United States: Cannabis Group Weekly Alert - Week Of June 25, 2019

In this week's edition:

  • The US House passes bipartisan measure to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical and adult-use cannabis laws.
  • The Supreme Court rules Lanham Act provision preventing registration of trademarks seen as "immoral or scandalous" is an unconstitutional restriction on speech.
  • The Delaware Senate passes legislation making violation of cannabis consumption/possession laws by minors a civil rather than criminal infraction.
  • New Mexico expands medical cannabis program to include protections against discrimination, reciprocity with other states' medical programs, and three-year renewal cycle (up from one) for medial cannabis cards; and
  • Nebraska farmers looking to grow hemp this season have until 5 p.m. Friday to apply to the state Department of Agriculture for a license.

Federal

  • A bipartisan coalition of 228 Democratic and 40 Republican House members approved a far-reaching measure to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical and adult-use cannabis laws. The amendment, which also shields cannabis laws in Washington, DC, and US territories, is part of a large-scale appropriations bill funding parts of the federal government for fiscal year 2020. The House also included amendments transferring $5 million from the Drug Enforcement Administration to opioid treatment programs, and directing the Food and Drug Administration to establish regulations for adding CBD to food and dietary supplements.
  • Before heading home for its July 4 break, the House added to its string of pro-cannabis measures by passing the 2020 Financial Services and General Government bill with a rider to protect banks serving lawful cannabis businesses. Although the amendments represent an unprecedented level of support for pro-cannabis policies in the House, a similar level of support in the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely.
  • The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs discussed legislation last week that would allow doctors at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical cannabis recommendations in states where it's legal. The bill, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and offered as an amendment to the larger appropriations measure, was pulled when the VA suggested that passage of such a law could create a major liability risk for VA doctors. The panel also took up a bill sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) that would require the VA to conduct clinical trials on the therapeutic potential of cannabis in the treatment of such service-related conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
  • On Tuesday, a coalition of 10 senators sent a letter to the heads of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security calling for an end to a federal immigration policy that bars immigrants who have worked in the state-legal cannabis industry from gaining citizenship. The senators contend that conflicting federal and state cannabis laws "should not be exploited to penalize otherwise law-abiding legal permanent residents who seek to naturalize."
  • Congress has asked vaporizer company JUUL for documents on any partnerships it may have with cannabis companies. JUUL's youth-oriented marketing practices have been the subject of considerable Congressional attention. The City of San Francisco approved an ordinance banning the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes that contain nicotine.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration issued a bulletin clarifying its cannabis and CBD policy for pilots. The FAA stated that pilots who test positive for THC are still disqualified from certain certifications, even if the THC is only from trace amounts in CBD products.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that a century-old provision in federal trademark law preventing businesses from registering trademarks seen as "immoral or scandalous" is an unconstitutional restriction on speech.

States

  • California regulators are extending the period during which cannabis growers and retailers can operate on provisional permits by five years. The state also announced that it would be increasing enforcement against illegal growers and sellers. Governor Newsom (D) increased funds for enforcement as part of his most recent budget, and jurisdictions have already begun raiding illegal operations. A recent raid in Santa Barbara county resulted in the seizure of 350,000 plants and 20 tons of processed cannabis.
  • The Delaware Senate announced Thursday passage of Senate Bill 45, which would make possession or consumption of cannabis by anyone under 21 years old a civil, rather than criminal, infraction.
  • Hawai`i David Ige (D) announced that HB 1383—decriminalizing possession of three grams or less of cannabis and providing for expungement of criminal records relating to possession of three grams or less—will take effect. However, the Governor is expected to veto a bill that would allow inter-island transfer of medicinal cannabis.
  • Illinois J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the state's cannabis legalization legislation during a ceremony on Tuesday June 25.
  • Louisiana John Bel Edwards (D) signed a bill modifying his state's medical cannabis law to allow patients to inhale medical cannabis and setting fees on sales.
  • Maine Janet Mills (D) signed bills clarifying how medical cannabis dispensaries can become for-profit entities and making technical changes to Maine's cannabis laws.
  • Expansion of the New Mexico's medical cannabis program includes protections from discrimination for patients, reciprocity with other states' medical programs, and an extended life span for medial cannabis cards from one year to three years. Some cannabis providers are also interpreting the new law as expanding the definition of a "qualified patient" to include out-of-state residents, but the state Department of Health is rejecting that interpretation.
  • Oregon Kate Brown (D) has signed legislation, S.B. 970, prohibiting landlords from taking discriminatory action against those who either use medical cannabis or possess cannabis-related convictions.
  • The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is urging all companies that plan to apply for one of the limited number of licenses to cultivate medical cannabis in the state to start the process of obtaining the required background checks now. Background checks are required of all individuals who have a financial or voting interest of at least two percent, or the power to direct or cause the management or control of the establishment.
  • Washington  regulators announced that the state's new cannabis traceability system will go live on July 15.
  • The Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed emergency legislation last Tuesday that protects some city employees from employment discrimination for being medical cannabis patients. The legislation comes in response to numerous instances in which city government employees were threatened or penalized for using medical cannabis when not at work. Emergency legislation only requires one council vote (rather than the usual two) and the mayor's signature to become law, but lasts for no longer than 90 days.

Hemp / CBD

  • A Gallup poll found that among Americans who are familiar with CBD, 61 percent want it available over the counter without a prescription required, and 92 percent believe the cannabis-derived compound has at least some medical benefits.
  • In Nebraska, growers looking at the possibility of growing hemp this season can apply for a license with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. The department announced Friday morning that applications are available online, at nebraska.gov/hemp. Those interested need to move quickly. The window for applying was only a week. The deadline for filing an application is this Friday, June 28, at 5 p.m.
  • According to one CBD retailer, Google is taking steps toward ending its prohibition on advertising for CBD products. The tech giant has initiated a trial program that allows select companies in the nascent hemp sub-industry to purchase ads on its platform. Shedrack Anderson, co-founder of the CBD-infused skincare line Chilyo LP, said last Thursday that Google approached him about being part of a "trial realm" of companies that could purchase advertising on the site through its Google Ads portal. Asked about Anderson's claim, a Google spokesperson reiterated that CBD ads are prohibited on its platform and denied the existence of a trial program.

International

  • Federal regulators in Canada finalized rules for cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals, with sales set to begin as early as mid-December.
  • Also in Canada, legislation intended to help those convicted of simple possession before recreational cannabis use was made legal received royal assent this past Friday and will soon come into force. By waiving the $631 fee and five- to 10-year waiting period for pardon applications, Bill C-93 removes a major barrier to employment, housing, travel and volunteering opportunities.
  • Canadian federal and provincial governments collected $186 million in tax revenue from the sale of cannabis in the first six months following legalization. The tax earnings came from both excise taxes and general taxes on goods and services (GST).
  • A government-tasked commission has advised France to legalize cannabis to get rid of the black market.

Business

  • The 45-member Global Cannabis Partnership, which includes Canopy Growth Corp. and other companies operating in the sector, issued guidelines aimed at minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting ethical conduct and responsible cannabis use
  • BDS Analytics "State of the Legal Cannabis Markets" found that global legal spending on cannabis will grow to US$40.6 billion in 2024, nearly triple the US$14.9 billion estimated for this year.
  • MTech and MJ Freeway combined to form Akerna Corp., which began trading on Nasdaq on Tuesday.
  • Molson Coors Brewing Co. and Hexo Corp.'s joint venture will start selling cannabis-infused beverages in Canada.
  • Surterra Wellness hired a former Patrón Spirits CEO as its executive director.
  • Blackbird Logistics Corporation announced that is has delivered cannabis products to every licensed cannabis dispensary in California and Nevada—more than 600 retail locations in total.

Medical / Health

  • A California study has found that veterans prefer cannabis to prescription medications or other drugs for treatment of their physical and mental maladies. Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Harvard Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania surveyed 93 veterans who received donations of medicinal cannabis from the Santa Cruz County, CA-based Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. The results were published in May in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
  • A study found that "THC:CBD oromucosal spray proved to be an effective and well-tolerated add-on treatment for patients with elsewhere refractory chronic pain—especially of neuropathic origin."
  • A study on kidney donations concluded that "there was no difference in donor or recipient perioperative characteristics or postoperative outcomes based upon donor marijuana use" and that "considering individuals with a history of marijuana use for living kidney donation could increase the donor pool and yield acceptable outcomes."
  • A newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that women who use cannabis during pregnancy could be at higher risk for preterm birth. These studies come as cannabis use among pregnant women is rising, with cannabis dispensaries even marketing the drug as a natural treatment for morning sickness and pain during pregnancy.
  • Herbal cannabis is safe and effective in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, according to clinical data published this month in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
  • A new Colorado study found that "permitting or not permitting recreational cannabis dispensaries in a community does not appear to change student cannabis use or perceptions towards cannabis."
  • A research team analyzing wastewater samples collected between 2013 and 2016 from two treatment plants compared increased THC levels with in-state legal cannabis sales to conclude that legalizing cannabis significantly shifted cannabis use to legal consumption and away from the black market. The report, titled "Using Wastewater-Based Analysis to Monitor the Effects of Legalized Retail Sales on Cannabis Consumption in Washington State, USA," was published in Addiction, a journal published by the Society for the Study of Addiction.

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