In this week’s edition:
- Senate Majority Leader Schumer meets with AG nominee Garland and DOJ nominees to push federal marijuana legislation
- Federal Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2020 re-introduced
- South Dakota judge rules that referendum to legalize adult use cannabis was unconstitutional
- Australian pharmacies can now sell CBD over the counter
- Medical cannabis mouthwash to combat COVID-19 may be on the horizon
Schumer Urges Marijuana Reform In Meeting With AG Pick Garland And Other DOJ Nominees – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a strong proponent of the legalized cannabis industry, met Tuesday with Biden nominee for Attorney General Merrick Garland, along with Lisa Monaco, Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke—the President’s picks for deputy attorney general, associate attorney general and assistant attorney general for civil rights, respectively. Schumer announced that “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.”
AL – The Alabama Senate Committee passed a medical cannabis legalization bill, moving it to the floor for full review. The bill proposes that a list of 20 ailments be treated with medical cannabis and suggests a 9 percent gross proceeds tax on sales, but it would ban smoking, vaping, raw cannabis, candy and baked good products, allowing only oils, topical patches, capsules, lozenges and suppositories.
CO – Topics to watch in this year’s legislative session, which convenes mid-February, include: a possible push to cap the volume of cannabis delivery sales; a bill aimed at regulating the potency of legal cannabis; more stringent regulation of medical cannabis prescriptions and dispensary operations; new and expanded social equity programs; and a push for legislation to protect employees from being fired for cannabis use off the job.
ID – After a lengthy and intense debate, the Idaho Senate on Wednesday voted 24-11 in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment to forbid Idaho from legalizing any psychoactive drugs in the future. The measure now heads to the House.
IL – Illinois dispensaries sold a record US$88 million in January after massive first-year sales of recreational weed. Some applicants for new licenses say the latest sales numbers exemplify the inequities in the industry and stress the need for more focus on social equity.
KS – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) on Monday unveiled a plan to legalize medical cannabis and use the resulting tax revenue to fund Medicaid expansion. Lawmakers in the state have already introduced two separate cannabis proposals in recent days, and are working with industry leaders to develop a passable proposal this year.
MS – The Mississippi Board of Health has a timeline to start medical cannabis operations in the state. Regulations for a medical cannabis program will be in place by July 1, and the deadline for the state to begin issuing licenses for dispensaries and cards for patients is August 15. However, implementation may be delayed by cultivation and testing requirements, and pending litigation.
NY – New York lawmakers held a press conference on Thursday slamming Democratic Governor Cuomo’s cannabis legalization plan, stating that it inadequately addresses social equity, instead valuing revenue generation over justice. They also pointed to various provisions that preserve criminality for cannabis offenses, including one that would increase penalties for selling cannabis to people under 21—making it a class D felony punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison rather than a misdemeanor as it currently is.
OK – An Oklahoma federal court has ruled that a probationary employee who was fired for testing positive for THC cannot show that the company violated anti-discrimination laws because the company made it clear that positive tests would result in termination, the employee did not have a medical cannabis license and did not identify herself as disabled prior to the results of multiple positive tests.
PA – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that trimmers and cultivators at a medical cannabis grow facility near Philadelphia may not unionize because they are agricultural workers. In previous cannabis cases, the NLRB has ruled in favor of unionizing when cannabis facility employees work includes packaging weed or delivering it to dispensaries. Here, the NRLB ruled that because the workers did not “significantly transform the natural product from its raw state,” they were ineligible for union protection.
PA – Governor Tom Wolf (D) made a budget pitch for legalizing recreational cannabis, affirming legalization as one of his administration’s top legislative priorities this year.
SD – State Circuit Judge Klinger has ruled that a referendum to legalize adult-use cannabis that passed with 54 percent of the vote was unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject rule, which requires voters to weigh in on only one issue at a time. Last week, two Republican state lawmakers filed legislation tying recreational cannabis legislation to the outcome of a pending court challenge. The widespread belief is that this issue will wind up before the South Dakota Supreme Court and will not be ruled upon before legislators wrap up their 2021 regular session.
TX – Amid concerns of executive overreach during the coronavirus pandemic, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) stated that he is considering relaxing some regulations and limiting his own executive power. However the Governor was cautious about extending this to cannabis legalization, stating that his office is looking at “additional small steps” that can be taken with regard to the drug, “but I don’t see any sweeping change [taking] place.”
VA – Virginia passed bills to legalize retail cannabis sales starting in January of 2024, putting it on the path to becoming the first state in the South to take this step. Sales would be restricted to adults 21 and over. The bills authorize home cultivation for personal use, allow for the creation of an oversight agency, and create a process for automatic expungement of misdemeanor cannabis convictions.
WY – Amid discussions of veteran mental health and PTSD, a bill has been introduced in the Wyoming House of Representatives that would task the state’s Department of Health with conducting a report that would “identify medical conditions that are, according to medical evidence, likely to benefit from treatment with medical marijuana” and propose “a timeline for implementation and regulation of medical marijuana in Wyoming.”
A federal Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2020 is expected to be re-introduced this week. If it passes, the bill would allow CBD and any other ingredient derived from hemp to be used as a dietary supplement under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, bypassing the FDA’s holdup and directing the agency to allow the products to move forward. It would broadly legalize much of the CBD industry as it exists today, although it would not extend to food and beverage products containing CBD. The FDA’s comments on the proposed legislation indicate it may take an untenably restrictive position on the regulation of CBD. Nevertheless, the bill represents a step forward in legislating a long-awaited solution.
EU – A key market regulator for trade in the European Union has relaxed its position, updating its guidelines to add plant-derived CBD as a legal ingredient in cosmetics (previously, only synthetic CBD was listed).
Australian pharmacies can now sell CBD without a prescription.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency sent a reminder about the March 31 deadline for CBD companies to submit novel food applications for validation in order to continue to sell their products.
Cambridge, UK-based pharmaceutical giant GW Pharma has been acquired by US rival Jazz Pharmaceuticals in a US$7.2 billion deal.GW Pharma’s cannabis-based branded drug, Epidolex, was approved in 2018 to treat epilepsy.
Scotts Miracle-Gro announced record first quarter growth; company-wide sales increased 105 percent, to a record US$748.6 million. Due to the seasonal nature of the lawn-and-garden category, Scotts Miracle-Gro historically has reported a loss during its first quarter.
University of Lethbridge Professors Igor and Olga Kovalchuk are working to develop a medicinal cannabis mouthwash that could help combat COVID-19. In two recently released peer-reviewed studies, the professors found that certain cannabis extracts help to prevent the virus from entering a person’s cells and can also help to avoid cytokine storms, a serious complication of the virus.
A new study published in the journal Nature has found significant adverse effects on certain visual functions after smoking cannabis, including visual acuity and contrast sensitivity, and impaired nighttime vision.
In the latest Dentons’ Updates from Congress webinar, Congressman John Yarmuth discusses whether the SAFE Banking provisions will be included in the COVID relief bill, and his predictions on its likelihood of success in the Senate.