and Cannabis Counter owner Scot Chisholm said. “We are trying to cater to someone who maybe has never experienced cannabis and we’ve started the concept to attract a different demographic. We realized there was an overlap.”

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When Chisholm first launched the business at itsdebut location on Voerman Roadoutside of Whitefish city limits, he intended it to primarily serve as a marijuana dispensary whose offerings included a selection of retail products unrelated to cannabis. But after demand for the boutique side of the store grew, he and his business partners secured a second location next to Markus Foods where they expanded the inventory.

The boutique concept brings a high volume of women into both stores, which Chisholm says is unique in the realm of dispensary demographics.

According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH)study published in 2021, experts found that cannabis use is most common among sociodemographic characteristics that skew toward young minority populations with a lower socioeconomic status.

But at the Cannabis Counter, employee William Peirano said he sees a higher percentage of female customers and adults over age 55, which contrasts with the traditional demographic. In Whitefish, there’s an equal ratio of men to women while 22% of the population is over age 65, according to2020 U.S. Census Bureau data.

Peirano said he’s noticed the stigma surrounding the cannabis industry has been shrinking since Montana legalized marijuana in 2021, even though it’s still federally recognized as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin under the Controlled Substances Act.

Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2009 followed by recreational marijuana more than a decade later in 2021, with 57% of voters casting ballots in favor of legalization following the passage of ballot Initiative 190. Recreational dispensaries in Whitefish began launching the following year.

According to aPew Research Center analysis, more than half of Americans live in a state where both recreational and medical marijuana are legal and 74% live in a state where it’s legal either for both, or for medical use only. About eight in 10 Americans live in a county with at least one cannabis dispensary.

As cannabis becomes destigmatized, dispensaries are diversifying their customer base to include users who might have previously bought their bud on the black market as well as the stay-at-home mom. Dispensary staff say the stores now draw seniors who, decades earlier, were discouraged from using cannabis by a culture that embraced anti-marijuana messaging such as that popularized in the “Reefer Madness” film.

“Older adults seem more curious,” Peirano said. “When you come into a place like this, it changes your perspective – people are starting to come around.”

At Mission Mountain Organics in Whitefish, Tyler and Kathleen Peterson said they see the whole spectrum of cannabis users in their store, where they sell everything from $1 pre-rolled joints to concentrated cartridges used for vape pens.

“We get everyone from homeless people to the upper echelon of Whitefish,” Kathleen said. “We get a lot of new users – they come in and have a lot of questions.”

Tyler said the nursing home shuttle service drops some of their biggest customers off at the store.

“We are a huge hit with the nursing home,” Peterson said.

Tyler and Kathleen say they have a fairly equal ratio of men and women who shop at their store, and they also sell an even amount of their top selling products – flower, edibles and vape cartridges.

Kathleen says that while flower will likely always remain popular among users, vape pens and edibles have grown in popularity because of their discretion.

“People still feel the need to have that discretion and the disposables and cartridges are way more discrete than a joint that everyone can smell or the flower that you have to use a bong or a pipe – especially for new people who don’t always feel super comfortable because they still view it as drugs,” Kathleen said.

At Tamarack Cannabis in downtown Whitefish, co-owner Erin Bolster has been in the industry for more than a decade and said she, too, sees a wide range of customers, ranging from minors using a medical marijuana card to seniors in their nineties.

“We see the gamut when it comes to the political spectrum,” Bolster said. “Montana is a red state, yet we still passed recreational cannabis. We saw that coming because our customers run the political gamut from far left to far right. Everyone who comes in – this is the thing they have in common,” Bolster said. “The love of this plant is universal and it’s hard today to find things Americans can agree on. We see business professionals, lawyers, city councilors, stay-at-home moms – almost anyone unless their job prohibits them.”

Peirano of the Cannabis Counter believes the store’s aesthetic contributes to the changing demographic, as well as a broader understanding of the properties of pot; customers aren’t just looking to get high anymore, Peiranl said, they’re pursuing it as sleep aids and alcohol alternatives.

“It looks bougier – it’s not your typical experience,” he said. “The demographic is changing, and I feel like it’s more socially acceptable.”

15 Years of Growth at Tamarack Cannabis

BY MAGGIE DRESSER

JUNE 25, 2024

15 Years of Growth at Tamarack Cannabis - Flathead Beacon

When Tamarack Dispensary first launched in the Flathead Valley in 2009, its original owners set up shop in a one-room store providing medical marijuana to 50 patients. In the 15 years since Tamarack’s debut, Montana has updated or overhauled its marijuana laws five times; the industry has enduredfederal raidsat greenhouses, seizures of grow operations and, in 2011, threats by state lawmakers to repeal the legalization of medicinal use altogether.

For Tamarack’s current owner, Erin Bolster, who started working as the dispensary’s bookkeeper and budtender in the early days of uncertainty before buying into the business a few years later, the unpredictability of those formative years helped create a stable foundation, as well as a sustainable business model that nurtured Tamarack’s growth trajectory.

And while that growth chart has spiked since Montana legalized marijuana for recreational use, Bolster says the transformation began taking root years ago.

By 2015, all of Tamarack’s original owners had gone, leaving Bolster and her husband in charge of the company. Sensing that the industry would continue to transform, they changed the name of their business to Tamarack Cannabis.

“We knew some day we wouldn’t just be a dispensary,” Bolster said.

In 2017, Bolster secured a location on U.S. Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish after new laws allowed medical card holders to shop at multiple locations instead of having one provider, which allowed Tamarack to expand its customer baseTop of Form

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Then on New Year’s Day in 2022, Bolster was finally able to sell pot to non-medical card holding customers after Montanavoters opted to legalize its recreational useand sale in 2020. The legalization multiplied Tamarack’s sales and by the end of the summer, Bolster opened a second location in downtown Whitefish.

The 3,000-square-foot retail store located on East 1st Street fits into the residential neighborhood with potted flowers on the front steps and glittered marijuana leaf decorations and house plant lining the interior perimeter. Traditional paraphernalia like bongs and pipes are sold in the shop along with devices like the Puffco Proxy, which is used for vaping heated cannabis concentrates, also known as “dabbing.”

Tamarack also hosts events on the spacious outdoor patio including chamber of commerce gatherings, city council luncheons and community art showcases.

After 15 years in business, Tamarack now has two shops, two grow locations, a commercial kitchen and an extraction facility where staff make concentrates, edibles and drink mixes. The combined size of their operating spaces amount to more than 10,000 square feet.

“I think that’s what sets us apart – everything that Tamarack sells, as far as THC, is something we make, which really gives us control over quality,” Bolster said. “I like to be able to stand behind the products. We know they are made with good quality ingredients, made without harmful pesticides and made by people who are doing it correctly. They are all made with love. It’s all a labor of love.”

Bolster doesn’t plan to expand the retail side of the business, but Tamarack is growing the wholesale production and 11 dispensaries across the state now carry their products.

Tamarack sells a slew of different marijuana flower strains with names like Snow Ghost, Purple Kush and Motorbreath, but they also sell products including solventless hash, rosin, tinctures and gummies.

Last year, Tamarack launched a THC and CBD bitters tincture that can be added to beverages, and they also developed a water-soluble drink mix called the Inspo, which is named after the ski run on Big Mountain and comes in flavors like pink lemonade and fruit punch. The Inspo can be mixed with soda or water, which many customers use as an alcohol alternative.

While Bolster sees a wide range of customers, she says older demographics come into the store interested in topical products like the THC body butter salve, which can bring pain relief for ailments like arthritis.

“More and more people are learning about cannabis and accepting it,” Bolster said. “People are using it as an alternative for medicine and alcohol and other things. Covid was an interesting time for us because the bars were shut down and people were staying at home – people found that cannabis was a good thing during those times to help them relax and it grew the customer base. Now that it’s legal, a whole lot of people before were unable to break the law. I think as we sit on the cusp of federal legalization, there will be brand new customers out of that.”

The science is clear: Marijuana is safer than tobacco

By Paul Armentano

June 26, 2024

The science is clear: Marijuana is safer than tobacco • Daily Montanan

Nearlytwice as many Americansbelieve that smoking cigarettes is more hazardous to your health than smoking marijuana. They’re right.

Numerous studiesassessing the long-term health impacts of cannabis smoke exposurebeliethe myth that marijuana is associated with the same sort of well established, adverse respiratory hazards as tobacco.

For example,federally funded researchat the University of California, Los Angeles compared the lifetime risk of lung cancer among more than 2,000 long-term marijuana smokers, tobacco smokers, and non-smokers.

Investigators determined that those who regularly smoked cigarettes possessed a 20-fold higher lung cancer risk than non-smokers. Those who only smoked marijuana hadnoelevated risk.

“We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer,” the study’s lead authorexplained. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

More recently, a team of health experts writing in the journalChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseasesreportedthat neither former nor current cannabis smoking “of any cumulative lifetime amount” was associated with COPD progression or development.

Other studies indicate that cannabis smoke and tobacco smokearen’t equally carcinogenicand that subjects who exclusively smoke cannabis have lessexposureto harmful toxicants and carcinogens than tobacco smokers. Some researchers have also theorized that cannabinoids’anti-cancer activitiesmayoffsetsome of the harms otherwise associated with inhaling smoke.

According to the findings of recent paper published intheAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, “It is increasingly clear that cannabis has different effects on lung function (compared) to tobacco and the effects of widespread cannabis use will not necessarily mirror the harms caused by tobacco smoking.”

A separatereview paper, published recently by researchers affiliated with the University of Arkansas, is even more blunt. “The data on marijuana contrast starkly with the consistent demonstration of injury from tobacco, the greatest legalized killer in the world today,” they concluded. “Any possible toxicity of marijuana pales in comparison.”

This is not to say that cannabis smoke exposure is altogether innocuous. Cannabis smoke does share some of the same toxins and particulates that are found in tobacco smoke. And some studieshave linked marijuana smokingto temporary increases in sputum production and wheezing, as well as an increased risk of bronchitis.

That said, exposure to combustive toxins can be significantly reduced by using a vaporizer. In laboratory studies, herbal cannabis vaporizers have beendeterminedto be an “effective and apparently safe vehicle for THC delivery … (that) do not result in exposure to combustion gasses.”

Cannabis compounds can also be infused in a multitude of products that don’t require smoking, including food products and drinks.

The findings of these studies are clear and consistent: The risks associated with cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke are far from equal.

Brazil's top court votes to decriminalize personal weed use

AFP

Jun 25, 2024

Brazil's top court votes to decriminalize personal weed use | National News | montanarightnow.com

Brazil's Supreme Court said Tuesday a majority of judges had voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use, after a lengthy and divisive trial.

Eight of the top court's 11 judges voted for small amounts of cannabis possession to remain an "illicit act" -- but one that is not punished by criminal proceedings.

The judges will still have to determine what quantity of marijuana will differentiate a casual user from a trafficker.

"We have a majority" to decide that "possession of cannabis for personal use is an illicit act" but not "of a criminal nature," said court president Luis Roberto Barroso.

The matter was taken to the Supreme Courtby lawyers defending a prisoner who received an additional term for hiding three grams of cannabis in his cell.

The trial began in 2015 and has been interrupted on several occasions.

Brazil's current law, dating to 2006, considers it a crime to "acquire, possess or transport drugs without authorization."

That law removed prison sentences for the crime, but did not clarify what quantity is deemed to be for personal use -- which carries lighter punishments like community service -- or when one is considered to be trafficking in the substance, which does carry a heavy prison term.

That interpretation was left up to police, prosecutors and trial judges.

In voting in favor of decriminalization in August, Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes said existing laws punish above all "young people, especially black people, who are treated as drug traffickers for possessing small amounts."

The issue is highly controversial in Brazil, where powerful conservative movements are firmly opposed to any decriminalization of marijuana.

In April, the conservative-majority Senate approved a bill which aims to make possessing any amount of drugs a constitutional offense.

This amendment will soon be debated in the lower house Chamber of Deputies.

Medicinal use of cannabis has also sparked debate, with patients forced to go to court to get permission for treatments based on CBD, the non-psychotropic molecule of cannabis, for certain severe forms of epilepsy.

Multiple countries have decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis in recent years, waiving prison sentences for users, but those to legalize its use are rare.

Uruguay did so in 2013, and Germany this year became the biggest European Union country to legalize recreational cannabis, accompanied only by Malta and Luxembourg.

MCG Press Clips 6.26.24 (1)

MORE MONTANA NEWS

Montana law defining sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’ unconstitutional, judge says

BY:KEILA SZPALLER- JUNE 25, 2024

Montana law defining sex as 'male' or 'female' unconstitutional, judge says • Daily Montanan

A 2023 bill that defined sex as only male or female is unconstitutional because its subject wasn’t clear in its title as required by the Montana Constitution, a judge ruled Tuesday.

As such, Missoula County District Court Judge Shane Vannatta granted amotionfor summary judgment requested by a group of Montana residents who sued the state.

“It is not possible for the court to uphold the constitutionality of SB 458 because plaintiffs have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the subject of the bill is not clearly expressed in its title as is required by (the Montana Constitution),” the order said.

In 2023, the Montana Legislature passed Senate Bill 458. The controversial piece of legislation defined sex as based on people’s reproductive organs and the cells they produce at birth, and it limited sex to male or female.

A group of Montanans, Shawn Reagor, Dandilion Cloverdale, Jamie Doe, Linda Troyer and Jane Doe, sued alleging the law was “hopelessly confusing and overbroad” and invaded the province of the courts in defining sex, part of the Equal Protection clause of the state constitution.

Signed by Gov.Greg Gianforte, the bill drew national attention, and critics argued it offered an unscientific view of sex, one that was too biologically narrow.

However, the Montana residents represented by the Montana ACLU and Holland & Hart won based on another argument.

They said the actual title of the bill broke with the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a piece of legislation generally address only one topic, and that its title clearly expresses it.

The bill’s title was “an act generally revising the laws to provide a common definition for the word sex when referring to a human.” It listed sections of law to be revised based on the definitions.

But the order said the title was ambiguous, as the Montana residents had argued.

“Plaintiffs assert that ‘sex’ is a word in the English language that has multiple definitions depending on context, and that context is not clearly expressed in the title of SB 458,” the order said.

The judge agreed with the ACLU of Montana that the word “sex” in the title has more than one definition; it can relate to gender, but it can also mean “sexual intercourse.”

“The meaning for the word ‘sex’ is not clearly expressed in the title,” the order said.

The state had argued the title was clear given the title refers to “humans,” but even if the court disagreed, the state argued the bill fit under an exemption.

However, the judge disagreed with the state’s interpretation of exemptions.

The bill listed 41 sections of law it would have revised based on defining sex as male or female.

In court, a lawyer for the plaintiffs asked if, with its many revisions, Montana was saying a hospital could discriminate against admitting a person who is transgender or intersex, for example.

If that was the case, said lawyer Kyle Gray, Montanans would want to know, but they were in the dark because of the lack of clarity in the title.

In his order, the judge said he was not commenting on the quality of the title, but on the clarity of the subject.

He said people would need to read into the body of the bill to learn which meaning of “sex” is intended in the title, and “female” and “male” are more than details, they are the actual subject of the legislation.

“The court has no right to hold a title void because, in its opinion, a better one might have been used,” the order said.

“The court does not insert its opinion in this order as to what title should have been used or should be used. Rather, the court has concluded that the word ‘sex’ in the title has not been clearly distinguished (i.e.,intercourse or gender) and that the subject in the body of the Bill (providing a definition for ‘female and ‘male’) has not been identified in the title.”

The Department of Justice could not be immediately reached by email late Tuesday afternoon for comment and about whether the state intends to appeal. However, orders for summary judgment are generally difficult to overturn.

Alex Rate, legal director for the ACLU of Montana, said the order affirms the idea that bills need to be clear about their topics.

“Today’s order striking down Senate Bill 458 is a vindication of the important constitutional procedures for passing laws,” Rate said in an email. “The public has a right to know the subject of bills that are being passed by the legislature, and SB 458 clearly violated that right.”

'Devastating': Montana's Flathead cherry crop wiped out by January Arctic freeze

DAVID ERICKSON

June 25, 2024

Flathead cherry crop ruined by Arctic freeze (billingsgazette.com)

FLATHEAD LAKE — The famous Flathead cherry crop in western Montana got almost completely wiped out this year by a hard freeze in January, which one longtime grower called the worst she’s seen in a quarter century.

Large and small cherry orchards dot the landscape along Flathead Lake, mainly on the east side, because the lake’s enormous volume of water usually moderates the temperature enough to allow the delicate cherry buds to thrive during the Montana winters.

Each year, Flathead Lake growers produce between 2 million and 3 million pounds of the fruit. The Flathead cherries are valuable because they usually come later in the season than the huge crops from Washington and other places, meaning customers will pay a premium for those fresh cherries into late July and August.

But the mid-January freeze this year means there will be no millions of pounds, and probably not even thousands of pounds, of cherries.

Tiffany Sybert of Cherrywood Orchard off Highway 35 on the east side of the lake said her roughly 850 trees usually produce between 18,000 and 20,000 pounds a year.

“We’ll be lucky if we harvest 50 pounds total,” she explained. “There was a warmup in January and then we were hit with an Arctic freeze that lasted about a week, and we lost our sweet cherry crops for the 2024 season. Very few blooms survived. It just killed the buds, so our trees are fine. So we’re going to experiment with new processes and think about what we’re gonna do going forward and we’re super excited for next year. We’re just going to roll with Mother Nature.”

Up and down the lake, it was the same story.

The answering machine message for the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers cooperative is grim:

“If you are looking for cherries this year, we are sorry to report that due to a damaging freeze in January, the majority of trees suffered bud damage and will not produce cherries,” the message states. “Harvest is usually mid-July to early August and there may be a few roadside stands who are be able to find enough fruit to open the stands, but the crop is well short of anything normal.”

Pamela Stoddard of Stoddard Orchard said it was the worst freeze she’s seen in 25 years. She noted that there’s hundreds of people who will be out of work for the summer, includingmigrant Latino cherry pickersand all the people who operate sprayers for the orchards and manage the trees for the owners.

“I was sad I wasn’t going to get a crop and I’m not going to have fun summer orchard time, but for those who depend on it as a livelihood, that’s devastating,” Stoddard explained.

She said one of her friends told her the last time a hard freeze wiped out the crop this badly was sometime in the late '60s.

“It was just an odd winter,” she said. “Because it was late freezing also. So what the winter didn’t kill, those spring days that dropped below 30 did it.”

Stoddard estimated that the temperature dropped to about 30 degrees below in January.

“All my neighbors all the way up and down the east shore had the same thing happen,” she said. “I’ve heard the orchards closer to Polson fared a bit better.”

Her orchard, with 400 trees, is just a “U-pick” operation and doesn’t employ migrant pickers like other operations. Stoddard said she doesn’t depend on the orchard for income, but many other orchard owners will be hard hit financially.

“Mine is more or less a hobby,” she said. “I do it for the families. I love having families come pick fruit. It’s a fun thing for me and them. For me it’s a very small loss. I strictly do it for the community. But there are lots of people who depend on the crops. For the migrant pickers, a lot of people will either send them home early or won’t use them. All around, it’s not a good thing.”

Stoddard noted that last summer, most growers had their fruit ripen abnormally early, which meant that they were competing with the cherries from California and Washington and got much lower prices.

“So it was just kind of a bad two years for them,” Stoddard said. “I guess this is the nature of Mother Nature.”

Sybert said that her family will take a bit of a financial hit.

“We do have crop insurance, but it’s not great coverage,” she said. “It’s able to cover a little bit of our expenses.”

She said everyone was calling each other when they realized the buds were just putting out leaves instead of flowers.

"That was our first clue," she recalled.

Now, everyone's looking forward.

“We’re actually really just excited for next year,” she said. “You make lemonade out of lemons. We had the foresight to process a portion of our harvest last year, so with that small portion we’ll experiment. We’re still going to be at the Flathead Cherry Festival in July. Instead of having fresh cherries, we’ll have processed goods, frozen goods, baked goods and dehydrated cherries. Come and see us.”

She’ll also be at the Missoula Farmers Market the first Saturday in August.

“We’re looking forward to seeing all our customers from last year,” she said. “This community, we’re all in the same boat. And it’s great to have repeat customers calling and asking, ‘Hey, how’s your orchard?’ We’re really thankful for all those phone calls and inquiries and well-wishes for a really great 2025.”

Maddy Snipes of Big Sky Orchards and Hops Farm doesn’t grow cherries, but she works to spray and mow and take care of smaller cherry orchards on Finley Point.

“We’ll be spraying a lot less than normal,” she said. “We really won’t have a cherry harvest this year, which is a big loss for people. There aren’t a ton of people who do orchard management like we do, but everyone that does is missing out on normal income.”

Snipes said that the hard freeze caught everyone by surprise.

“We’ve seen a lot of partial freezes before, but we’ve never seen anything like this,” she explained. “There’s always things that can happen. The market can be bad. But I’ve never seen this much of a loss.”

The freeze was limited to Montana. The Columbian newspaper reported in May that Washington fruit growers expect a good season, even an increase over 2023. Those cherries just won’t come from Flathead Lake growers this year.

Sybert noted that last year, many cherry growers and pickers were also negatively affected by wildfire smoke. She’s putting a positive spin on the situation though.

“It really makes us get some of those ‘to-dos’ off the list,” she said. “We’ll do orchard maintenance. This will help us produce a plan going forward for what we want to do.”

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