by Travis C | Nov 17, 2022 | 420 News, Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Industry News, Legalization, Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Science & Technology
The first ever standalone cannabis bill to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act passed through the House in July of this year, and was unanimously passed in the Senate on November 17.
The bill’s passing is the first time a standalone cannabis bill has been passed through Congress.
Under the bill should it pass, researchers would be able to obtain cannabis samples from sources besides the University of Mississippi. The university is currently the only federally approved source for cannabis specifically for research purposes.
Cannabis itself is not fully legal medically or recreationally in Mississippi, with CBD usage permitted for medical purposes. Recreational cannabis possession still carries civil penalties including fines and potential jail time.
Additionally the bill would require the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to assess the availability of cannabis for research and allow doctors to discuss the potential benefits and risks of medical cannabis with patients. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will also be required to study the benefits and harms of cannabis.
The passing of this bill could be seen as convenient timing following President Biden’s recent announcement of expunging and releasing roughly 6,500 individuals in federal prison for cannabis possession. In that same announcement, Biden encouraged the DHHS to review the current scheduling of cannabis for potential adjustment.
As it stands, cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 substance under federal law which means it has no accepted medical value, is at high risk of causing addiction, and is on par with other substances like heroin, bath salts and MDMA.
Should Biden sign the bill into the law, which seems likely, it would become even easier for the DHHS to review the potential benefits of cannabis which can influence their decision to reschedule or even de-schedule the plant altogether.
by Travis C | Oct 10, 2022 | 420 News, Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Editorial, Industry News, Legalization, Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, Politics
Biden’s cannabis executive order is making waves across the industry and culture, but what does it really mean?
Last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will release those convicted of federal cannabis crimes from prison. There is no doubt that the move is a major step for this administration and the country as a whole.
Many were quick to jump on the excitement of the announcement. Many were under the impression that this order would impact thousands of people wrongfully convicted of minor cannabis crimes. In one sense this is true.
Upon further inspection, however, some are beginning to question the impact that Biden’s cannabis executive order will truly have.
The Biden Cannabis Pardon
Biden’s cannabis executive order will pardon nearly 6,500 people who were convicted of cannabis possession at the federal level. The key word here is “federal”.
For reference, there are over 40,000 individuals currently in prison for cannabis-related crimes across the US. Another comparison would be Colorado, where Governor Jared Polis has pardoned over 4,000 individuals for possession of two ounces or less.
Illinois has cleared nearly 500,000 conviction records for cannabis related crimes since 2019, with over 20,000 individual pardons in the same time period.
In other words, compared to what individual states are already doing, Biden’s cannabis pardon looks relatively minimal. But let’s go back to the word “federal”.
The reason Biden’s cannabis pardon executive order is so huge is actually because it’s only impacting federal cannabis prisoners. This marks the first time that a mass pardon for cannabis-related crime has been announced at the federal level.
Biden’s cannabis pardon, while only applying to a select group of individuals, shows a great step forward toward this administration following through on its campaign promises.
On the campaign trail, Biden supported reclassifying cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. In addition to the announcement regarding cannabis pardons, he also asked the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department to review how marijuana is scheduled, or classified, under federal law.
Biden also urged states to consider pardoning individuals for cannabis crimes at the state level.
Biden Cannabis Executive Order Leaves Many Out
Due to the selective nature of Biden’s cannabis pardon executive order, there will still be an additional 3,000 people who have been convicted of higher level federal cannabis crimes who do not get out. And as said earlier, the 40,000+ in state prisons for similar crimes are unaffected by the order.
While Biden encouraged state governors to take action and pardon individuals in their state, some states like Texas have already said that they will not be pardoning anybody.
Switching cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 may also not be the positive change many are hoping will move us closer to legalization. Schedule I drugs (where cannabis currently sites) are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Schedule II drugs (where cannabis may move) are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are still considered dangerous according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Drugs listed as Schedule II include vicodin, oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Adderall, and Ritalin. In other words, if the drug is not typically supplied via prescription from a doctor, possession is still illegal.
Cannabis moving to Schedule II may look like a good deal, especially for medical cannabis patients. However the implications that such a move could have on recreational cannabis industries are debated.
The federal government has thus far respected state’s choices to legalize cannabis recreationally, so it is to be expected that it would maintain that discretion even with the changing of federal law. I.e. the federal government will potentially recognize medical cannabis as legal should the scheduling change, while allowing states to keep recreational laws if they so choose.
When the government federally legalized hemp in 2018 under The Farm Bill, states still had the option to set their own laws regarding hemp. Some chose to still ban its production outright, while others made additional restrictions on top of the federal government’s actions.
What Comes Next
Overall the action by President Biden should be viewed positively. While it is not impacting as many people as we would all like, it is a major step for the federal government to acknowledge that simple possession of cannabis should not be a federal crime.
The action marks a step in the right direction for a government that has fought legal access to cannabis for nearly a century. Nobody should expect federally licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in their town anytime soon, however.
Now we wait on the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice to review the scheduling. There has not been any timeline given on how long it may take.
by Travis C | Aug 16, 2022 | Blog, Cannabis Business, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Industry News, Legalization, Marijuana, Politics
Insa, a Massachusetts based cannabis company, has received the first provisional cultivator license for recreational cannabis in Connecticut. The company, with operations in three states currently, was able to obtain the license through a social equity process.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection which issued the license confirmed that the company passed the required background checks and paid $3 million in fees to receive the license. The 14-month provisional license gives the company time to hire employees, establish a business plan and build out their cultivation facility.
Insa currently operates three recreational cannabis dispensaries just over the border in Springfield, Massachusetts. If their final license is approved, Insa will have the ability to operate over 15,000 square feet of cultivation space.
16 social equity applications were approved overall out of 41 total applicants. This process was not held under the lottery format of other non-social equity licenses.
Connecticut’s cannabis law defines a disproportionately impacted area (i.e. social equity applicant area) as a U.S. census tract in Connecticut that has a higher historical conviction rate for drug-related offenses, or an unemployment rate greater than 10%.
Of the 16 approved applicants: two live in Bridgeport; five in Hartford; one in Manchester; one in Middletown; three in New Britain; one in Southington; one in Stamford; and two in Waterbury. However these applicants must still undergo their background checks before they receive provisional licenses like Insa.
Illinois implemented a similar social equity platform when the state legalized cannabis in 2020. It has led to a slew of issues regarding insider connections and big players coming in to beat out local businesses.
by Travis C | Jul 22, 2022 | 420 News, Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Culture, Legalization, Marijuana, Politics
Senators Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden have introduced a bill that would legalize and regulate cannabis at the federal level.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) is a comprehensive legislation that would end federal cannabis prohibition by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. The CAOA would also empower states to create their own cannabis laws; ensure federal regulation protects public health and safety; and prioritize restorative and economic justice.
The bill was initially introduced as a discussion draft in 2021, and after receiving over 1,800 comments, the senators made adjustments and additions to the bill before introducing it this to the chamber this week.
The restorative justice aspect of the bill would help undo the decades of harm caused by the failed War on Drugs, ends discrimination in the provision of federal benefits on the basis of cannabis use, provides major investments for cannabis research, and strengthens worker protections. By decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level, the CAOA also ensures that state-legal cannabis businesses or those in adjacent industries will no longer be denied access to bank accounts or financial services simply because of their ties to cannabis.
“As more states legalize cannabis and work towards reversing the many injustices the failed War on Drugs levied against Black, Brown, and low-income people, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind,” said Sen. Booker. “With strong restorative justice provisions for communities impacted by the drug war, support for small cannabis businesses, and expungement of federal cannabis offenses, this bill reflects long overdue, common sense drug policy. I am proud to have partnered with Senators Schumer and Wyden to introduce this critical legislation. The support that we have received from committee chairs and outside groups underscores the historic nature of this bill and the urgent need for Congress to pass it.”
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act has several goals, including protecting public health and safety, and prioritizing restorative and economic justice. This would be done by implementing safeguards like track-and-trace and purchase limits on retail cannabis for the former. Expunging federal cannabis convictions and encouraging states to do the same would be an initial step for the latter objectives.
It would be made easier for more individuals to get involved in the legal cannabis industry by expanding access to loans and capital for entrepreneurs, especially those impacted by the war on drugs.
The regulation and taxation of cannabis would be implemented by transferring jurisdiction over cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The regulatory framework would be similar to alcohol and tobacco while supposedly recognizing the unique nature of cannabis products.
By default, federal banks would now be permitted to freely do business with legal cannabis businesses without fear of prosecution from the government. Further, cannabis businesses would actually be allowed to claim tax deductions for business expenses, which currently isn’t an option in most states.
One of the last main objectives of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is to encourage cannabis research which has been severely lacking for decades. The CAOA would require more federal research into the impacts of cannabis on health and public safety.
The bill would also establish clinical trials through the VA to study the effects of medical cannabis on the health outcomes of veterans, compile industry-related data and trends, and establish grants for cannabis research.
For employees, federal drug testing for cannabis would be removed as well as random testing for cannabis. However certain “sensitive categories” of federal employees could still be drug tested. This includes those working in national security, law enforcement and commercial transportation.
Regular industry employees would also get worker protections.
by Travis C | Jun 28, 2022 | Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Legalization, Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, Politics
After months of lengthy legal battles, legislation effectively legalizing cannabis for medicinal use in Mississippi will become law on July 1, 2022. The Mississippi Department of Revenue will be running the licensing process.
The agency has said that it will begin accepting applications for dispensaries starting July 5. Patients and medical practitioners will be able to begin applying for applications and registrations on July 1, along with some cannabis production licenses. These licenses specifically will be handled by the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDOH).
Both agencies’ responsibilities stem from the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (MMCA), which was passed in February of this year. Medical cannabis legalization was delayed by nearly a year in the state after a voter initiative to legalize, Initiative 65, was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in May of 2021.
Now patients with conditions covered under the MMCA can go to their physician and complete a medical certification from the MSDOH. If approved, patients will be able to apply to join the medical cannabis program. Once accepted they will receive patient ID they can use to purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary.
While patients may be accepted as early as next month, plants won’t go in the ground in Mississippi until the bill is officially law, i.e. July 1. With dispensary applications being accepted starting July 5, it will certainly be several months before we see any dispensaries open with cannabis product on their shelves.
Estimates claim that purchasing could begin by December this year, or January 2023.
For those seeking a license, the state plans to hand them out within 30 days of receiving a completed application, meaning dispensary construction could begin within the next two months. The state is also accepting applications for a variety of other medical cannabis industry licenses:
by Travis C | Jun 14, 2022 | Blog, Cannabis Business, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Industry News, Legalization, Politics
To start, the New York Office of Cannabis Management, the main agency overseeing the legal cannabis industry in New York, has yet to hire a Chief Equity Officer. This position would oversee the equity licensees that are slated to open their dispensaries at the end of this year.
Additionally, the 13-member advisory board meant to assist the OCM and the Cannabis Control Board has yet to be filled. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) specified in its legislation that these positions should have already been filled.
Despite the vacancies, the OCM is still committing to rolling out regulations and beginning adult-use cannabis sales this fall.
An OCM spokesman said that the agency is “hard at work” searching for a chief equity officer candidate and that they are “almost at the end of that process.” However there has been little updates on the advisory board which was supposed to start meeting in May.
Aside from issues with filling the various positions needed to begin developing and implementing regulations, there has also been some pushback from the state’s existing medical cannabis industry.
In an investigative piece conducted by Syracuse.com, patients have been experiencing long delays to enroll in the medical program. Many are unable to get the care they need.
Meanwhile, the OCM has had a slew of technology issues and has been ignoring patient concerns (according to the patients) while trying to catch up after a delayed start in establishing the recreational marketplace.
Last but certainly not least, the state has handed out nearly 150 conditional cannabis cultivation licenses to hemp farmers across the state, in an effort to produce recreational cannabis so that dispensaries could actually have product in the fall.
With more than half of those licensees being permitted in just the last month, it will be a tight timeline to harvest and process enough cannabis to meet the demand of what will likely become the largest cannabis industry in the country.