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 The Real Dirt | Mar 9, 2022 | Blog, Business, Cannabis Business, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Industry News, Medical Marijuana, Politics
Republicans in the Oklahoma House are unveiling a package of new restrictions on the medical marijuana industry.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Republicans in the Oklahoma House on Monday unveiled a package of new restrictions on the state’s booming medical marijuana industry, designed to crack down on illegal growers who sell cannabis on the black market.
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.
But the low barriers for entry and the loose regulatory environment also has led to a huge increase in the number of illegal operators, according to law enforcement.
by Travis C | Feb 11, 2022 | Blog, Cannabis Business, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Legalization, Medical Marijuana, Politics
A South Carolina medical marijuana bill pre-filed in late 2020 has finally been approved by the Senate, and will now go on to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Compassionate Care Act was passed in the Senate on its third reading February 10. Initial passage was expected a day prior following a bipartisan vote to advance the bill, however Thursday’s voice vote means the legislation will be formally transitioned to the other body.
Passed through the Senate Medical Affairs Committee in March 2021, the bill was blocked by a lone senator who prevented it from reaching the chamber floor. Republican Sen. Tom Davis has been the driving force behind the Compassionate Care Act, and doubled his efforts following the blockage in 2021 to get it across the finish line.
The state’s Governor Henry McMaster, also a Republican, said earlier in the week that it is still too soon to comment on the proposal. “This is on that’s going to depend on a lot of things,” he told a local station. McMaster added that he would be waiting for the final version before deciding whether or not to sign off on it if the bill hits his desk.
As it stands, the current bill would allow patients with qualifying conditions to possess and purchase cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. Smokable products, as well as home cultivation of cannabis by patients or their caretakers, would be prohibited. Simply possessing the plant form of cannabis could be punished as a misdemeanor.
Qualifying conditions for medical cannabis include cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, sickle cell anemia, ulcerative colitis, cachexia or wasting syndrome, autism, nausea in homebound or end-of-life patients, muscle spasms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The bill would also allow access for patients with “any chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition for which an opioid is currently or could be prescribed by a physician based on generally accepted standards of care.” An example of this would be severe or persistent pain.
If the South Carolina medical marijuana bill were to pass and be signed into law, purchases of medical marijuana would be subject to the state’s 6% sales tax. Local jurisdictions would also be able to levy an additional tax. The state also has plans to handle dispensaries differently as it stands currently.
Rather than traditional dispensaries that are found in other states, the South Carolina medical marijuana bill calls them “pharmacies” instead. This is because the sites would be required to have a pharmacist on the premises at all times, and the South Carolina Board of Pharmacy would oversee business regulations.
Those with felony drug convictions would be barred from participating in the industry for 10 years under the Compassionate Care Act. In an effort to prevent a multi-state operator takeover, the state would also give priority to in-state businesses when the time for licensing comes.
The initial rollout would approve 15 cannabis cultivators and 30 processing facilities. A cannabis pharmacy will be licensed for every 20 pharmacies in the state, and five testing labs and 4 transport licenses will be given out.
75% of tax revenue collected from South Carolina medical marijuana sales would go into the state’s general fund. An additional 10% would go to drug abuse treatment services, 5% to state law enforcement and the rest will be diverted to cannabis research and education.
by The Real Dirt | Feb 3, 2022 | Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Legalization, Medical Marijuana, Politics
Mississippi is legalizing medical marijuana for people with debilitating conditions such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell disease.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed the legislation Wednesday and it became law immediately. It could be months before the first marijuana dispensaries open.
“There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis,” Reeves wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all the societal and family ills that that brings.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 36 states and four territories already allowed the medical use of cannabis. Mississippi becomes the 37th state.
“For all the people who are touched in some way by a loved one or someone they know who benefits from medical cannabis, this brings their quality of life back,” said Ken Newburger, executive director the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, a group that pushed for legalization.
A majority of Mississippi voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in November 2020, and it would have allowed people to buy up to 5 ounces a month. The state Supreme Court invalidated it six months later by ruling that the state’s initiative process was outdated and the measure was not put properly on the ballot.
The state House and Senate, both controlled by Republicans, passed the final version of Senate Bill 2095 last week.
The new law will allow patients to buy up to to 3.5 grams of cannabis per day, up to six days a week. That is about 3 ounces per month. It sets taxes on production and sale of cannabis, and it specifies that plants must be grown indoors under controlled conditions.
by The Real Dirt | Jan 13, 2022 | Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Cannabis News, Medical Marijuana, Politics
After months of debate and back-and-forth, lawmakers in Mississippi have finally produced a bill to implement a new medical cannabis law in the state.
After months of speculation and hand-wringing, the Mississippi Legislature is set to take up a medical marijuana bill in the Senate as soon as Thursday, lawmakers said.
Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, filed the long-awaited bill late Tuesday afternoon. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann referred the 445-page bill to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for review.
Wednesday afternoon, the bill was passed by the Senate public health committee. Should it pass the Senate, it would head to the House and then to the governor.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said at the start of the legislative session medical marijuana was not a top priority of his. Bryan’s committee held two hearings over the summer about what a proposed medical marijuana bill would look like in Mississippi.
Gov. Tate Reeves said in June 2021 he would call a special session of the legislature if the House and Senate could agree on a bill.
In September, Gunn and Hosemann announced their two chambers had reached an agreement, but Reeves never called a session, objecting to portions of the bill. A draft version was made public in September, and lawmakers worked to address most of Reeves concerns.