Glass front door of business with words Bloom Medicinals

Bloom Medicinals

Poor Mitch. It must be tough being the self-described grim reaper of the U.S. Senate. The ruler who, with a slash of his scythe, can deliver death to gun control, secure elections, criminal justice, Medicare for All and Green New Deal. Under Senate rules, he has sole discretion over of what comes before that body.

As the longest serving Senate Majority Leader in history, Mitch McConnell is one savvy politico. He has a reputation for pissing off both friends and foes, progressives and conservatives. A recent poll found him with an approval rating of just 36 percent in his home state of Kentucky. His prime motivator is said to be “electoral self-preservation … with no clear purpose.” In other words, it’s first about power, then about reelection.

You’d think this powerful politician would cheer the drug war rant and pander to prohibition. After all, a raft of reefer madness machinations kept cannabis off the Republican Party platform in 2016. Surprisingly, the opposite is true.

Late last year, this staunch Republican shepherded the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, aka 2018 Farm Bill, through Congress, essentially legalizing cannabis, er, hemp. His motivation? Kentucky’s visceral poverty (the fifth poorest state in the nation)? Its dwindling economic opportunity (coal ain’t coming back)? Saving the polluted planet (phytoremediation)? Or maybe pure politics. McConnell knows that cannabis, er, hemp is twice as popular as he is.

Cannabis polling has shifted dramatically since the drug war days when only 12 percent of Americans called themselves pro-legalization. Fifty years later, an April 2019 CBS poll found two thirds of Americans in favor of legalized marijuana. Further, a candidate’s backing of legalization is now a determining factor for over 40 percent of voters. Elections are won and lost on narrow margins, so loyal, single issue voters like those in the cannabis community can deliver a big difference.

Given his unpopularity, grim reaper’s scythe could also slash his 2020 bid for yet another term. His stifling control of the Senate has earned him monikers like “White Whale” (comedian Jon Stewart), “Cocaine Mitch” (West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship), “Moscow Mitch” (Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi”) and the hometown favorite, “Putin’s Mitch” (Kentucky billboard).

Thus, absent any other notable accomplishments, enter cannabis, er, hemp.

Recall that marijuana and hemp are the same plant species, Cannabis sativa. They differ in how they are grown and their end uses, which are many. The distinguishing factor under the Farm Bill lies in the percentage of the psychoactive THC: Under 0.3 percent delta-9 THC - hemp. Over 0.3 percent THC – marijuana. That’s where confusion sets in.

Before the drug war, cannabis was cannabis. The plant did not categorize itself by its contents, prohibition did. To reconcile hemp vs marijuana, legislators like McConnell devised dividing lines like the 0.3 percent. But, as noted by hemp farmer Julie Doran, who successfully championed the recent passage of Ohio’s Farm Bill, “THC content will change throughout the growing cycle. It can be spiked by stress, such as drought or excessive heat.” Under the strict 0.3 percent standard, what would be hemp one day, could be marijuana the next.

Further, according to retired police officer Tim Johnson, who worked with Doran to help pass Ohio’s hemp legislation, current testing only detects THC’s presence, not its percentage. Cops, as well as drug dogs, alert on mere presence. To not intervene – make an arrest – might find officers guilty of malfeasance.

Inconsistencies like these are why Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost advised police and prosecutors to temporarily suspend cannabis arrests. The state’s premier crime lab – the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation – can only test for the binary “is or is not.” Dozens of new machines to split out the 0.3 percent will be required a cost of $50,000 each. And all of this will take training, new staff and years to fully implement.                                            

Yost is not alone in his call for a stall. Other locales doing the same are Southwest Florida, Athens County, Georgia, Tarrant and Harris Counties in Texas plus Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. All are either dismissing or no longer prosecuting marijuana charges.

That bud in your truck, is it marijuana or hemp? Both are cannabis, look the same and smell the same. To make a fine line distinction between the two just to continue drug war arrests and prosecutions will require new, expensive and time-consuming testing that may take years to develop. It will be nearly impossible to put the quasi-legal Jeanie back in the bottle.

Did Mitch McConnell legalize marijuana? He’ll emphatically tell you no. But actions speak louder than words. It’s hard to believe that this savvy seasoned politician failed to foresee these consequences. And it’s even tougher to think he cares.

Maybe there’s a silver lining to the grim reaper’s quest to win reelection using hemp. Regardless of the outcome, he may have saved Kentucky from poverty and planet from pollution.


Bloom Medicinals

At the Georgesville Road exit, turn left. In quarter mile, turn right. Recalculating. Circling the parking lot. Can’t find. Recalculating. There it is.

But the blinds are shut and sign above the door is blank. It looks like a vacant store front. See the door itself and the hours? By intent or happenstance, Bloom Medicinals was one difficult find.

This dispensary may be yet another illustration of the onerous advertising regulations that plague Ohio’s newest industry. Mere signage to help patients find the place would be helpful.

Still, this diffuse location doesn’t appear to have prevented a steady stream from entering and exiting its doors. Most seem to be at least middle aged, if not well into retirement.

Clean, modern, friendly, but with security like Fort Knox aptly describe the experience inside the building. IDs must be presented twice and entry to sales area finds one between two closed, locked doors.

The cheery and helpful staff made up for any shortcomings. This initially lost customer found Bloom Medicinals to be an overall good experience.

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