Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Massachusetts Cannabis Cash Finds a Home at Federal Credit Union

It's no secret that recreational marijuana is a cash cow, but until recently, retailers have had no piggy bank in which to deposit all their earnings. However, thanks to the efforts of Gardner Federal Credit Union, marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts may have found a home for their earnings. The Boston Business Journal has the story:

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The bank said Friday afternoon that it would begin banking for the industry, working with Safe Harbor Services, a
wholly-owned affiliate of Partner Colorado Credit Union that is the leader in compliance-based cannabis banking services.

 

“As a credit union committed to helping people and serving the underserved, we found in Safe Harbor a partner who offered a viable and proven compliant-based cannabis banking option and a way to keep our communities safe. Our board of directors recognizes the need to provide banking services for the safety of our citizens in reducing the ‘cash on the streets’ and I applaud them for their vision and commitment to providing public safety," said GFA Federal Credit Union’s CEO, Tina Sbrega.

Banking has long been a thorn in the side of recreational marijuana retailers. Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, if a bank were to accept funds derived from marijuana sales, that would constitute money laundering. The resulting friction between state legalization and federal drug policy has created an business ecosystem where cash is king. Colorado marijuana entrepreneur Babak Behzadzadeh told The New York Times: "If we had bank accounts, it'd be much easier."

Safe Harbor Services began helping local banks and credit unions in Colorado accept marijuana money in 2014, serving a vital–and very profitable–role in the cannabis industry. The company has expanded its reach outside of Colorado, now offering its services to credit unions like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts. The company is able to help its customers deposit their cannabis profits "legally" by ensuring that none of the money is derived from activities specifically prohibited by the Cole memorandum, and that the banks who accepted cannabis cash were careful about what they did with it–specifically ensuring that it did not migrate outside of states in which marijuana was legal. However, with the recent rescission of the Cole memorandum by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it is not clear that Safe Harbor will be able to continue offering their services to financial institutions. 

Polls show that the majority of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, and 30 states have legalized the drug in some form. With this increasing momentum in favor of legalization, states have expressed an interest in allowing banks to accept money derived from marijuana sales in order to quell threats of violence and robbery to marijuana businesses, who generally carry large amounts of cash on hand. Whether the current administration will crack down on organizations like Safe Harbor and their partners like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts remains to be seen, but something will have to be done with all of the cash currently being generated by the marijuana industry.

 -John Robinson

September 22, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Utah may soon legalize medical marijuana

Utah FlagA public event supporting legal medical marijuana organized by the Utah Patient Coalition has attracted hundreds of supporters. The bill being considered, Proposition 2, would allow patients with doctor recommendations to legally obtain medical marijuana from privately owned dispensaries. 

According to an article by Kathy Stephenson of the Salt Lake Tribune, the event included music, food trucks, bounce houses, T-shirts and lawn signs. 

Not all Utahns are in favor of the bill in its current form, though. The article explains that despite empathy for suffering children, some groups don't support Proposition 2 due to a perceived lack of sufficient procedural safeguards. 

A Dan Jones and Associates poll, conducted for UtahPolicy.com, found 64 percent of likely voters to be “somewhat” or “strongly” in support of the measure.

However, several groups, including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Drug Safe Utah Coalition — made up of medical experts, clergy, law enforcement, educators and business leaders — are opposed and say the initiative as written lacks procedural safeguards.

“We are aware of many in our neighborhoods who seek relief from pain and suffering and are moved with empathy by stories of children who endure debilitating seizures and other medical conditions," said Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations. “The church supports medicinal use of marijuana, so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place.

“In the spirit of compromise,” he added, "we urge a timely, safe and compassionate approach to providing medical marijuana for those in need without the harmful effects that will come if Proposition 2 becomes law.”

The upcoming elections in November will show whether events like this are enough to sway the voters of Utah to become the 32nd state to legalize medical marijuana. 

--Alex Bennett

September 22, 2018 in Decriminalization, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sixth Circuit Defers to State Cannabis Law in Insurance Dispute

Federalism might bolster insurance coverage for commercial landlords who choose to rent to legal marijuana grow operations if the landlord ensures their insurance policy does not contain a broad exclusion for “criminal acts.” An insurance claim for damage to a rental unit may not bring a commercial landlord any relief, especially when the tenant was growing cannabis illegally under both state and federal law. K.V.G. Properties, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co. (hereinafter KVG), a recent case out of the Sixth Circuit, begs the question: Would an exclusion in a first-party insurance contract for criminal acts apply if the tenant had complied with state law when growing marijuana?

Michael S. Levine and Geoffrey B. Fehling of Hunton Andrews Kurth recently weighed in on the K.V.G. decision, which was handed down in late August and, according to Levine and Fehling, “previews ‘federalism’ arguments that are likely to reappear in future cannabis coverage disputes where state law permitting all or limited use of cannabis conflicts with federal law.”

5838164This dispute began when the DEA raided KVG’s commercial tenants for growing marijuana in rental units, but not before the tenants had already done substantial damage, like wall removal, holes in the roof, altered ductwork, and severe damage to HVAC systems. KVG evicted the tenants and sought coverage for nearly $500,000 in related losses from its insurers. KVG sued after the insurer denied its claim because the damages resulted from acts contained in the “Dishonest or Criminal Acts Exclusion” in the policy. The exclusion states that the insurer “will not pay for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any dishonest or criminal act by you, any of your partners . . . employees (including leased employees) . . . authorized representatives or anyone to whom you entrust the property for any purpose.”

Cultivating marijuana is a crime under federal law, but it is protected by Michigan law under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (the “MMMA”). The Court noted that “under different circumstances, KVG might have a strong federalism argument in favor of coverage.” However, KVG’s tenants did not comply with Michigan law, which KVG admitted in eviction pleadings. KVG claimed that the “tenant illegally grew marijuana” and it was a “continuous health hazard.”

Moreover, when raiding the premises, the DEA operated under guidance from the Deputy Attorney General James Cole stating that they should not prioritize “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” The Court reasoned that “the fact of the raid itself has some tendency to show that the tenants were not in ‘clear and unambiguous compliance’ with Michigan law.” Since pleadings are binding legal documents, KVG admitted its tenants engaged in a criminal act and never argued legality under the MMMA. Instead, KVG argued that the Dishonest or Criminal Acts Exclusion only applied if the tenants had been convicted. The Court rejected this argument because the policy says “criminal act,” not “crime” or “criminal conviction.”

Levine and Fehling concluded that two of the biggest takeaways from KVG are that:

"Policyholders should look for narrow criminal acts exclusions—that are, for example, triggered only by a 'crime' or 'conviction'—that do not apply broadly to alleged 'criminal acts.'" If KVG had not admitted the acts were 'illegal,' a court would be required to interpret exclusions narrowly and in favor of coverage, which may have led to a different outcome in KVG. Also, as the Sixth Circuit recognized, federal courts "act as faithful agents of the state courts and the state legislature," meaning that federal courts sitting in diversity emulate state courts that will enforce applicable state law.”

This deference to state law, including legalized cannabis use through ballot initiatives, may result in different outcomes on “criminal acts” arising from different facts.

--Kindal Wetuski

September 22, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Contracts, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Sorry, Merle, they're smoking pot in Muskogee these days . . .

Only 49 years after Merle Haggard & the Strangers sang that Okies don't smoke marijuana there, Muskogee, Oklahoma is getting is first medical cannabis dispensary.  

Still great music, even if times have changed. Enjoy.

 

--Frank Snyder 

September 15, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Crackdowns of black market operations in legalized territory are amping up

AaaOperating a dispensary without a license? Beware! Los Angeles and several other California cities are increasing efforts to stop cannabis operations that continue to operate without a license.

Officials initially issued warnings to the many perpetrators, but after many months of noncompliance, LA is now filing criminal charges against various retailers, growers, and delivery services. 

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that earlier this month, prosecutors there have charged 515 people for helping to run 105 illegal marijuana operations: 

“Our message is clear: If you are operating an illegal cannabis business you will be held accountable,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said.

It’s widely believed that Los Angeles has the world’s biggest marijuana market, and businesses have thrived for years under the state’s loose medical marijuana laws. But since the start of the year, new California laws have required all cannabis businesses to have both a state and city license to operate — licenses that can add costs to operations in the form of fees, testing requirements and hefty taxes.

The new laws also let cities regulate the marijuana industry, and many cities so far have opted against allowing such operations. Los Angeles, however, began licensing retail outlets in late January and most other types of marijuana businesses on Aug. 1. As of Friday, the city said 163 businesses have been given temporary licenses to operate.

But that represents just a fraction of the overall marijuana market, and for the past eight months, the City Attorney’s office coordinated with the Los Angeles Police Department to identify and investigate businesses that were operating without licenses. Most are retail shops, the City Attorney’s office said, but action also was also taken against marijuana growers, extraction labs and delivery services.

California and other legalized states, like Washington, and Colorado, continue to struggle with black market operations well after legalization has taken effect. In an effort to level the playing field, Los Angeles and other cannabis officials say they will take all measures necessary to crackdown on illegal operations. The 120 criminal cases recently filed in LA are intended as a loud and clear signal to all cannabis operators that they must follow the licensing regulations, or face the consequences. 

--Manda Mosley Maier

 

September 14, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Is "High Grade" Marijuana Actually Getting Recreational Users Higher?

AaaRequired package labeling on recreational marijuana may not be as helpful and accurate as it appears.  Looking at the scene in Alaska, Lauren Andrews of the Anchorage Daily News reports that recreational consumers' love for "Top Shelf" marijuana (strains that boast a higher THC content than cheaper strains) spurred questions about the legitimacy of the package labeling Alaskan marijuana.

There is relatively little regulation of labels in the state.  Andrews explains that although the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board director concluded in January that the only two testing labs in the state were coming up with different results on the same strains, "the public's interest in marijuana with 20 percent THC shows no sign of slowing down."

This is especially shocking, says Andrews, considering that the price difference between proposed "high" and "low" grade marijuana can be as much as $8 per gram, according to executive vice president of Great Northern Cannabis, Jordan Huss. 

The article goes on to explains the ramifications of this "Top Shelf" phenomenon may include bankruptcy for suppliers that cannot afford to keep up with the large companies that create these purportedly extra-potent strains. "It's real nonsense, but it's driving the cost, and it's going to drive people out of business" according to Jessica Alexander, lab director at The New Frontier Research. 

 --Kylee Debler

 

September 13, 2018 in Drug Policy, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Commercial Sale of Marijuana is Officially on the Vermont Democratic Party Agenda

Legalization celebrationLate last month the Vermont Democratic Party officially declared support for the statewide commercial sale, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.  At an August 26 meeting, party leadership unanimously voted to change the platform’s language to include the party’s belief that marijuana “should be legal, taxed and regulated in the interests of consumer and public safety, as well as economic opportunity.”

Vermont is the most recent state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana among adults who are 21 years of age and older, and as a Washington Post article reports, the first to do so by legislative enactment (all other initiatives were by ballots). However, the commercial sale is still illegal within the state.  As Professor Robert Mikos notes in his casebook, Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority, of the 9 states in the US that have legalized recreational marijuana, Vermont is the only state in which any form of commercial sale is still criminalized.

Despite the failure of a taxation and regulation bill last year, members of the Democratic Party in Vermont are still hopeful that “momentum from recreational legalization will translate into swift passage of tax and regulate policy in the upcoming legislative session.”  

 

--Ashleigh Williams (Morgan)



September 12, 2018 in Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Possible Safe Harbor for U.S. Military Veterans Who Need Medical Cannabis

AaaA bill filed in Congress would allow veterans to get medical marijuana from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  While a growing number of military veterans use medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD, chronic pain, and other mental and physical war wounds, however, federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing it.  That might change.

Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) recently filed the Medical Marijuana for Veterans Safe Harbor Act that would legalize medical marijuana for veterans and empower physicians in the VA to issue medical marijuana recommendations in accordance with the laws of "the State in which the use, possession, or transport occurs." Despite the fact that state laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana are preempted by federal laws which prohibit such use, this bill effectively harmonizes federal law governing the VA with state law in states where medical marijuana is legal.

According to Tom Angell of Forbes, who reports on the story, Senators Nelson and Schatz are addressing long-term goals such as cannabis research and reduction of opioid use among veterans. The bill allocates $15 million for research on "the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain" and "the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse."

Some form of medical marijuana is permitted in 31 states and this legislation would grant veterans the same access to legitimately prescribed medication as other patients in those 31 states would have. Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, says that "Historically, veteran and military communities have long been at the forefront of American social change, catalyzing widespread acceptance of evolving cultural norms and perceptions surrounding racial, gender, and sexual equality. The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act."

--Kindal Wetuski

September 10, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Research, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

New Jersey: Employer not required to waive drug test for MMJ patient

New Jersey FlagEmployers in the Garden State are not required to waive drug tests for employees who use medical marijuana under a state-legal system.  In a recent case, Cotto v. Ardagh Glass Packing, Inc. (D.N.J. Aug. 10, 2018), the plaintiff was a forklift operator who was injured on the job and was prescribed marijuana and other painkillers.  The employer required him to pass a drug test before returning to work. 

The employee sued, arguing that he could not pass a drug test with medical marijuana in his system, and argued that the employer was required to accommodate his disability under the state's Compassional Use Medical Marijuana Act.

The federal district court refused to do so.  Attorney Mark Saloman of NYC's FordHarrison LLP offers a nice and succinct rundown of the case:

Disability vs. Treatment: The court accepted Cotto's argument he was qualified to perform his work as a forklift operator and that he suffered from a known disability (i.e., neck/back pain). The key distinction here is that Cotto did not claim Ardagh discriminated against him based on his disability; rather, he claimed to be the victim of discrimination because Ardagh refused to accommodate his use of medical marijuana by waiving a drug test.

This required analysis of whether "treatment" of the disability can be distinguished from the "disability" itself. The court gave the cogent example that discrimination against wheelchair use (i.e., the treatment) is inseparable from discrimination against the disability. That was absent here because Ardagh had no objection to Cotto's disability but only "with a consequence of his treatment." This follows the LAD, which prevents discrimination premised upon the disability, not upon conduct resulting from the disability. Because the dispute was based upon conduct resulting from treatment (passing a drug screen), Cotto's disability itself was not an issue. Cotto's possession of a medical marijuana card and a note from his doctor stating that he could operate machinery while taking prescription drugs were equally unpersuasive.

What about CUMMA? The court held nothing within CUMMA supports or invalidates Cotto's claims or requires an employer to permit the use of medical marijuana in the workplace. Likewise, CUMMA does not waive an employer's obligations under the LAD. Citing precedent from jurisdictions where recreational marijuana already is legal, the court confirmed decriminalization of marijuana does not shield employees from adverse employment actions.

Besides dismissing the discrimination claim, the court also rejected Cotto's failure to accommodate claim under the LAD because neither CUMMA nor the LAD require Ardagh to waive its drug test as a condition for continued employment. Likewise, his retaliation claim failed because refusing to take a drug test is not a protected activity under New Jersey law.

Bottom Line: The federal court predicts the state judiciary will reach the "similarly obvious conclusion" that the LAD does not require accommodation of an employee's use of medical marijuana with a drug test waiver. This follows New Jersey courts' general acceptance of drug testing in private employment. It would not, however, be surprising if the competing bills pending in our legislature to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana carve out further protections for New Jersey employees.

--Frank Snyder

September 6, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A quick look at California's cannabis pesticide rules

California FlagThere was a time, not so long ago, when there were no regulations relating to marijuana cultivation except "thou shalt not."  But with the rise of cannabis as semi-normal agricultural crop, the same kinds of rules that have applied to ordinary crops are being applied to cannabis--and then some.

Take pesticides, for example.  Lawyers Nicole Aaronson and Ian Stewart of L.A.'s Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP offer their take on the Golden State's new lab testing regime for pesticide use,  Compliance with California's Cannabis Pesticide Regulations (free registration required):

Effective July 1, 2018, all cannabis and cannabis products will be subject to laboratory testing under the California cannabis regulations to ensure appropriate pesticide use. These standards, developed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), impose heightened restrictions on cannabis crops compared with other agricultural products. If a cannabis product sample fails residual pesticide testing, the entire batch from which the sample was collected fails and cannot be sold by a retailer. See California Code of Regulations (CCR) § 5719. Impermissible pesticide violations may result in contamination of an entire crop and substantial lost profits to any cultivator lax on compliance.

But, note the authors, losing the crop and the profits is only part of the risk.  

 

Failing to take steps to comply with the CDPR's standards puts a cannabis company at risk of litigation and jeopardizes business contracts with other downstream cannabis operators whose manufactured products are rendered unsalable due to crop contamination. Business practices that run afoul of pesticide standards may call for civil or criminal penalties under California's Food and Agricultural Code (FAC), or warrant a serious infraction charge from CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing authorities, a division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), subjecting operators to fines of $1,001 to $5,000 per violation. Civil penalties may also impede state or local license renewal. Moreover, the CDPR standards provide fodder for prospective plaintiffs' attorneys to bring Unfair Competition lawsuits under California's Business and Professions Code, section 17200, et seq. for, among other things, unlawful business practices and deceptive or fraudulent advertising based on alleged contamination or adulteration of the product. These lawsuits give rise to costly litigation, damages awards, statutory penalties and possible injunctions that prevent business operations. See Wilson Elser's article "Cannabis Consumer Class Actions Are Being Filed."

By law, pesticide users must follow the statements on pesticide product labels, which include precautionary statements for protecting human and environmental health, storage and disposal instructions, product warnings and directions for use. Improperly labeled pesticides should not be used. In addition, pesticide application must be at a rate no greater than the rate listed on the product label and done in a manner consistent with the provided agricultural use requirements. Directions may include use of personal protective equipment, varying methods of application and pre-harvest restricted entry intervals. Cultivation licensees also are charged with preventing offsite pesticide drift through application only when there is no pollinator presence and spraying when the wind is blowing away from surface water bodies. See CCR § 8307.

--Frank Snyder

September 4, 2018 in News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 3, 2018

North Dakota next to legalize adult use marijuana?

North Dakota FlagMaybe, according to lawyers Jinouth Vasquez Santos (Los Angeles) and Stanley Jutkowitz (D.C.) of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.  The pair have a recent client advisory that notes what's going on up in Baja Manitoba:

Just two years ago, North Dakota voters passed medical marijuana legalization with 64 percent support. Now, North Dakota could join a number of sanctuary states legalizing recreational marijuana.

Through an effort called Legalize ND, proponents of recreational marijuana submitted more than the required 13,452 valid petition signatures to get a measure on the November 2018 general election ballot.

If passed, the measure would legalize the cultivation, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana and authorize the state, counties, and other municipalities to tax the sale of marijuana at no more than 20 percent. The measure would also remove penalties related to marijuana use from state law.

However, voters should expect an uphill battle. Opponents argue that legalization will create a lot of problems with regard to regulations and will increase crime. But if passed, one thing's for sure, if you can smoke it there, you may well be able to smoke it anywhere.

So how will this affect employers? It's a bit hazy. The measure does not have any specific provisions impacting an employer's right to drug test or to make employment decisions based on a positive drug test.

However, based on North Dakota's medical marijuana provisions which provide that the statute does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for possessing or consuming usable marijuana in the workplace or for working while under the influence of marijuana, one can assume the same may apply if North Dakota legalizes recreational marijuana.

Stay tuned.

--Frank Snyder

 

Vasquez Santos and Jutkowitz 

September 3, 2018 in Legislation, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Fort Lauderdale to Limit Number of Marijuana Dispensaries in Opposition to State Law

image from goo.glSeveral medical marijuana dispensaries that have applied to open operations in Fort Lauderdale, FL face denial of their applications as officials have decided to enforce an ordinance that limits the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to open in the city. According to a Sun Sentinel report, the actions by city officials seemingly violate state law:

[S]tate law prohibits cities from limiting the number of dispensaries. A city is allowed to ban them outright, but if a city chooses to allow the marijuana treatment centers, they must be treated like any ordinary pharmacy.


Fort Lauderdale says that's a problem, because its law prohibits more than one dispensary in each of its four districts. City officials plan to reject three of the dispensaries that applied.

City officials have acknowledged that a dispensary wishing to challenge its law can do so in court. And while officials recognize they will likely lose if such a challenge is brought, they are unwilling to forego enforcement of the city ordinance based solely on a potential courtroom battle. 

--Jason Carr

September 2, 2018 in Business, Local Regulation, News, Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Marijuana Legalization Could Be on the Horizon in the Garden State

AaaA vote to legalize marijuana in New Jersey could be approaching in the upcoming month. New Jersey Senate President, Stephen Sweeney recently expressed confidence that there will be enough votes to pass a recreational bill as early as this Fall. However, the vote may face delay as there have been changes in budget proposals, and currently, a pair of new bills regarding recreational legalization and medical expansion are awaiting finalization. 

Governor Phil Murphy has built a reputation as being a champion for legalization in the name of social justice. While Murphy's promise of legalizing recreational marijuana within his first 100 days in office did not come to fruition, he has been able to make strides in expanding the state's medical marijuana program by including more qualifying conditions. 

Although Murphy wants the legalization efforts to materialize, budgetary obstacles are proving challenging to get around. Reports stated that Murphy intended to include $60 million in revenue of a state budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, with many legalization supporters hoping the revenue would go toward an expungement program. More detail can be found in an article in Rolling Stone:

Advocates want this expungement to be automatic, where the state takes on the process of expunging records rather than the person charged. However Kate Bell, legislative council for the Marijuana Policy Project, says that the phrase “automatic” is very misleading.

“People have this idea that the government can still press a button and magically expunge all these past convictions, but that’s not necessarily correct,” Bell says.

Record expungement is affecting marijuana policies across the nation, as a California expunction bill has just passed the Senate and is awaiting the Governor's signature. On the opposite coast, Senate Bill S-2702 was introduced in early June by NJ Senator Nicholas Scutari and would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over, and included a provision about expungement; however, expungements would still require an application.

Although there is no concrete time frame for New Jersey to pass legislation, an increase in cannabis-related arrests and racial disparities in said arrests has yielded a newfound urgency for legislative action. 

-- Gianna Redeemer

August 29, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Legislation, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

California Bill Would Require the State DOJ to Review 40 Years of Marijuana-related Convictions

AaaCalifornians who have marijuana convictions on their records may soon be getting some relief.  NPR reports that a California bill, AB-1793, has passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in the coming week.

California legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016 when voters passed Proposition 64.  That proposition applied retroactively to convictions for many marijuana-related offenses that occurred before 2016. But it did not contain provisions to enable those eligible to have such convictions removed from their record or reduced to from felonies to misdemeanors. 

AB-1793 would mandate that eligible persons be given the chance to clean up their records. In fact, the Bill requires California State Department of Justice officials to determine which cases are eligible for review and send them to the District Attorneys' office by July 1, 2019.

While the bill has received pushback from those who believe people with marijuana-related convictions should not be given a free pass, the City of San Francisco has already begun the process of expunging or reducing convictions for possession and recreational use going back to 1975. aSince people were unfamiliar with the process, a mere 23 people in the city had started the process themselves. This is not surprising, as the expunction process can be expensive and those who were affected by these convictions likely do not have the resources to pay an attorney.

Brown has a history of pardoning people who were convicted on charges concerning controlled substances and drugs. It is likely difficult for many people with a criminal record to hire an attorney to discuss the mere possibility of expunction for charges filed up to forty years ago.  By putting most of the burden on the state, AB-1793 will relieve the stress of those whose past actions would be legal today in California. . "[The] role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, "not create unneeded obstacles, barriers and delay."

--Kindal Wetuski

August 28, 2018 in Decriminalization, Law Enforcement, Legislation, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Oklahoma Begins Accepting Medical Marijuana Patient Licenses

Medical marijuana is coming to Oklahoma, and the state began accepting and approving patient applications on the 25th. In June, Oklahoma voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana via a statewide ballot measure, and it is clear that decision will have major economic ramifications on the state. ABCnews.com has the story: 13177319_1211854912159551_8355310362206065538_n

More than 1,600 people and businesses applied for Oklahoma medical marijuana licenses on the first day that applications were made available.

 

 The online application system went live at 10 a.m. Saturday at www.OMMA.ok.gov for all potential medical marijuana patients, growers, dispensaries, processors and caregivers. Oklahoma State Department of Health spokesman Tony Sellars said that by Saturday evening, the agency had received 1,054 patient, 634 business and three caregiver applications.

 

 Officials awarded 23 licenses to patients Saturday to test the approval process and will resume approving applications Monday, Sellars said.

 

 Sellars added that the state collected $1.5 million in application fees on Saturday.

For those who have followed the saga of legalization in Colorado this is not a huge surprise. In 2017, total marijuana sales in the state reached $1.5 billion, with roughly $416 million of that total coming from medical-use sales. The state collected $247 million in taxes on marijuana that year. Based on these early numbers from Oklahoma, it seems as though the state can look forward to a similar boom in revenues resulting from the introduction of medical marijuana into their economy.

A pro-marijuana group in Oklahoma called Green The Vote has begun collecting signatures to qualify recreational marijuana legalization for a similar statewide ballot initiative, but as of this writing they did not have enough signatures to do so. Perhaps as the effects of medical marijuana legalization ripple throughout the state, Oklahoma voters will embrace the concept of full legalization. 

 -John Robinson

August 27, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Cannabis Law Institute program set for September in DC

Cannabis Law Institute
The National Cannabis Bar Association's "Cannabis Law Institute" is just two weeks off. 
The two-day event features more than 70 speakers from the legal, business ,and political worlds, and looks to have some terrific programming.  Check out the conference web site for schedules, registration, and other information.

I'll be seeing you there!

--Frank Snyder

August 23, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legal Education, Legal Ethics, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Massachusetts Lawmakers To Consider Licensing of Marijuana Testing Labs

Mass CCCThe Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is scheduled to vote August 23rd on a measure that may ultimately result in recreational pot sales within the state.

Boston Business Journal reports:

Framingham’s MCR Labs and Salem-based CDXAnalytics will both have their applications reviewed by the full commission, according to an agenda released Tuesday. Though there are four labs in the state that have been testing medical cannabis in Massachusetts for some time, they must receive additional approval from the commission before they can test recreational marijuana.

Both MCR and CDXAnalytics have said they would be ready for the increased workload once the recreational marijuana market launched.

Should the labs pass regulatory muster, approved marijuana dispensaries can begin selling recreational marijuana that have been independently tested by the approved labs.

-- Jason Carr

August 23, 2018 in News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 17, 2018

OK Cannabis Groups Release Proposed Legislation

Oklahoma FlagMedical marijuana is coming to the Sooner State.  But while many folks -- especially police groups -- are worried about how the product will  be rolled out, a group of pro-cannabis groups have unveiled a 200-page piece of draft legislation they hope to submit to the legislature.  The Tulsa World reports:

With a tight timeline for implementation required by State Question 788, the Oklahoma Board of Health was tasked with passing the emergency rules, which it did July 10. Gov. Mary Fallin the next day signed off on the rules despite later directing the board, per counsel from Attorney General Mike Hunter, to rescind last-minute amendments including a ban on smoking as a delivery method and a requirement that dispensary managers be licensed pharmacists.

Bud Scott, director of the trade organization New Health Solutions Oklahoma, said the rules were designed to effectively kill medical marijuana in the state. Draft legislation produced collaboratively with several cannabis groups and attorneys in Oklahoma would include no restriction on delivery method for medical marijuana and would prohibit THC limits. 

The text of the proposed legislation is here.

--Frank Snyder

 

August 17, 2018 in Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Boston potentially breaking into the marijuana scene with a 'Puff Bus'

   
Weed bus    Marijuana advocates continue to develop new and exciting
ways to partake in the booming business of marijuana consumption. Loopr, a Denver-based marijuana party bus company, plans to create another "green line" in Massachusetts' transit economy. But instead of a green line focusing on transporting passengers via the subway, Denver's 'Puff Bus' will provide passengers a fun transportation experience largely revolved around marijuana consumption. Alban Murtishi of MassLive.com reports: 

 

Loopr allows patrons to consume various forms of marijuana while riding on a bus through downtown Denver. The bus route stops at restaurants, hotels, nightspots and marijuana dispensaries.

 

According to the company, the Loopr vehicles, called Puff Buses, offer dazzling multimedia experiences with curated music and light shows.

 

Riders are allowed to smoke or consume marijuana in the back partition of the bus. The bus comes equipped with several different smoking implements, such as water pipes, vaporizers and hookahs.

 

The company doesn't sell marijuana, but partners with different dispensaries to get riders discounts.

 

While at first glance the 'Puff Bus' sounds like a fun experience, the potential legal hurdles will likely hinder its operation. Although party buses involving alcohol consumption are quite common in America, there are many differences concerning marijuana and alcohol, especially pertaining to their legal statuses and effects on third persons.

 

The obvious concern is how the federal government will react to such a company. Loopr supporters will point to the federal government's lack of enforcing its marijuana ban on Loopr's current business model in Denver, Colorado. Supporters will argue that the states should retain their autonomy and decide for themselves if they want to enact the appropriate legislation to permit such a mobile-marijuana-consumption company.

 

Opponents of legalization will face a tough battle if they depend on federal enforcement. It has been 5 years since Colorado first legalized marijuana, and the federal government has not shown an intent to fully enforce its ban, instead requesting legalized states to follow certain priorities.

 

However, a strong argument against Loopr involves public safety. Unlike alcohol, marijuana use has a noted effect on those around it, even if they don't personally consume the drug. Opponents can argue that the bus driver will be affected by the rampant marijuana consumption in a small and enclosed bus, thus impairing the driver and creating an unsafe environment for fellow commuters on the road.

 

Opponents can bolster this argument by referring to one of the federal government's listed priorities from the 2013 Cole II memo: To prevent drugged driving and exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences. 

 

Ultimately, until the federal government clarifies the national law or decides to enforce the current ban, legalized adult-use states like Massachusetts will issue the final decision on whether to legalize businesses such as Loopr.

 

--Zachary Ford

September 26, 2017 in Business, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Iowa Attorney General tells agency to halt part of Iowa's medical marijuana law

Iowa mari

In Iowa, elected executives are advising the State's Department of Public Health to refrain from corroborating with its neighboring states to obtain cannabis oil. Barbara Rodriguez reports on how the lack of federal enforcement is causing confusion among states concerning how to implement medical marijuana legislation, according to an article in The Des Moines Register:

 

An unusual attempt by Iowa to work with another state to transport medical marijuana oil across state lines is on hold amid legal concerns it could invite scrutiny from the federal government.

 

The Iowa Attorney General's office advised the Iowa Department of Public Health this month that it should not implement a small section in Iowa's new medical marijuana law that requires the state, before the end of the year, to license up to two "out-of-state" dispensaries from a bordering state. Those entities would have been expected to bring cannabis oil into Iowa in order to sell it.

 

That's considered illegal under federal law, which categorizes marijuana as a type of controlled substance that is prohibited from being moved across state lines. But during the final hours of the legislative session in April, some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature suggested adding the language to open the door for a partnership with a neighboring state like Minnesota.

 

The development is not expected to impact other provisions in the law that call for establishing an in-state production system for cannabis oil by the end of 2018. Still, some GOP lawmakers expressed frustration with the news because the provision was also aimed at creating more immediate access to cannabis oil. Currently, Iowans have no way of getting the product within the state.

 

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, noted in a statement that no matter what the Legislature had decided, the state still would have been in violation of federal law.

 

"As I've said before, the federal government needs to act on this issue or let the states do their work," she said, adding, "The out-of-state distributors are the quickest way to supply sick Iowans with a product that doctors say could be beneficial. If that provision doesn't work out, then people will have to wait another year, and that's disappointing."

 

Possessing, manufacturing and selling marijuana remains illegal under federal law. In 2013, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum offering assurance that states could proceed with medical marijuana programs without fear of federal prosecution, in part by avoiding agreements that would move marijuana from one state to another.

 

Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in an email that if a state program authorizes or encourages diversion from one state to another, "it is possible that state's program may come under increased scrutiny from the federal government." He said the halt on implementation should remain "until the federal government provides further guidance regarding state medical marijuana programs."

 

The out-of-state dispensaries provision is tucked into the second-to-last page of a 20-page law, and is separate from requirements that Iowa license up to two cannabis oil manufacturers in Iowa and up to five dispensaries to sell it in-state. The oil would be supplied in Iowa by the end of 2018. Smoking marijuana remains prohibited.

 

 

Fear of federal enforcement against states who have legalized marijuana in some form is not new, but rather has steadily increased since the Trump administration assumed office in 2016. Although the Obama administration issued memorandums assuring states with medical marijuana regimes that they would be free from scrutiny if they followed certain standards, that may not be the case much longer. The United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, firmly believes marijuana is a dangerous drug and claims he will reconsider existing marijuana policies. 

 

Assuming nothing changes in President Trump's federal enforcement of marijuana, Iowa's proposal to work with neighboring states presents a potential problem, even under the Obama administration's prosecutorial guidelines. The Cole II Memo stated that states could avoid federal intervention of its medical marijuana regime if they followed eight federal priorities. The pertinent priority here being to prevent the diversion of marijuana from legal states to illegal ones.

 

While Iowa's proposal only includes corroborating with its direct neighbors who have also legalized medical marijuana, the transportation of marijuana products across state lines is considered interstate commerce, thus invoking Congress' authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

 

Therefore, Iowa's proposal not only clearly contradicts Congress' Controlled Substance Act, but may also trigger judicial review because Congress has clearly preempted the transfer of interstate marijuana. By proposing such a law, Iowa's legislature is inviting scrutiny from all three branches of government, something marijuana advocates attempt to avoid whenever possible. 

 

--Zachary Ford

September 16, 2017 in Legislation, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (2)