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Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Guarantee Cannabis Insurance Services

Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Guarantee Cannabis Insurance Services

A bipartisan cannabis insurance bill has been introduced in the Senate

A bipartisan bill to guarantee insurance services within the cannabis industry was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate. The legislation, aptly named the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act of 2021, is sponsored by Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Jeff Merkley (D).

According to a press release from Sen. Menendez’s office, the bill was introduced in response to the fact that only six states in the U.S. still lack some form of medical or adult-use cannabis law. However, due to cannabis’s designation as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, these otherwise legal businesses are not generally insurable.

Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives on Monday, her office announced in a press release.

The voters in New Jersey spoke loud and clear this November when they overwhelmingly approved of recreational marijuana use, the governor and state legislature have acted, and now it’s time for the federal government to take the shackles off of state-authorized cannabis businesses, allowing this burgeoning industry to thrive.” — Sen. Menendez, in a statement

The CLAIM Act would allow cannabis firms in states with adult or medical cannabis to obtain insurance products like workman’s compensation, property, casualty and title insurance, the press release says. The Act has both private and public stipulations designed to protect insurers as well as the insured.

“Current federal law prevents these small business owners from getting insurance coverage, and without it, they can’t protect their property, employees or customers,” said Sen. Menendez. “Our legislation simply levels the playing field for legal cannabis businesses, allowing them to fully operate just as any other legal small business would by permitting insurance companies to provide coverage to these enterprises without risk of federal prosecution or other unintended consequences.”

The proposal is particularly timely as the House and Senate are set to reconsider the widely popular SAFE Banking Act, which would legalize the cannabis industry’s access to traditional banking and other financial services.

New Massachusetts bill would legalize cannabis lounges

New Massachusetts bill would legalize cannabis lounges

Cannabis lounges could be legal as soon as 2022 in Massachusetts

Buying legal marijuana has become a convenient reality in Massachusetts but finding someplace to legally smoke it is a different story.

A bill aims to address that predicament by authorizing licensed cannabis lounges.

State Sen. Julian Cyr, who represents the Cape and Islands, proposed the bill that he believes is a practical concept.

Cyr told Boston 25 News the current situation is comparable to the state allowing liquor stores but banning bars. He said it makes sense for the state to come up with a solution that would give marijuana users designated places to legally smoke or consume cannabis.

“If we don’t address it, it’s going to become a really big headache for law enforcement and for business owners in places like Provincetown or near Fenway,” Cyr said.

Cyr said the concept particularly applies in areas that attract a lot of visitors. His district includes Provincetown. The tourist destination on the tip of Massachusetts is home to three dispensaries, and more are set to open there soon.

“I think of folks getting off the ferry, going to a dispensary and then really being faced with a conundrum that they’re not able to use the substance anyplace legally,” Cyr explained. “So, you got a problem of people ducking into alleyways, going to the beach, really creating a nuisance.”

If the bill passes, it would start as a pilot program. Licensed cannabis lounges would only be authorized in a maximum of six communities. The state would potentially consider expanding it further based on feedback from local leaders, residents and businesses.

“In those communities, I think it benefits everyone to have a place where people can gather and consume cannabis,” said Mike Ross, former Boston city councilor and attorney. “I think people have to start thinking of it and get ahead of it.”

Communities in several other states, including Colorado and California, have already moved forward with permitting social consumption venues.

It’s unclear how long it will take for the bill proposed by Cyr to move through the Massachusetts legislature. He predicts the earliest it will see traction is in the second year of the legislative session in 2022.

Will 2021 be another struggling year for the hemp industry?

Will 2021 be another struggling year for the hemp industry?

The legal hemp industry has had a turbulent couple of years.
2019 was the first full year that the legal hemp industry operated in the United States, and it was a slow start. 2020 was a difficult year for just about everybody, the hemp industry included.

The question many are now asking is, will 2021 be the year that the hemp industry begins to thrive, or is it already dying?

The boom of Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, in the United States might lead some to believe that with so much publicity and demand for CBD products (which are made from hemp), the industry would be thriving. But it isn’t that simple.

In fact, in 2020 several states produced less than 40% of the acres that were licensed for hemp production by their respective states.

In a collection of hemp industry data collected by Hemp Grower they found that numerous states, some being licensed to produce thousands of acres of hemp, had only produced a fraction of what they were allotted. Arizona for example, planted just 1,130 acres, or 3.3%, of the 34,480 acres that were licensed. The state had the largest disparity out of any other in the country.

Reasons for disparities

A problem that was found in just about every state that vastly underproduced hemp had to do with the licensing processes and fees. In Arizona, no matter how many acres a hemp farmer is planning to use, they pay the same $1,000 fee. If one farmer only has 10 acres, and another has 2,000 they pay the same exact fee.

This led to many traditional row crop farmers with a lot of land to claim all of it for hemp, despite only using a fraction of the land to actually produce hemp. In other words, a large scale farmer that claimed 5,000 acres for hemp production, may only use 50 acres to grow hemp while the rest is kept for traditional crops, leading to large discrepancies in the data collection for the state.

Additionally, Arizona state inspection fees for collecting samples include a $25 per acre fee up to the first 100 acres, and then $5 an acre beyond that. Brian McGrew, the industrial hemp program manager in Arizona says that several other factors also figure into acres planted, including weather trends during growing seasons.

“There were a lot of things that did impact 2020,” McGrew says. “It actually is probably the hottest and driest year we had on record. So that really did affect not only with hemp but a lot of other industries dealing with that.” For other states, licensing was also an inhibitor.

Hemp industry licensing problems

Minnesota hemp growers planted roughly 4,700 acres, or 56% of the projected 8,400 acres that were licensed, according to Anthony Cortilet, the state’s industrial hemp program supervisor. During the licensing process, Minnesota registers farmers by the number of individual grow locations, no matter how big or small, he says. The fee is $400 for the hemp grower license at one location, and $250 for each additional grow location.

The $400 licensing fee includes the delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) sampling and testing of one variety of hemp, but the department of agriculture collects $125 for each additional variety a grower cultivates in his or her field, which goes toward paying the laboratory costs, Cortilet says.

In Tennessee, hemp growers planted 4,836 acres in 2020, or 30.8% of the 15,722 acres that were licensed. The state department of agriculture has a staggered licensing fee system, like Minnesota, but the differences in costs are minimized to $50 increments: 5 acres or fewer is $250; between 5 and 20 acres is $300; and 20-plus acres is $350.

Each state’s hemp industry spokespeople have their reasons for the disparities, mainly that farmers and growers have different business plans and business models, while others simply underestimate the cost of hemp production, but don’t realize the costs until they have already paid for the land use.

Is the hemp industry already dying?

The current reality of the legal hemp industry may not seem very promising. In another study conducted by Hemp Benchmarks that utilizes the most current and available data on 2020 and 2019 hemp production, the results were scary.

The reports underscore the contraction that occurred in the hemp industry in 2020. For example, the amount of acreage licensed for hemp in the U.S. reached just over 400,000 in 2020, down by over 30% from roughly 590,000 acres licensed in 2019.

Additionally, Hemp Benchmarks estimated that only 35-40% of acreage licensed for hemp was actually planted in 2020, or between 140,000 to 160,000 acres. With the assumption that 85% of all U.S. acreage was for CBD or other cannabinoid production, that amounts to between 119,000 and 136,000 planted acres devoted just to CBD or other cannabinoid hemp. Their initial estimate for acreage planted with CBD or other cannabinoid hemp in 2020 is roughly half of their estimated planted acreage for 2019.

To summarize their reporting, CBD hemp production was nearly halved in 2020, while overall hemp production dropped by 30%. But it isn’t just because farmers are growing less hemp.

The issue of hot hemp

A consistent problem that has plagued the legal hemp industry is hemp produced with a THC content over .3%, commonly known throughout the community as “hot” hemp. Farmers and growers across the country have long been asking the federal government to adjust the THC requirement for hemp to be at least 1%. As such a low THC content could not realistically produce a psychoactive high, the argument is that by raising the limit slightly, more farmers would be able to produce passable hemp.

And until the majority of farmers secure trustworthy hemp genetics or the laws change, these problems will continue.

A hemp farmer in Colorado had to completely destroy 80 acres of hemp that had THC levels that were slightly above the requirement. His plants tested at .47%. That is just .17% above the legal limit, but all of his plants had to be destroyed or he risked thousands of dollars in fines. In the eyes of the government he had 80 acres of psychoactive, illegal cannabis despite being just a fraction of a percent over the limit.

For that one farmer, hot hemp means thousands of dollars flushed down the drain after months of hard labor producing flowering hemp plants or biomass. The same problem plagues farmers across the country, leading many to either cut back their production to save in the case of hot hemp issues, or stop production all together.

These factors combined have caused the shrinkage of the legal hemp industry that we saw in 2020, and what we will likely continue to see through 2021. However there is a silver lining to the trimming down of the hemp industry.

Less hemp, but higher quality

While millions of pounds of hemp were lost to the trash heap because of high THC levels in 2020, and thousands of farmers cut back their production or left the industry all together, the cream has begun to rise to the top. Hemp farmers and producers with high quality genetics, that test consistently at .3% or lower, while also enhancing the natural cannabinoids in the plant like CBD, CBG and CBN have become the go-to suppliers for serious farmers across the country.

One cannabinoid in particular exploded in 2020, and it wasn’t CBD. Delta-8 THC, the close relative to Delta-9 THC which is the main psychoactive cannabinoid bred in cannabis, was unwittingly legalized along with hemp through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Those who have tried Delta-8 THC claim that is has comparative effects to Delta-9 THC, although subdued. Advocates for D8 THC claim it is the best, legal alternative to D9 THC. This is sparking another revolution in the hemp industry as growers race to produce varietals with the highest Delta-8 THC content possible.

At the same time, the consumer’s palate is evolving to desire more complex terpene and cannabinoid profiles in their cannabis and hemp products. The increase in demand for new hemp products has the chance to give the industry a big boost in 2021.

Overall, the trend of the hemp of the industry shows a dip in 2020 that has many questioning if 2021 will be a rebound year or just a continuation. To insert a little opinion; the cannabis industry faced similar issues as it matured, as consumers demanded higher quality product and cheap producers were weeded out…pun intended.

Despite the hit that the legal hemp industry took in 2020, the demand for CBD products doesn’t appear to be slowing, and the addition of new cannabinoid-rich hemp varietals and products will bring more attention to the plant and its benefits. More research will be done this year than last year, and more people will become educated about hemp products than ever before.

Suffice to say the legal hemp industry isn’t going anywhere in 2021, if not slowly upward.

Florida Marijuana Sales Ranks Third In Country for 2020

Florida Marijuana Sales Ranks Third In Country for 2020

Florida marijuana sales rank third in the country for 2020
Florida’s medical cannabis marketplace generated an estimated $1.3 billion in sales last year, ranking third in the country for 2020 cannabis sales.

Although Florida has just a medical cannabis system, the state emerged as one of the nation’s most active cannabis markets in 2020, according to the recent cannabis jobs report by Leafly and Whitney Economics.

Florida ranked third in the country for cannabis sales in 2020 with an estimated total reaching $1.3 billion, only behind Colorado and California, which both have adult-use cannabis markets and have had medical cannabis systems since the 1990s.

Home to 331 dispensaries spread across the state, Florida added 170,000 patients in 2020, bringing the total of registered patients to nearly a half million at 485,693. The state also added roughly 15,000 cannabis jobs in 2020, bringing the total number of Floridians employed by the medical cannabis sector to 31,444. The report suggests Florida’s cannabis receipts could easily double if the state adopted adult-use cannabis, estimating the potential for up to $2.1 billion in sales, $800,000 per month in taxes, and up to 80,000 local jobs by 2025.

“With a state population of nearly 22 million, Florida could reasonably double its current total of cannabis jobs if it chose to legalize for all adults.” — Excerpt from the Leafly and Whitney Economics job report

Despite the high sales numbers, Florida’s medical cannabis structure has led to some issues. Additionally, there are a handful of adult-use and medical cannabis reform bills currently stalled in the Florida legislature.

Currently, a case working its way through the courts seeks to overturn the state’s vertically integrated regulatory structure on grounds that it is unconstitutional, The Center Square reports. Already having won its challenge in Tallahassee District Court, the case will be considered next by the Florida Supreme Court on March 1.

At least one bill seeking to limit THC levels in medical cannabis products will reach committee consideration, however, setting up a potential contest between the growing cannabis prevention movement, a tax-hungry state budget, and medical cannabis patients.

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of applicants apply for just six Georgia marijuana licenses

From nearly 70 applicants, six companies will be chosen to begin manufacturing medical marijuana oil for Georgia patients.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission announced this month it will review the proposals and then award licenses to six companies, possibly in late spring or early summer.

The winning companies will then have one year to begin operations, according to state law, providing medicine for 14,000 registered patients for conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Though they’re allowed to consume the medicine, there’s no legal way to buy it until the companies come online.

“The goal is to ensure that patients have access to the highest-quality medicine that we can arrive at in our state with these production facilities,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “I’m very impressed with the quality and caliber of applicants.”

Licenses will be awarded based on criteria set in a state law creating the cannabis oil program in 2019. Companies submitted plans for production, business operations, facilities and seed-to-sale tracking, Turnage said.

Under the law, six companies will be licensed to cultivate medical marijuana, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. They’ll be allowed to grow the drug on a total of 400,000 square feet of indoor growing space statewide.

“The only thing we should be thinking about is how we can get the safest oil and the best medicine to Georgia patients,” said state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville who sponsored legislation starting the program. “The licensees should be the six companies who are capable of creating a lab-tested, trusted, safe oil, and have a tested and proven product in other states.”

Lawmakers limited the number of licenses as part of a compromise between House and Senate leaders who had struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana distribution.

US cannabis jobs surpass 321,000 full-time jobs

US cannabis jobs surpass 321,000 full-time jobs

cannabis jobs surpass 300,000 in the US

How many jobs are there in America’s legal marijuana industry?

The 2021 Leafly Jobs Report, issued earlier today, found 321,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2021. That total includes both plant-touching and ancillary jobs—everyone from budtenders to bean-counters.

To put that in perspective: In the United States there are more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers. There are more legal cannabis workers than EMTs and paramedics. There are more than twice as many legal cannabis workers as dentists.

cannabis jobs exceed 300,000 in the US

The annual Leafly Jobs Report, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics, is the nation’s cornerstone cannabis employment study.

Federal prohibition prevents the US Department of Labor from counting state-legal marijuana jobs. Since 2017, Leafly’s news and data teams have filled that gap with a yearly analysis of employment in the legal cannabis sector.

Whitney Economics, a leading consulting firm that specializes in cannabis economics, policy, and business consulting, has partnered with Leafly on the project since 2019.

Twice the job growth as 2019

Cannabis job growth in 2020 represents a doubling of the previous year’s US job growth. In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new US jobs for a total of 243,700.

Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States in 2020. That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II.

Cannabis now an $18.3 billion industry in the United States

In 2020, Americans purchased $18.3 billion worth of cannabis products, a 71% increase over 2019.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, many in the cannabis industry worried about a potential industry-wide shutdown. Instead, governors in most states declared cannabis an essential product. Dispensaries and retail stores responded by offering online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery as COVID-safe options for their customers.

Customers responded by stocking up for months of stay-at-home advisories and social distancing. After a brief dip in late-March revenue, most stores saw a significant bump in April—and then the bump became a plateau.

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