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Illinois cannabis sales bring in billions, while leaving hundreds of license holders in limbo

Illinois cannabis sales bring in billions, while leaving hundreds of license holders in limbo

Illinois cannabis sales

 

It is easy to look at the massive profits of the Illinois legal cannabis industry and think it’s been a huge success. But to nearly 200 cannabis dispensary license holders who have been put on hold, the industry isn’t meeting the promises made when the state legalized.

Since legalizing cannabis sales for adult use in 2020, Illinois has brought in over $2 billion in revenue. However a major aspect that made the Illinois cannabis legalization bill stand out was its claims of social equity.

The bill included multiple stipulations that would help minority and disproportionately impacted communities get first dibs on licenses. In one sense, they came through on that promise.

However getting a license and opening a business are two separate things. And 185 dispensary license holders — including minority license holders — have been waiting to open their businesses for two years.

For others like Akele Parnell, an attorney on the board of Chicago’s NORML chapter, they were able to open a grow facility, but with no dispensary to shelve the finished product. This has led to financial struggles for many who don’t have the partnerships or financial backing to stay afloat while waiting to be approved to open their business.

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New Jersey prepares to launch recreational cannabis market

New Jersey prepares to launch recreational cannabis market

New Jersey recreational cannabis sales to start soon

New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market is gearing up to launch within weeks and is poised to become one of the largest on the East Coast with annual sales projected to top $2 billion within a few years.

The state is positioned to beat rival New York to the punch and to match, if not exceed, Massachusetts in annual adult-use sales.

But, like most new markets, industry officials are concerned about whether supply will be adequate to meet demand – at least in the early stages.

New Jersey’s adult-use market – approved by voters in November 2020 – is expected to launch with only a handful or so of the state’s existing medical cannabis operators.

The start of recreational marijuana sales also comes as social equity applicants are struggling to develop their business know-how, raise funds and secure real estate.

Existing medical marijuana operators might get as much as an 18-month head start on some new cannabis businesses, an industry expert said.

Missed deadline

The recreational marijuana law implementing the voter initiative called for sales to begin by Feb. 22, 2022, but the state ignored that deadline, saying it was too early.

Gov. Phil Murphy then hinted in late February that the market could launch “within weeks,” and state regulators indicated recently that they were nearly finished reviewing applications by five current MMJ operators.

Industry officials say that the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission could take up and approve those applications at its March 24 meeting, but it’s unclear how quickly sales would then be allowed to begin.

“We could have only five operators trying to meet the initial demand of the entire state,” said Rob DiPisa, co-chair of the cannabis law practice at Cole Schotz in New Jersey.

“It’s almost naive to think we aren’t going to run into some issues.”

While that’s been the case in other new adult-use markets as well, the New Jersey recreational marijuana law included provisions intended to prevent negative fallout for the state’s roughly 120,000 MMJ patients.

MJBizDaily projects that New Jersey recreational marijuana sales will ramp up from $625 million to $775 million in 2022 to more than $2 billion a year by 2025 or 2026.

Medical marijuana sales, meanwhile, are expected to peak by 2023 and then begin declining, as has been the trend in most adult-use states.

Connecticut tries to crack down on cannabis gifting

Connecticut tries to crack down on cannabis gifting

cannabis gifting to be banned in Connecticut

Hundreds of shoppers filtered through rows of vendors selling novelty art and clothing earlier this year at High Bazaar, a Hamden festival where a “gift” of a marijuana product often accompanied the items they purchased.

But the High Bazaar parties are on hold for now, after the town of Hamden claimed permitting violations. And while a hearing in that civil case is scheduled for later this week, the state legislature is considering a bill that would outlaw such “gifting.”

House Bill 5329 would impose up to a $10,000 fine and a year of jail time on violators. Supporters of the legislation said it would help keep sales in the market regulated, although some hemp and cannabis advocates were wary that it would re-criminalize marijuana.

The bill also includes provisions to cap the number of equity joint ventures for producers and to outlaw billboard advertising. Equity joint ventures allow partnerships between social equity applicants and other cannabis businesses.

“We appreciate that gifting will go on between people in the privacy of their homes,” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino, a Democrat who represents Hamden. “An event that’s organized, that rents space and is really a market just violates the entire intent of the statute that we put in place last year.”

D’Agostino chairs the General Law Committee, which heard public comments on the bill Tuesday.

Cannabis gifting is a practice that’s been used in Washington, D.C., where recreational marijuana sales aren’t allowed but possession of less than 2 ounces has been decriminalized. Vendors sell consumers a product such as a T-shirt, and a cannabis product is included as a gift.

Republicans aim to restrict Oklahoma medical marijuana industry

Republicans aim to restrict Oklahoma medical marijuana industry

Oklahoma medical marijuana industry would be restricted under new legislation

Republicans in the Oklahoma House are unveiling a package of new restrictions on the medical marijuana industry.

The 12-point plan includes a standardization of lab testing and equipment, more inspections of grow facilities, separate licenses for marijuana wholesalers and stringent new reporting requirements for electric and water usage by growers. One proposal would also make the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority a stand-alone agency, not a division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“If you’re an illegal operator in Oklahoma, you’re time is up,” said Rep. Scott Fetgatter, an Okmulgee Republican and a member of the House Republican working group on medical marijuana.

The marijuana industry has been booming in Oklahoma since voters in 2018 approved one of the most liberal medical programs in the nation. It’s easy for patients to obtain a two-year medical license, and nearly 10% of the state’s population is now authorized to buy and use marijuana. Unlike other states, there also are no restrictions on the number of dispensary or grow licenses, and the low cost for entry into the industry has led to a flood of out-of-state pot entrepreneurs seeking to capitalize on the boom.

Biden Admin warns applicants about investing in cannabis stocks

Biden Admin warns applicants about investing in cannabis stocks

Biden admin cannabis stocks

Smoking weed may no longer be the only potential impediment to getting a job with security clearance in the Biden administration. Investing in cannabis companies could now trip up applicants, too.

The Biden administration has expanded its employee conduct guidelines to potentially deny security clearance to individuals who have invested in companies that are involved in the marijuana business, according to an internal executive branch presentation shared with POLITICO.

“Eligibility may be negatively impacted if an individual knowingly and directly invests in stocks or business ventures that specifically pertain to marijuana growers and retailers,” according to the document. “Decisions to willfully invest in such activity could reflect questionable judgment and an unwillingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations.”

The recently updated guidance is the latest illustration of the federal government trying to grapple with its cannabis-related HR policies as the product has become an accepted legal business, medication and recreational substance in states across the country. All told, 37 states, the District of Columbia and some territories have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use.

The White House has adopted a more forgiving posture than its predecessors. Early on in his tenure, President Joe Biden issued a memo that stated prior marijuana use would not automatically disqualify applicants — the most lenient policy of any administration since before President Ronald Reagan.

But he hasn’t been altogether forgiving. Last year, the White House did fire some employees and rescinded employment offers due to prior marijuana use in the early days of the administration. According to the internal presentation, the White House has not changed its position, despite calls from House Democrats to do so.

Missouri Cannabis Legalization Bill Introduced

Missouri Cannabis Legalization Bill Introduced

Missouri cannabis legalization bill introduced

Missouri is trying to introduce legal cannabis. It remains to be seen if it will pass or remain unattainable for the state.

A Missouri lawmaker introduced a comprehensive bill to legalize recreational cannabis on Tuesday. The measure, titled the Cannabis Freedom Act (HB 2704), was introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives by Representative Ron Hicks, a Republican from St. Charles.

If passed, the bill would legalize cannabis for adult-use, regulate recreational cannabis commerce and expunge convictions for past cannabis-related offenses. In a statement, Hicks acknowledged the assistance from interested parties and an Oklahoma colleague in drafting the legislation.

“The Cannabis Freedom Act is the product of input from many different stakeholders including members of law enforcement and those who have endured incarceration for conduct that society now deems acceptable,” Hicks said. “I am particularly grateful for input from Oklahoma State Representative Scott Fetgatter for his assistance in creating a free market program that is also strictly regulated.”

Missouri Cannabis Legalization Bill Permits Possession and Sale

Under the bill, adults 21 and older would be permitted to purchase and use recreational cannabis. Adults would be also be allowed to grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home for personal use.

The bill tasks the Missouri Department of Agriculture with regulating the recreational cannabis program. The department would draft the rules for the program and issue licenses for cannabis producers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, without caps on the number of licenses that could be issued to qualified cannabis businesses.

The Cannabis Freedom Act directs the state Department of Revenue to set a tax of up to 12 percent on recreational cannabis products. Medical cannabis purchases by registered patients would not be subject to the retail tax. Revenue raised by marijuana taxes would be used to administer the recreational cannabis program, with the remainder divided equally among the Missouri Veterans Commission and funding for teachers’ salaries and pensions for first responders.