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New Jersey to Begin Accepting Cannabis Business License Applications in December

New Jersey to Begin Accepting Cannabis Business License Applications in December

New Jersey cannabis business applications will begin December 15

After missing a September deadline to begin licensing recreational cannabis businesses in New Jersey, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission has announced it will begin accepting application on December 15, 2021. However these applications will only be available to growers, processors and testing labs.

Applications for dispensaries will not be available until March 15, 2022. The New Jersey cannabis legalization law originally mandated legal sales begin by mid-February 2022, or six months after the commission adopted its initial rules.

However due to the past delays, the likelihood of cannabis businesses being up and operational by February 2022 is low. The Commission however has said that during the time that they delayed the application process, they created a way to better process applications, implicating the process could move more quickly than initially expected.

New Jersey currently has medical cannabis dispensaries across the state, which is the only legal way to obtain cannabis currently and requires a patient card to purchase cannabis. The state has recently issued 14 new medical dispensary licenses, however these stores must be in operation for one year before they can apply to also sell recreational cannabis.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission is concerned that due to their delays, there won’t be sufficient supply of cannabis for recreational sales come February. However, already established dispensaries will have the option to apply for recreational sales, and many owners of these businesses say they are ready for recreational sales now with plenty of cannabis in stock.

The New Jersey cannabis legalization bill also allows for delivery, distributors and wholesalers in the recreational cannabis industry. However the Commission has yet to establish the rules for guiding these license types, and a date to begin applications has not been set.

When applications for businesses begin, women-, veteran- or minority-owned businesses will have priority. If an applicant has been arrested for marijuana or lives in a municipality with disproportionate rates of marijuana arrests or is economically disadvantaged, they too have priority. Additionally the rules allow priority for micro-businesses, or those with 10 employees or less.

The Commission will hold an informational webinar on November 30 for those who want to apply for licenses. The Commission has also heard comments on labeling for cannabis products, as well as invited testimony regarding cannabis edibles.

American Native tribes partner up to cash in on marijuana business opportunities

American Native tribes partner up to cash in on marijuana business opportunities

Native american tribes are teaming up to take advantage of cannabis business opportunities

American Indian communities are increasingly collaborating to get a piece of the explosive growth of the cannabis industry by offering products based on tribal medicine from their ancestral origins.

The partnerships are helping break down longstanding barriers to Indigenous entrepreneurship in the marijuana and hemp industries.

“When we all are doing this together, we all win,” said Chenae Bullock, managing director of New York’s Little Beach Harvest and the Shinnecock Nation cannabis division, which has joined with Tilt Holdings, a Massachusetts-based multistate cannabis operator, to establish a vertically integrated marijuana business on Shinnecock tribal lands.

“I call them ancient trade routes,” she said. “We’ve been doing commerce with tribes since before colonialism.”

Tribes are also joining forces to share expertise.

“In order for us to be competitive, we had to make it a collaborative, inclusive, sustainable ecosystem,” said Jeff Sampson, CEO at Everscore, an online marijuana marketplace working with the Native American Cannabis Alliance (NACA).

Collective growing

Three American Indian tribes – the Mohawk Nation and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes – announced this fall an agreement to dedicate 500,000 acres of land to cannabis cultivation.

They’re joining the NACA, a joint initiative between Cherokee Nation’s Native Health Matters Foundation and Everscore, a direct-to-consumer, online cannabis marketplace.

The NACA was established in 2020, when the partners were working to develop a fulfillment center in Oklahoma as a way to get tribes involved in the cannabis industry, said the organization’s creator, Tim Houseberg of Stilwell, Oklahoma.

Because the supply chain was so fragmented, the effort turned into something much bigger.

“We just heard story after story about farmers who had the experience and wanted to participate, but they felt like the risk to actually commit to planting was too great because they couldn’t access markets,” Sampson said.

“We facilitate the connection between a customer and a brand. We felt like we could facilitate a connection between a brand and a grower – in this case, Indigenous farmers.”

Cannabis Is America’s New Cash Crop, More Profitable Than Cotton Or Rice

Cannabis Is America’s New Cash Crop, More Profitable Than Cotton Or Rice

cannabis is now the 5th most profitable cash crop in America

Cannabis marketplace Leafly Holdings, Inc. released its inaugural Cannabis Harvest Report on Wednesday revealing that cannabis is America’s 5th most valuable crop. The report takes the first look at cannabis data, insights and projections across the 11 states where Americans can currently purchase both adult-use and medical cannabis.

To conduct the analysis, Leafly’s investigative team teamed up with Whitney Economics and ended up discovering that cannabis has become a major agricultural commodity that supports thousands of American farmers and farm communities.

Based on the report, cannabis crops in adult-use states now support 13,042 licensed farms in the aggregate. On an annual basis, those growers harvest 2,278 metric tons (5,022,990 pounds) of cannabis. To give you a better idea: that’s enough weed to roll more than two billion joints or fill 57 Olympic-size swimming pools

Cannabis Is More Valuable Than Cotton, Rice And Peanuts

That amount makes cannabis the fifth most valuable crop in the United States. With a wholesale harvest value of $6.2 billion, America’s cannabis harvest ranks above cotton and below wheat, based on US Department of Agriculture data for 2020. Only corn, soybeans, hay and wheat bring in more money to American farmers.

Based on wholesale harvest value, this is how U.S. crops rate:

  • Corn $61 billion
  • Soybeans $46 billion
  • Hay $17.3 billion
  • Wheat $9.3 billion
  • Cannabis $6.2 billion
  • Cotton $4.7 billion
  • Rice $3.1 billion
  • Peanuts $1.3 billion

“America’s adult-use wholesale cannabis crop returned a mind-boggling $6.175 billion to farmers last year, ranking it as the 5th most valuable crop in the United States,” David Downs, the report’s lead author and Leafly’s California bureau chief stated. “ Yet, due to federal prohibition, America does not treat cannabis farmers like farmers. They are subject to more state and federal taxes, regulations, and stigma than any other type of farmer. These barriers hurt small legacy farmers the most. This plant is helping generate wealth, employment, and community investment around the country, and our legislators need to recognize the opportunity cannabis presents for Americans—today.”

The report also revealed that legal cannabis is the single most valuable agricultural crop in Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada and Oregon, but remains completely uncounted and ignored by state agriculture officials. In Alaska alone, the state’s cannabis crop is worth more than twice as much as all other agricultural products combined.

Washington DC grey market could be going away

Washington DC grey market could be going away

Washington DC cannabis delivery

Update 11/2/21: The provision to crack down on the grey market in DC was removed prior to voting on the overall bill on November 2, 2021.

Despite legalizing cannabis in 2014, Washington DC has yet to see a single legal sale of recreational cannabis. But that doesn’t mean the cannabis industry in DC isn’t thriving.

However that could all be changing after the DC Council will vote on a new measure on November 2, 2021.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many Washington DC medical cannabis patients had their medical cards expire due to lack of government services. Patients must register through the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) because there is no cannabis specific regulatory agency.

Under the current law, those seeking medical marijuana have to first get approval from medical practitioners registered with the ABRA, some of whom charge up to $200 a visit. To try and resolve the issue, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced an emergency bill that aims to allow qualifying patients and caregivers whose registration cards expired or will expire between March 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2022 to continue purchasing, possessing and administering cannabis until Jan. 31, 2022.

However the emergency bill includes other measures that would severely cripple if not crumble entirely the grey market cannabis industry that is currently thriving in Washington DC. The same bill that aims to help medical cannabis patients also would enable city agencies and law enforcement to impose fines, revoke licenses, and shut the doors of non-authorized businesses engaging in buying, selling, or otherwise “exchanging” marijuana to its customers.

The Washington DC Grey Market

To understand the potential impact of this bill, it is important to understand how the “cannabis industry” operates in Washington DC. Despite legalizing recreational cannabis possession, cultivation and use in 2014, there is a rider put into the original bill preventing any funds from being spent on the establishment of a legal cannabis industry.

Because of this rider, known as the Harris Rider, there is no regulatory agency or current architecture for a recreational cannabis industry in DC. This hasn’t stopped the people of DC from starting their own underground “legal” cannabis industry that has grown exponentially since its inception.

Known as a “grey market” because it operates in a loophole of the current law, the cannabis industry in Washington DC operates entirely different from any other legal cannabis industry in the country. Here’s how it works:

  1. A customer enters a smoke shop, hydroponic store, or finds an online delivery service
  2. The customer must “donate” a certain fee for a product (i.e. $45 donation for a T-shirt)
  3. The customer then receives a “gift” in the form of cannabis products (i.e. cartridge, flower, edibles)

It is that simple, but can be easier said than done in an underground industry that is entirely unregulated. This can lead customers to pay higher prices for smaller quantities of cannabis, with no way to judge the quality for themselves prior to purchase, mainly in the case of delivery services.

If Mendelson’s bill passes however, the entire grey market could be shut down in a matter of months. But if the 2022 Budget Proposal passes in its current state, it may not be all bad news.

Removing the Harris Rider

Although President Joe Biden does not support broad cannabis legalization on the federal level and left the Harris Rider in his 2022 Budget Proposal, legislators had a different idea. After the House of Representatives removed the Harris Rider in June 2021 passing it on to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy passed the bill through with more additions, but notably kept the Harris Rider out.

The slightly modified legislation also contains several other cannabis provisions, including a request to continue an existing protection for state medical marijuana laws, a call on the federal government to reconsider policies that fire employees for cannabis, criticism of the restrictive drug classification system that impedes scientific research and encouragement to develop technologies to detect THC-impaired driving.

If the 2022 Budget Proposal passes in its current state, the recreational cannabis industry would no longer be prohibited in Washington DC. In other words, the grey market would no longer be necessary. But in the case of Washington DC having a functional legal cannabis industry in 2022, that’s a big “IF”.

USPS Bans Mailing Hemp, CBD and Vape Cartridges

USPS Bans Mailing Hemp, CBD and Vape Cartridges

USPS bans mailing hemp, CBD and vape cartridges

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on Wednesday released its final rule on the mailability of vapes, asserting that even devices designed for federally legal hemp derivatives like CBD generally cannot be shipped through the U.S. mail.

The agency has been developing the regulations to comply with a bill passed by Congress last year that is mostly aimed at stopping nicotine vaping devices from being mailed—though it has broader implications. Despite significant public comment on an earlier proposed version of the rules that urged USPS not to interpret the law in a way that restricts hemp businesses, the agency ultimately said that cannabis vapes fit the definition of what lawmakers moved to ban.

There are some exceptions, but stakeholders are disappointed by the final rule.

During public comment, some argued that the bill was specifically meant to restrict mailing of nicotine-based vapes. But while the legislation refers to limitations on “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” or ENDS, it defines that term as “any electronic device that, through an aerosolized solution, delivers nicotine, flavor, or any other substance to the user inhaling from the device.”

USPS explained in the rule, which is set to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, that by the letter of the law, that includes hemp and marijuana vapes.

“It goes without saying that marijuana, hemp, and their derivatives are substances,” the agency said. “Hence, to the extent that they may be delivered to an inhaling user through an aerosolized solution, they and the related delivery systems, parts, components, liquids, and accessories clearly fall within the [Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act’s] scope.”

Other commenters argued that USPS shouldn’t impose the restriction on cannabis products because the ban could conflict with state or local marijuana laws—or because Congress has approved spending legislation that prohibits the use of Justice Department funds for interfering in state-legal medical cannabis programs.

USPS said those arguments are not valid because, 1) it’s part of the federal government and is, therefore, unaffected by state or local marijuana policies and 2) it’s not part of the Justice Department, which is the only branch of the government restricted by the state protection rider in appropriations legislation.

The agency further clarified that hemp containing up to 0.3 percent THC is federally legal and is generally mailable, but only “to the extent that they are not incorporated into an ENDS product or function as a component of one.” As such, while business can generally mail out legal hemp-derived products, that’s only the case if they are not vaping products covered under the new law.

“The POSECCA and the Agriculture Improvement Act overlap, but they do not conflict. The Agriculture Improvement Act merely excludes certain products from the CSA. It does not affirmatively declare hemp and hemp derivatives to be mailable in any and all circumstances, superseding all other relevant laws (such as the POSECCA). For its part, the POSECCA restricts the mailability of only certain hemp-based and related products; hemp-based non-ENDS products are unaffected, as are ENDS products falling within one of the PACT Act’s exceptions. That Congress has rendered some subset of a class of goods to be nonmailable while leaving the remainder mailable is not some sort of legal conflict, but, rather, how mailability regulation typically works.”

Oregon Declares State of Emergency Over Illicit Hemp Farms

Oregon Declares State of Emergency Over Illicit Hemp Farms

Ilicit hemp farms make up 50% of operations in an Oregon county

There were several concerns among states following the federal legalization of hemp in 2018. One of the primary being the regulation of both cannabis and hemp together in states where cannabis has been legalized.

One such state is Oregon, which legalized cannabis in 2014 and quickly saw a massive boom in the new industry. The state was producing so much cannabis that the price per pound tanked, almost causing the entire industry to crash in just a couple of years.

So when the government legalized industrial hemp on the federal level in 2018, many states including Oregon saw it as an opportunity to broaden the accessibility to the cannabis industry for farmers. Many in Oregon were looking for an alternative to THC-rich cannabis due to the oversaturated market, which led them to switch to hemp instead.

Others joined when hemp was legalized as they recognized the potential of the growing CBD market, and more nefarious actors joined to take advantage of one of the biggest overlying issues in the hemp/cannabis industry; figuring out the difference.

Illicit Hemp Farms

Hemp and cannabis are technically one and the same. While the genetics have branched apart from each other over time, the plant remains very similar at their core. Both contain THC and CBD, but while cannabis was bred to have more THC, hemp traditionally has lower THC levels already, making it easier to breed out.

The Farm Bill requires that hemp contain no more than .3% THC, an infinitesimal amount that can’t produce a psychoactive high. This requirement is what helped drive the CBD as market, as all other cannabinoids aside from Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are technically legal.

Since the plants look so similar to each other, a large portion of the farms claiming to be growing legal hemp, have actually been growing illicit cannabis without proper licensing.

With cannabis legal in Oregon now, these illegal farms operate with near impunity next to Oregon’s highly regulated cannabis market. With many western states being hit with drought this year, these illegal farmers are also illegally stealing water from the surrounding creeks and wells. One illegal cannabis farm recently raided by authorities was illegally drawing water from the Illinois River to feed over 72,000 marijuana plants.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners recently declared a state of emergency warning of “an imminent threat to the public health and safety of our citizens from the illegal production of cannabis in our county.”

The illegal cannabis farms are often posing as legal hemp farms, the commissioners noted. The Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission recently reported that nearly 50% of registered hemp farms inspected in the state are illegally growing cannabis, with a THC content greater than legal limits.