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Lawmakers reintroduce recreational Minnesota cannabis legislation

Lawmakers reintroduce recreational Minnesota cannabis legislation

Minnesota cannabis legalization bill introduced again

On Monday, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and other Democrat lawmakers reintroduced recreational adult-use cannabis legislation that addresses criminal justice inequities created by the current system and also allows law enforcement to focus on more serious issues, according to the bill.

The DFL says the adult-use cannabis bill is based on conversations with Minnesotans during the statewide “Be Heard on Cannabis” tour, which hosted town hall meetings in 15 communities spanning urban, suburban and rural parts of the state. Additionally, meetings were held with more than 30 organizations and associations, as well as consulting with Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and 13 state agencies. A House of Representatives spokesperson said 250 meetings were held with individuals and groups.

“The failed criminalization of cannabis has resulted in a legacy of racial injustice that can no longer go unaddressed,” Winkler, the bill’s chief author, said. “Adults deserve the freedom to decide whether to use cannabis, and our state government should play an important role in addressing legitimate concerns around youth access, public health, and road safety. Veterans and Minnesotans with serious illnesses like PTSD deserve better access to our medical program, which is not working well for most people. It’s time to legalize, expunge, and regulate.”

The proposal would “create a responsible regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market; expunge most cannabis convictions; fund public health awareness, youth access prevention, and substance abuse treatment; provide grants, loans, technical assistance, and training for small businesses; require testing and labeling of products; restrict packaging based on dosage size; and allow limited home grow abilities.”

“It’s clear that our current cannabis laws aren’t working for Minnesota,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said in a statement. “Smart, sensible legislation can address racial inequities in our criminal justice system, tackle the harms caused by cannabis, and ensure better outcomes for communities.”

According to the House, Black and white Minnesotans consume cannabis at very similar rates, yet Black Minnesotans make up 30% of cannabis arrests while representing just 5% of the population.

“The legalization of adult use-cannabis will result in health, economic, criminal justice, and civil rights benefits for Minnesotans, benefits already experienced by those in other states that have eliminated the criminal prohibition,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul). “Minnesotans, especially those from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted will have an opportunity to live better lives and contribute to society by participating in the workforce. People have made their voices clear across the state, and it’s time to end our current harmful policies on cannabis.”

As of Nov. 4, 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved measures to regulate cannabis for adult-use. That brings the total to 15 states and three territories. A total of 36 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs.

“I remain committed to supporting a path forward for a responsible framework to legalize cannabis in our state. For too long we have turned a blind eye to the effects that prohibition has had on many of our communities of color,” said Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina). “As more states continue to remove barriers to embark in this industry, Minnesota must not be left behind. We should lead the way toward ensuring public health and safety considerations are at the forefront of any legislation.”

The next steps, following the bill’s introduction Monday, will be a series of public hearings that allow residents to ask questions and provide input on the matter.

Pennsylvania governor makes budget pitch for legal cannabis in 2021

Pennsylvania governor makes budget pitch for legal cannabis in 2021

Pennsylvania cannabis legalization could happen in 2021

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, as expected, has made legalizing recreational cannabis one of his administration’s top legislative priorities this year.

Wolf highlighted recreational marijuana in his budget proposal Wednesday and mentioned the urgency given adult-use legalization in neighboring New Jersey and the legalization push in New York.

“Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, we cannot afford to be left behind,” Wolf said in a news release laying out his legislative plan.

The plan didn’t provide licensing details.

But it did note that part of the revenue generated from legalization would be used for grants to support historically disadvantaged small businesses.

Marijuana Business Daily projects that an adult-use market in Pennsylvania would generate $800 million in sales in the program’s first full year and $1.8 billion in annual sales by the fourth year.

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate is seen as the biggest obstacle to legalization.

Wolf, a Democrat, emphasized the issue’s bipartisan support among residents and the bipartisan support that occurred when Pennsylvania lawmakers legalized medical cannabis in 2016.

Pennsylvania’s MMJ market, by most accounts, has been a success since sales began in 2018, which could help persuade lawmakers to pass a recreational marijuana program.

Democrat Senate Leaders Announce Steps To Federally Legalize Marijuana In 2021

Democrat Senate Leaders Announce Steps To Federally Legalize Marijuana In 2021

Democrat senate leaders make plans to federally legalize marijuana in 2021

Three leading champions of marijuana reform in Congress said on Monday that the issue will be prioritized in the new Democratic Senate this year and that they plan to release draft legislation in the coming weeks to begin a conversation about what the federal policy change will look like.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said in a joint statement that ending cannabis prohibition “is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country,” but that alone “is not enough.”

Three leading champions of marijuana reform in Congress said on Monday that the issue will be prioritized in the new Democratic Senate this year and that they plan to release draft legislation in the coming weeks to begin a conversation about what the federal policy change will look like.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said in a joint statement that ending cannabis prohibition “is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country,” but that alone “is not enough.”

The lawmakers, each of whom has advocated for federal legalization, said that “we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs,” especially as more states opt to legalize.

“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies,” they said. “The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”

This is a narrative that’s been building in recent months, with Schumer saying on several occasions both before and after the election that he would work to move reform legislation with his new power to control the Senate floor agenda. Since Democrats secured a majority in the chamber, the stage is set for action.

“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” the senators said. “Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”

bill to federally deschedule cannabis cleared the House last year, but it did not advance in the GOP-controlled Senate. Lawmakers like Schumer and Booker stressed that Democrats reclaiming a majority in the chamber was an imperative for any comprehensive reform to pass this year.

“After years of marijuana policy reform being neglected and mocked by [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)] it is heartening to see these Senate leaders working together to repeal the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana prohibition,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said.

“We look forward to constructively engaging with Congressional leaders, other organizations, and those communities that have historically been most impacted by criminalization in order to ensure that we craft the strongest and most comprehensive bill possible to right the wrongs of the nearly a century of federal cannabis prohibition,” he said.

Cannabis dispensary association drops suit over delivery rules

Cannabis dispensary association drops suit over delivery rules

Massachusetts Cannabis association pulls lawsuit against delivery option

Stung by an exodus of members since it filed suit to block new cannabis industry rules permitting home delivery, the business group that represents most of the state’s brick-and-mortar marijuana shops announced Monday morning that it is dropping the legal challenge.

The Commonwealth Dispensary Association and its attorneys from Foley Hoag argued in a suit that the new delivery-only license types created by the Cannabis Control Commission violated the state’s marijuana law, which they said gives the retailers the right to deliver cannabis under their existing licenses.

“Simply, the CCC overstepped its authority and disregarded state law, radically upending the established rules that hundreds of small businesses and their host communities operated in accordance with since 2016,” the CDA said in a statement when it filed its suit earlier this month.

The lawsuit was seen by some as an attack on the disadvantaged entrepreneurs and small businesses that the CCC’s new delivery model was intended to help and a number of retailers publicly broke from the CDA as news of the suit spread. Delivery-only licenses with the ability to buy marijuana wholesale will be available exclusively to participants in the CCC’s social equity program and economic empowerment applicants for the first three years.

“We are leaving because of our belief in creating economic opportunity for social equity applicants,” Cultivate, which has shops in Leicester and Framingham and was one of the first two non-medical retailers to open in the state, said. New England Treatment Access, one of the state’s largest marijuana firms with shops in Northampton and Brookline, and about 10 other companies also left the CDA in recent days, the Boston Globe reported.

The CCC’s new regulations create two delivery license types: a “marijuana delivery operator” that can buy products wholesale from growers and manufacturers and sell them to their own customers, and a “marijuana courier” that can charge a fee to make deliveries from CCC-licensed retailers and dispensaries. Advocates have argued that delivery-only licenses will help level the playing field between large corporations and small businesses because the barriers to entry for delivery are less burdensome than those for retail licenses.

The CDA said the “difficult decision” to sue the CCC over the delivery rules was “supported by the vast majority of members” and “reflected our concerns on the negative impact these regulatory changes might have on the industry as a whole.” Still, CDA leaders said they decided “it is in the best interest of the industry and our members to drop the lawsuit.”

“We all need to be working together on achieving our many shared objectives, including increasing the participation of a diverse set of entrepreneurs in the industry,” the group said as it pledged to work with groups like the Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery (MCAD).

Anti-Marijuana Lawmaker Files Legalization Bill In North Dakota

Anti-Marijuana Lawmaker Files Legalization Bill In North Dakota

North Dakota lawmaker proposes cannabis legalization bill

North Dakota’s secretary of state on Friday approved the format of a proposed marijuana initiative, clearing the way for activists to collect signatures to place it on the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker is pushing a cannabis legalization bill he introduced even though he does not support the underling policy change.

Rather, Rep. Jason Dockter (R) said he recognizes the seeming inevitability of legal marijuana reaching the state as more neighboring jurisdictions enact reform and as activists gain momentum for their agenda. If the state is going to enact legalization, he wants the legislature to dictate what that program looks like instead of leaving it in the hands of advocacy groups.

Dockter’s House Bill 1420 would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use, but home cultivation would not be allowed.

Licensed cultivation facilities that provide cannabis products to retailers “may grow an amount of marijuana sufficient to meet the demands of the public.”

Under the proposal, legal cannabis sales would begin on February 1, 2022.

The bill is being supported by the pro-reform campaign Legalize ND. The group placed a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot that was defeated by voters. They tried to qualify another initiative last year but signature gathering complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.

It’s not clear if they will now still pursue previously announced plans for 2022 in light of the new bill, which they said they are “proud of” and is the result of engaging lawmakers in more than six months’ worth of conversations.

Meanwhile, a separate activist group has already filed its own 2022 legal marijuana measure that would make it so adults could possess marijuana and grow up to 12 plants (up to six of which could be mature). Secretary of State Al Jaeger said on Friday that the group can begin working to gather the 26,904 valid signatures from registered voters they will need to place the measure on the ballot.

“I am glad the North Dakota legislature is coming to the realization that legalization will move forward with or without them,” Jody Vetter, chairwoman for that effort, the ND for Freedom of Cannabis Act, told Marijuana Moment.

She added that while the Dockter’s bill is “a step in the right direction toward ending prohibition, there are concerns,” pointing to the lack of legal home cultivation and remaining criminal charges for certain cannabis-related activity.

“Criminal charges surrounding possession should only apply if someone is found to be selling cannabis without proper license or contributing to minors,” Vetter said. “We are moving forward with the ND For Freedom of Cannabis Act. Home growing is essential for any legal program and an overwhelming majority of North Dakota residents are ready to stop criminally charging citizens for simply possessing cannabis.”

USDA Releases Final Ruling on Hemp

USDA Releases Final Ruling on Hemp

USDA final ruling on hemp has been released

From sampling to THC testing, here’s a rundown on how the final rule, which takes effect in March, compares to current regulations.

On Jan. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released a final rule on hemp based on its previous set of regulations that drew public comments from nearly 6,000 people.

The latest set of regulations makes several highly requested changes to the interim final rule (IFR) that are seen as favorable to both hemp producers and regulators.

Still, contentious aspects of the IFR remain, but some industry members are hopeful there is still time to amend them.

Sampling

The final rule made several changes to sampling that should reduce burdens on both growers and regulators.

First, the rule increased the sampling window, which is currently 15 days. Samples for testing now need to be taken up to 30 days before a farmer plans to harvest, giving regulators more time to get into fields. Many stated in public comments that 15 days was far too little time to collect an appropriate amount of samples from each producer in the state.

The rule also slightly modified from where on the plant samples need to be taken. While the IFR required collecting a sample from the top third portion of the plant, the final rule now states samples should be taken “approximately five to eight inches from the ‘main stem’ (that includes the leaves and flowers), ‘terminal bud’ (that occurs at the end of a stem), or ‘central cola’ (cut stem that could develop into a bud) of the flowering top of the plant.”

Andrea Hope J. Steel, the director at Coats Rose P.C. and co-leader of the law firm’s Cannabis Business Law group, tells Hemp Grower this provision will allow sampling agents to collect more stem and leaf material than previously allowed.

That will help reduce instances of hot crops,” Steel says. Stems and leaves typically contain lower levels of cannabinoids—and specific to this issue, of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—than the flowers.

However, Graff says this still requires sampling from primarily floral material despite comments on the IFR that requested switching to a whole-plant sampling approach.

The final rule dedicates a significant portion of its 300 pages to addressing and responding to the most highly requested comments, including those on sampling.

“Even though many commenters felt that whole plant sampling should be allowed, AMS is of the opinion that since THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] is concentrated in the flower material of the plant, the flower material is more appropriate to test than the entire plant,” the final rule states.

Perhaps most significantly, the final rule has changed sampling protocol from collecting a “representative sample of every lot [growers] plan to harvest” using specific methodology, according to the IFR, to allowing states and tribes to implement a more “performance-based” method.

The AMS says these performance-based sampling protocols may take into account:

  • seed certification processes (or other processes that identify varieties that have consistently produced compliant hemp plants);
  • whether the producer is conducting research on hemp at an institution of higher learning or that is funded by a federal, state or tribal government;
  • whether a producer has consistently produced compliant hemp plants over an extended period of time;
  • whether a producer is growing “immature” hemp, such as seedlings, clones, microgreens or other non-flowering cannabis, that does not reach the flowering stage;
  • other similar factors.

“Flexibilities afforded to States and Indian Tribes developing their own hemp production plans will allow them to incorporate best practices, as those change and develop over time. For example, States and Indian Tribes can adapt field-walking patterns to various sized and shaped hemp grower operations,” the final rule states. “AMS believes that a national standard would be difficult to consistently apply given the various grower operations and that standard ‘zig-zag,’ or letters ‘M’ or ‘Z’ walk patterns may not be feasible for sample collection of micro-acreage producers, very large scale producers or those with polygonal hemp lots.”

States will need to include details of their performance-based sampling methods in their hemp plans, which the USDA must approve. (An updated guide on sampling has been published on the AMS website.)

Testing

While the final rule implemented generally positive sampling changes for the industry, THC testing will, for the most part, remain burdensome. 

The final rule retains that hemp must remain below 0.3% total THC on a dry-weight basis. Total THC is defined as the sum of the delta-9 THC and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). On its own, THCA does not produce psychoactive effects like delta-9 THC, but it can be converted to THC through decarboxylation, which is the process required for testing.

While increasing that limit was one of the most highly requested changes in public comments, the USDA was unable to do so, as that limit was written into law in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill). It’s notable that total THC, however, was not written into the farm bill—that bill defines hemp only by delta-9-THC levels. In its final rule (as well as the IFR), the USDA interprets the language of the farm bill to mean that total THC must be tested.

However, legislation has been introduced in both Kentucky and at the federal level by Sen. Rand Paul to amend that limit to 1%, which would quell the total THC versus delta-9-THC debate.

Options for Hot Hemp

If hemp does test “hot” above the 0.3% THC limit, the final rule has given producers additional options for disposal beyond the total destruction written into the IFR.

States now have several options for more productive and less wasteful methods of disposal that can result in useful soil amendments. Those include:

  • plowing under
  • mulching/composting the hemp
  • disking
  • shredding the biomass with a bush mower or chopper.

Producers may also bury or burn their hot hemp. (The AMS implemented these additional options in early 2020, but they were not written into the IFR.)

The final rule also implements a brand-new option for hot crops: remediation.

The rule states producers can remediate their material by “removing and destroying flower material, while retaining stalk, stems, leaf material, and seeds.” Producers may also shred the entire plant to create a “biomass-like material” and then retest it for compliance.

Producers also no longer need to use a DEA-registered distributor or law enforcement to dispose of hot hemp.

Read the Full Story from Hemp Grower Magazine

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