By: Tiffany Kary

Hemp, the staid sister of marijuana, is becoming much more interesting.

With its low THC content and lack of psychoactive effects, hemp has long been used for mostly practical purposes, like rope or fabric, or to produce CBD, a popular salve to relieve various ailments. But the marijuana industry is starting to take interest in a hemp-derived substance called delta-8 THC, which can be used to get high yet doesn’t have the same legal obstacles as stronger strains of cannabis.

And after regulatory changes last week loosened restrictions on hemp, its ability to compete with marijuana is likely to grow.

Delta-8 THC exists at very low levels in cannabis, while its more-abundant molecular cousin, delta-9 THC, is the one that’s usually targeted in regulations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its rules Jan. 19 to increase the amount of THC in hemp that would trigger a “negligent violation” finding to 1% from 0.5%. While hemp is defined as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC content — and plants above that level still must be disposed of — the relaxed rules give manufacturers more leeway when growing and processing plants.

That means hemp production in general just got easier. And that’s a good thing for the CBD business, as well as delta-8.

“Delta-8 is the new kid on the block that everyone wants to dance with,” cannabis industry consultant Susanna Short told me recently.

Because delta-8 is made from CBD, it isn’t clearly regulated like delta-9 THC, which has traditionally been cited as the source of cannabis’ psychoactive effects.

Since the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and CBD can be transported and sold freely within the U.S., unlike high-THC marijuana, which can only be grown and sold in states where it’s legal. The rules around delta-8 aren’t yet entirely clear, amid confusion over whether the Drug Enforcement Agency’s rules on synthetic cannabinoids apply to the substance, which is synthetically produced.

“It’s derived from hemp, so we’re taking the position it’s legal,” said Dustin Robinson, a Florida attorney and founding partner of Mr. Cannabis Law. He sees delta-8 as a cheaper and more convenient buzz for many people. “I can get high by getting delta-8 from a smoke shop or a gas station.”

That could pose a threat to multistate operators who have built their businesses to comply with tight rules around high-THC marijuana, especially after states like Illinois and Colorado last summer began allowing the hemp industry to sell through marijuana dispensaries. But it could also present an opportunity, Robinson said.

“This could be a means for the marijuana supply chain to reduce their cost of cultivation, if they can use hemp biomass instead of marijuana biomass,” he said.

Delta-8 has more going for it than legal ambiguity. Trulieve Cannabis Corp., which sells products with delta-8, extolls it as less likely to induce anxiety at high doses compared to delta-9, and cites studies that have linked it to appetite simulation, neuroprotective properties and anti-vomiting properties.

With potential like that, some companies aren’t waiting for regulatory clarity. Take Deep Six CBD, a retailer that just announced a rollout of delta-8 THC oil, vapes and edibles at a store in Pennsylvania. “Why pay $250 for a medical marijuana card?” the company’s president said in its news release touting the new product. “Try delta-8 THC first!”

By: Andrew Ward

Due to a lack of federal laws, the United States cannabis market is much more fragmented than Canada’s. Rather than a uniform code, each legal state market dictates its own set of rules. In many cases, American cannabis marketing laws largely resemble the alcohol space.

The laws can be daunting in any U.S. market. Dustin Robinson, a founding partner at Mr. Cannabis Law, said that medical markets tend to be more restrictive with packaging and advertising than recreational. Regardless, companies remain limited from becoming well-known brands on either side of the market.

Geography plans a significant hurdle. Due to federal prohibition, companies cannot operate across state lines as they wish. U.S. brands must obtain licenses in each state it intends to set up shop.

“This makes it very hard for multi-state operators to build a national brand with consistent and coherent messages to its patients and consumers,” said Robinson. He highlighted Cookies, a prominent brand with well-known imagery, and its recent entry into Florida, which has strict packaging laws. “It will be interesting to see how Cookies builds its brand image in Florida,” he said.

As dozens of groups spread across the country with the purpose of decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi, a new group has emerged in Florida, Mr. Psychedelic Law, stacked with doctors, lawyers, spiritual leaders, lobbyists, therapists, and other industry-leading professionals.

As explained on their website, the mission of Mr. Psychedelic Law is to use medical and spiritual research to drive responsible legal reform in Florida for psilocybin mushrooms and other entheogenic plants and fungi.

Co-Founders – Dustin Robinson, Esq. CPA. and Dr. Michelle Weiner, DO MPH – have combined their legal and medical expertise, respectively, to build a team with a balanced and holistic approach to coming up with responsible legal reform.

Dustin Robinson, Esq.

Dustin Robinson, Esq. is licensed in Florida as an attorney, a Certified Public Accountant, and a Real Estate Agent. He focuses his practice on providing legal, accounting, financial, and business consultation to various businesses and doctors operating in the hemp and marijuana industries. He has worked at one of the largest national accounting firms – Deloitte – as well as one of the largest national law firms – Holland & Knight. Dustin was introduced to the psychedelic industry when his cannabis-business-clients started exploring psilocybin mushroom opportunities in Jamaica; and his cannabis-doctor-clients started exploring research opportunities related to psilocybin mushrooms. After talking with hundreds of people about their spiritual psilocybin experiences and then discussing the medicinal value of psilocybin with dozens of doctors, Dustin decided that it was time to push the psychedelic movement forward by building a team of the top medical, spiritual, and legal professionals in Florida with a focus on RESPONSIBLE legal reform. And, hence, Mr. Psychedelic Law was created

We spoke to founder Dustin Robinson about the formation of the group
“As a lawyer and CPA, I have the tools to draft legislation,” he explained.

“But, by myself, I don’t have the subject-matter expertise to draft responsible legal reform that accounts for the potential negative effects of taking these compounds under the wrong set and setting. Thus, it was imperative for me to form a team of medical and spiritual professionals that can guide my team of lawyers through our journey for responsible legal reform.”

Dr. Michelle Weiner

The Mr. Psychedelic Law team pulls from multiple disciples of law, medicine, mental health, and spiritual well-being. Co-founder is a double board-certified Interventional Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. As the Chair of Florida’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, she brings a breadth of experience with respect to practicing and advocating in highly-regulated industries. She is a Co-Investigator on multiple IRB approved research studies at the University of Miami and FIU with the focus of improving quality of life, decreasing pharmaceuticals, and preventing chronic disease through plant-based medicine and safer routes of administration.

Dr. Michelle Weiner explains, “When I first started administering ketamine to my patients, I was curious yet skeptical. I knew that there were limited protocols surrounding dosing and route of administration of ketamine and other psychedelic substances. However, after treating multiple patients with oral, intramuscular or intravenous ketamine and researching its effect on pain and mental health, I came to realize that ketamine and other psychedelic substances have the potential to have tremendous medicinal value when administered under the right conditions. It is time we research the value of ketamine, psilocybin, ibogaine, and other entheogens so that we can naturally improve the mental health of the world through responsible legal reform.”

Dr. Scott Fisher, MD

Members of the Mr. Psychedelic Law team are already playing a key role in some of the research surrounding psilocybin. For example, Dr. Scott Fisher, MD, a graduate from Northwestern University, is a Lead Facilitator in the FDA-registered Phase 2 clinical trial assessing the effectiveness of a single dose of psilocybin for the treatment of depression. With a Certificate in Psychedelic Therapy and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Dr. Fisher’s main interest lies in “the potential for psychedelic facilitated psychospiritual experiences to improve emotional and mental health problems.”

As different groups are popping up across the country, we are seeing the emergence of two separate schools of thought

(1) psychotherapeutic and …
(2) entheogenic. The psychotherapeutic advocates mainly believe that the legal movement should focus on the medicinal value of these substances and should be administered by individuals that traditionally administer medicines. The entheogenic advocates mainly believe that the legal movement should focus on the spiritual and religious value of these substances and any restriction on administering these substances would infringe on our fundamental rights to control our own mind.

Paula Savchenko, Esq.

Cannabis Law Report asked Board Member Paula Savchenko, Esq. which approach will be taken by the group.

“We believe that it is too early in the movement to take sides. We welcome both schools of thought and believe that the legal framework will ultimately be a blend of both the entheogenic approach and the psychotherapeutic approach. One may come before the other. But ultimately, we believe the law will eventually reflect both schools of thought. That’s precisely the reason we have a Medical Advisory Board and a Spiritual Advisory Board.”

Dr. Robert Steisfeld

Board member Dr. Robert Steisfeld added, “As a doctor of naturopathic medicine and a trained natural food chef who believes in the spiritual value of natural substances, I have seen tremendous value with these substances from both a medicinal and spiritual level. I think our law should reflect that.”

Dr. Weiner summarizes the importance of a balanced approach, “We believe in running our organization as a democracy with a Socratic methodology. We want our organization to represent all schools of thought. We want our team members to debate and disagree. We want to question one another.

Through cooperative argumentative dialogue we plan to stimulate critical thinking and ideas that will ultimately engender responsible and coherent legal reform.

Just as our team reflects community through gender and race, so too does our team reflect diversity of thought among the community.”

Mike “Zappy” Zapolin

Leading the Spiritual Advisory Board of Mr. Psychedelic Law is Mike “Zappy” Zapolin. Zappy won the Amsterdam Film Festival’s Van Gogh award for Documentary Directing on his film “The Reality of Truth” which focuses on the importance of going inside one’s own mind for answers and healing. The film features actress Michelle Rodriguez, Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, Dr. Drew, Marianne Williamson, and Joel Osteen. His latest film “Lamar Odom: Reborn” documents the psychedelic intervention Zappy gave to Lamar over the last two years using the breakthrough treatments of Ketamine and Ibogaine.

“I have made it my life-long goal to better understand ketamine, ibogaine, and other psychedelics so that I can help people reach a deeper state of consciousness and gain a stronger understanding of one’s own mind.” Zappy explains. “I have traveled the world in my quest for knowledge and led hundreds of people through their psychedelic journey. I believe we have a fundamental right to control our own minds. I couldn’t be more excited to work with the Mr. Psychedelic Law attorneys to advise on responsible legal reform for these substances.”

 

Erik Range

But Mr. Robinson and Dr. Weiner haven’t stopped with building just a strong legal, medical, and spiritual team. They say they also intended to ensure that equality and diversity was at the forefront of any future regulations.

Erik Range, Chairman for Minorities for Medical Marijuana

Thus, they brought on board Erik Range as the Chief Officer of Community Outreach.

Mr. Range is currently Chairman for Minorities for Medical Marijuana – a non-profit organization providing advocacy, education, training, and outreach to underserved communities.

Dustin explains, “I have always admired Erik’s advocacy for minorities and the community that has been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. I’ve been fortunate to partner with Erik on various projects in the cannabis space. Erik’s main role with Mr. Psychedelic Law is to engage with the community-at-large and ensure that our regulations are fair, equal, inclusive, and representative of the entire Florida community.”

Jake Bergmann

The Mr. Psychedelic Law team also includes executives who were integral to cannabis legalization in Florida. Jake Bergmann, the Chief Strategy Officer for Mr. Psychedelic Law, was founder, CEO and strategist for Surterra Wellness – one of the first medical marijuana operators in the state of Florida.Dustin Robinson explains the strategy.

Jake Bergmann, the Chief Strategy Officer for Mr. Psychedelic Law

“Our strategy at Mr. Psychedelic Law is to engage with not only the politicians but also the public at large. While the cannabis movement provides some insight on how to move this movement forward, it is not a blueprint as these substances have too many differences from cannabis. We will be educating the public and we will be getting educated by the public. The regulations in Florida will be for the people by the people – just as our democracy demands.”

He goes on to explain, “We are also looking to partner with organizations that are aligned with our goals. The Ketamine Fund – a 501(c)(3) focused on providing free ketamine treatment to veterans – is one of our first partners. We plan to leverage their deep knowledge and network surrounding ketamine to build our outreach and further educate the public.”

Edgar J. Asebey, Esq. Of Counsel

With the mission of driving legal reform through research, Mr. Psychedelic Law understands that FDA-approved clinical trials will be crucial to formulating responsible legal reform. Edgar Asebey, Esq. will be leading all efforts relating to the FDA. Mr. Asebey has over two decades of experience in federal regulation of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, food, dietary supplement and cosmetics companies.

The FDA process is complicated, long, expensive, and risky. Mr. Robinson explains: “I have partnered with Mr. Asebey on various FDA matters and he is one of the most knowledgeable FDA attorneys in Florida. He will be integral in helping the Florida community build the research necessary to draft responsible legal reform.”

Other members of the team include Dr. Rick Weyback, MD; Dr. Julia Mirer, MD; Masha Belinson; Dr. David Dweck, PhD; Dr. Lonny Weiss, PsyD; Dr. Alexey Peshovsky, PhD; Dr. Andrew Hall, PhD; Dr. Sonia Martinez, BPharm; Dr. Denise Vidot, PhD; Ian Hayze; Yasmine Egozi; and Jeffrey Sharkey.

Mr Psychedelic Law

Florida may not be the first state that comes to mind in terms of progressive drug laws, but there is a grassroots movement gaining steam across the state to decriminalize psychedelic treatments for depression, PTSD and more. It’s happening at the local level, in city council chambers and town halls, and is largely the work of one man — Dustin Robinson, a Florida lawyer and founder of Mr. Psychedelic Law.

Dedicated to the use of “medical and spiritual research to drive RESPONSIBLE legal reform in Florida for psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics,” the project is an offshoot of Robinson’s law firm, Mr. Cannabis Law, and includes advisory boards made up of doctors, lawyers, spiritual advisors and more.

We recently sat down with Robinson to learn more about his on the ground campaign to decriminalize psychedelics in Florida, as well as what he’s seeing from a regulatory perspective on a national level.

Psychedelic Invest: Let’s start with your background. How did you get into this industry?

Dustin Robinson: I grew up here in South Florida and went to the University of Florida where I got my Master’s in accounting and then my law degree. So, I’m a Master’s in accounting, a CPA, a lawyer and I also have my real estate license.

I worked at Deloitte for a bit and then went to Holland and Knight out of law school. Eventually I went in-house, running a few multi-state manufacturing companies, and then a couple of years ago I got into the cannabis space.

My firm is a full-service law firm. Our attorneys handle everything from transactional matters to litigation, pretty much every area of the law except for criminal. We don’t deal with people getting arrested for marijuana possession, in other words.

But I represent a lot of cannabis doctors as well as some of the clinics, and about a year ago clients started inquiring about psychedelics. Quite honestly I didn’t know anything about psychedelics and I thought they were kind of crazy. But then I started talking to some of the doctors I work with and they started sending me some research and talking about some of the clinical trials they want to work with.

One of the doctors I work with is Dr. Scott Fisher. He’s doing clinical trials on psilocybin and its effect on depression right here in Fort Lauderdale. And I work with another doctor, Dr. Michelle Wiener, and she’s doing some research on it for end of life care relating to suicide.

PI: What have you been doing with this within your network?

DR: When I started doing my own research into psychedelics, I realized that there is huge medicinal value in it. Since then I’ve talked to a lot of veterans and just got connected with a lot of people throughout the country, so I decided to create my own not-for-profit called Mr. Psychedelic Law. We have a medical advisory board that is really made up of the top doctors in the state of Florida. Then we also have a spiritual advisory board of the top spiritual leaders in Florida.

Ultimately, our mission is to use medical and spiritual research to drive responsible legal reform for psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics in Florida. We’ve been going city to city going to all the city commission meetings, I’ve drafted resolutions for several cities to decriminalize psychedelics, and we’ve been taking a real city-level approach to this issue.

We’re just trying to educate people around this and building a community around psychedelics to really push for legal reform here in Florida.

PI: What’s the reaction been from folks there in Florida when you bring this up.

DR: Most of the time when I first stand up in front of a crowd at a commission meeting, they think it’s funny or just out there. But I bring doctors up there with me. I bring veterans that have PTSD that have been treated with psilocybin. I bring lawyers and lobbyists up there to speak too, and by the end of it we often get a very good reception.

Everyone has received this really well. There hasn’t been any city or county that has left us out of the room and not let us speak. Unfortunately, the pandemic has slowed down these activities, but pre-pandemic I was working with several commissioners in cities who were willing to sponsor my resolution for decriminalization. That has unfortunately fallen off as a priority this year, but the reception has been very good overall and I’m hopeful that we can pick that back up next year.

PI: What’s your take on the chances for national legalization or decriminalization?

DR: I think we’re getting there. In Colorado, Denver voted for decriminalization. Then Oakland did the same thing. Chicago has a resolution right now, and so does Santa Cruz. So, cities are starting to open up.

Then you have Oregon, which will probably be the first commercial market for psychedelics in 2022 or so. The way their bill that’s on the ballot this year is structured, I think it has a good chance to pass as it gives them two years to study and plan before rolling out a commercial market.

I think it’s looking good from a state and city perspective. From the Federal perspective, unfortunately, most psychedelics are still Schedule 1 substances. But what most people don’t realize is that the FDA actually views psychedelics more preferentially than they even do cannabis, and they have granted limited research into psilocybin for depression and other things.

PI: Has the process that cannabis went through over the last couple of decades helped smooth the way for psychedelics from a regulatory standpoint?

DR: Yes, there’s no doubt. They call cannabis a gateway drug, but it’s also served as a kind of gateway to legalization as well. I definitely think the legalization of cannabis has opened up the minds of a lot of people and has broken down a lot of stigmas. That’s paved the way for other substances to be decriminalized.

PI: Do you see a future of psychedelic treatments beyond what doctors are doing now for depression and PTSD? 

DR: I do, and there are a lot of things that can be treated this way. A lot of my doctors are doing ketamine treatments, some for mental health purposes and some for pain purposes. One of my clients is The Ketamine Fund, and they basically provide ketamine treatments for veterans for free.

Most of the clinical trials that are being done, especially from an FDA perspective, are focused on mental health disorders, whether it be depression, PTSD, addiction, etc. But there will be more applications in the future.

PI: Do you think that state-by-state and town-by-town is how we’re going to get to full legalization someday?

DR: Right now it’s the path of least resistance. Once municipalities decriminalize, and people see that the world isn’t crumbling down, we can start talking at the state level. In certain states like Oregon or Colorado, where they’re more liberal, we might be able to go straight to a state initiative. But in Florida, it might take more time and we’ll have to start smaller. But I think it’s really going to require states to take action as they did with cannabis, and unfortunately the federal government will have to catch up.

In today’s Republican-held Senate, the cannabis industry’s best hope for progress has been the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (or the “SAFE Act”), which would allow state legal cannabis business to work freely with banking institutions. The Act puts in place safe harbors from federal money laundering and regulatory issues for banks dealing with the cannabis industry and would therefore open up banking for the entire industry, allowing it to take another step toward legitimacy in the eyes of the federal government. More importantly, passage of the SAFE Act allows the industry to grow and flourish with the assistance of the banking industry, which is fundamental to continued growth.

The SAFE Act is an incremental step forward, which is vital when dealing with Congress; nothing happens overnight in Washington D.C. This is especially true when talking about an industry with a War on Drugs-sized stigma attached to it. However, the main argument against the SAFE Act is that it’s just that: incremental; a half measure when a full measure is called for. That brings us to the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (the “MORE Act”).

The MORE Act includes many sweeping provisions, starting with the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances act (which would decriminalize cannabis on the federal level, allow states to set their own marijuana policies, and free any U.S. marijuana companies of their tax code 280(e) designation). It would also cause for incentivization for states to expunge low-level cannabis convictions, and create a federal tax on marijuana which would fund the newly created Opportunity Trust Fund, which is meant to assist groups which historically have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. In my time dealing with federal lawmakers, a sweeping reform act such as the MORE Act has been described to me as a “Democratic Pipe Dream” with little hope of passing the Senate with its current membership.

However, the Senate’s membership is set to change subject to the November election results. Many political pundits (PoliticoForbesNY Times) believe that the Republican-held senate could be vulnerable to falling into the Democrats’ hands, changing the political landscape for the next few years. As such, the cannabis industry’s federal fight could abruptly pivot from incremental steps forward like the SAFE Act to the MORE Act’s sweeping cannabis reform. This switch would mirror a recent PEW Research Center’s finding that an overwhelming amount of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational purposes (the full study can be found here).

While I appreciate the value (and current necessity) of an incremental, strategic approach to federal reform of the cannabis industry, the best-case scenario for the industry moving forward would be a Democrat controlled Senate in November. This will allow the cannabis industry to push for full-fledged reform of federal cannabis laws, moving the industry forward at a rate which would be impossible under our current incremental approach. Right now, the cannabis industry in America is poised to be a massive boon (Forbes Cannabis Industry Projections), helping to create jobs and opportunities for millions of Americans. With the right help from the federal lawmakers, that dream can become a reality much sooner than expected.

Steven D. Avalon, Esq.
Associate 
Mr. Cannabis Law