Employers May Lose Cases for Firing Medical Marijuana Users

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 Health-care worker Katelin Noffsinger told a potential employer that she took medical cannabis to deal with the effects of a car crash, but when a drug test came back positive, the nursing home rescinded her job offer anyway.

A federal judge ruled in September 2018 that the nursing home, which had cited federal laws against cannabis use, violated an anti-discrimination provision of Connecticut‘s medical marijuana law.

It was the latest in a series of clashes between U.S. and state laws around the country that came out in favor of medical cannabis users trying to keep or obtain jobs with drug-testing employers.

The Connecticut decision was the first ruling of its kind in a federal case and followed similar recent rulings against employers by state courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Earlier rulings had gone against medical cannabis users in employment cases by state supreme courts, including those in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, over the past few years.

Advocates hope new the new decisions are a signal of growing acceptance of cannabis’ medicinal value.

“This decision reflects the rapidly changing cultural and legal status of cannabis, and affirms that employers should not be able to discriminate against those who use marijuana responsibly while off the job, in compliance with the laws of their state,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Medical marijuana, like the cannabis cuttings growing in a Sira Naturals cultivation facility in Milford Massachusetts, is reshaping employment law. A U.S. District judge in New Haven, Connecticut, ruled in favor of a woman who alleged a prospective employer discriminated against her when she sought a health-care job and informed the company she used medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from a car crash. The judge found that the nursing home violated Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law protecting medical cannabis users despite marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level. (Associated Press File Photo/Steven Senne)

 

Noffsinger sued Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center in Niantic in 2016. She had been offered, and accepted, a job as recreation therapy director at the nursing home, contingent on her passing a drug test.

She told the nursing home that she took synthetic marijuana pills — legally under state law and only at night — to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she developed after the 2012 car accident. But the company rescinded the job offer after the drug test came back positive for THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high.

As a federal contractor, the nursing home worried that it could be cut off from that revenue if it employed somebody who tested positive for drugs.

On Sept. 5, 2018, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven ruled Bride Brook discriminated against Noffsinger based solely on her medical cannabis use in violation of state law. He denied her request for punitive damages. The case is now heading to a trial on whether Noffsinger should receive compensatory damages for lost wages from not getting the job.

A lawyer for the nursing home, Thomas Blatchley, declined to comment.

Noffsinger’s attorney, Henry Murray, said his client would not comment on the lawsuit. He said Noffsinger has taken another job in the health-care industry that doesn’t pay as much as the Bride Brook job.

In his ruling, Meyer said the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which many employers including federal contractors rely on for policies on drug testing, does not actually require drug testing and does not prohibit federal contractors from employing people who use medical cannabis outside the workplace in accordance with state law.

The decision will likely be used in arguments in similar cases elsewhere, said Fiona Ong, an employment attorney with the Baltimore firm of Shawe Rosenthal.

“This is a very significant case that throws the issue in doubt for many of these federal contractors,” Ong said. “It’s certainly interesting and may be indicative of where the courts are going with this.”

Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam now allow medical marijuana, while 15 others have approved low-THC products for medical reasons in certain cases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only nine states including Connecticut, however, specifically ban employment discrimination against medical marijuana users, who could continue to face difficulties in obtaining or keeping jobs in the 41 other states, employment lawyers say.

In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court ruled in 2017 that a sales and marketing company wrongly fired a worker after her first day on the job after she tested positive for cannabis, which she used under the state’s medical marijuana law to treat her Crohn’s disease. Also in 2017, the Rhode Island state Supreme Court said a college student was wrongly denied an internship at a fabric company where officials refused to hire her after she acknowledged she could not pass a drug test because she used medical marijuana.

In both cases, the two women told the companies during the hiring process that they used medical marijuana, but would not consume it while on the job.

The American Bar Association called the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island cases “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and cautioned employers to consider state medical cannabis laws when analyzing their drug use and testing policies.

Several bills are pending before Congress that would undo marijuana’s Schedule I classification as a controlled substance with no medicinal value. But Armentano of NORML said it is unlikely they will go anywhere while Republicans control Congress.

Some employers, though, have dropped marijuana from the drug tests they require of employees, saying the testing excludes too many potential workers in a challenging hiring environment.

TD Ameritrade Urges Their Clients to be Cautious About Legal Pot Stocks

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Canada’s federal legalization of cannabis and the continued expansion of legal use in the United States have led to an explosion of interest in marijuana investments, this year especially. But the U.S. brokerage firm TD Ameritrade is warning their clients and investors in general to be cautious about legal cannabis stocks. In a video posted on the firm’s YouTube channel in late September, TD Ameritrade highlights the risks and acknowledges the seductive appeal of investing in marijuana. Many who’ve observed the cannabis market’s recent volatility feel TD Ameritrade is offering sound advice. Others say the bullish trends of the market are real and that TD Ameritrade is playing it too safe.

TD Ameritrade Video Warns Investors Against Straying Into The “Wild West” of Cannabis Stocks

Cannabis is rapidly moving from the black market to the stock market. But one investment firm is warning, not so fast. TD Ameritrade is urging investors to be cautious and do their homework before buying stock in cannabis companies. Their reasoning is simple: the market still carries significant risks.

The firm’s video begins with a brief history of legalization in North America. It then presents viewers with an image of the North American Marijuana Index which tracks cannabis companies’ stock prices and market capitalization, showing how the value of the index has nearly tripled since its 2015 inception. In short, the setup makes clear why so many investors are attracted to the cannabis industry. Its potential for growth is undeniable.

Then, the other shoe falls. The video says everything that’s exciting about the cannabis industry also suggests it’s a market bubble. It draws parallels between the cryptocurrency frenzy of 2017, the housing market bubble of 2008 and even the dot.com bubble of the early aughts. The bottom line, TD Ameritrade’s video seems to claim, is that the excitement around the industry is overlooking its uncertain regulatory future. And that leads to extreme volatility and in turn, high risk for investors.

Can TD Ameritrade’s Words of Warning Dissuade Young Investors

Exhibit A in TD Ameritrade’s case against cannabis investing is September’s rollercoaster ride for the Canadian marijuana company Tilray. Tilray was the first Canadian cannabis producer to raise capital through an IPO on the NASDAQ. So when trading went public in July at about $17 per share, Tilray’s stock price shot up to $300 per share by mid-September. But almost as quickly, Tilray gave up those gains. The stock was so volatile, in fact, that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) halted Tilray’s trading five times in a single day.

The SEC also issued an investor alert on marijuana investments and fraud in early September. And these, TD Ameritrade says, are signs that it may be prudent to hold off on significant cannabis investments until the industry matures. Yet it’s not clear whether investors, especially young ones, will heed the firm’s warnings.

Cannabis stocks are attracting young investors in droves. And it’s not only because legalization a generation-defining issue. Fee-free trading apps like Robinhood and TD Ameritrade’s own platform have made it easier than ever for young investors to buy cannabis stocks online. And they aren’t wrong, according to famous short seller Andrew Left. Left acknowledges that it’s hard to tell the difference between real players in the marijuana sector and fly-by-night scammers. But at the same time, he’s convinced the growth is real and here to stay.

So before you invest, make sure to do your homework. Research any company you’re considering investing in. Look up reports and SEC filings—anything you can find. There are also red flags that should dissuade you from investing. These include SEC suspensions, hyped up press releases and company insiders holding large amounts of stock.

Oklahoma Begins Medical Marijuana Approval Process, Issuing First Patient Licenses

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Cannabis has been a pressing issue in Oklahoma lately. Earlier this summer, voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana. Since then, the state has been moving fast to implement the new program. As Oklahoma begins the medical marijuana approval process, issuing its first patient licenses, the state has taken a big step toward making medical marijuana a reality.

Oklahoma and Medical Marijuana

Last weekend was a potential landmark for medical marijuana in Oklahoma. On Saturday, the state’s medical marijuana application system went online. It was instantly flooded with applications from patients, businesses, and caregivers.

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According to the Associated Press, it was a big first day. In particular, the state received 1,054 applications from patients, 634 applications from business hopefuls, and three more applications from potential caregivers.

By the end of the day, the state had received around $1.5 million in application fees.

 

On the same day, the state also started issuing its first round of licenses. Over the weekend, authorities gave licenses to 23 patients.

This first small round of licenses was reportedly completed mostly as a way of testing the state’s system for receiving and reviewing applications, and for issuing licenses. If authorities are satisfied with the online system’s weekend performance, they plan to resume issuing licenses this week.

So far, the state’s online application portal seems to be working well. By the end of the weekend, state officials reported only a couple of minor errors. The main issue was that people with Yahoo and iCloud email accounts didn’t receive automated confirmation emails. The glitch was apparently fixed quickly.

 

The weekend’s licensing activity was the latest chapter in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana drama. Earlier this summer, voters approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Despite winning the majority vote, the bill still faced significant opposition that carried over, even after the vote.

In particular, there was a lot of back and forth as advocacy groups and lawmakers attempted to make various amendments and revisions to the medical marijuana program. One of the biggest debates centered on whether or not the state would allow smokable marijuana.

 

Shortly after voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana, there was a surge of voices calling for the ban of smokable cannabis. The Oklahoma State Board of Health actually issued a ban on smokable medical marijuana.

The Board said that actual bud or other plant matter should not be allowed in dispensaries. It said it would still allow patients to grow their own smokable cannabis at home.

However, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin struck down that ban earlier this month when she signed a number of revised regulations.

The revised set of rules signed by Gov. Fallin did not include a ban on smokable marijuana. Similarly, the new rules also got rid of an attempt to require every dispensary to have a pharmacist on site.

For proponents of medical marijuana, Gov. Fallin’s revisions were important steps to ensure that medical marijuana is accessible to a broad range of patients.

Now that the state’s application system is up and running, the state can start officially issuing licenses. Advocates of medical marijuana hope to see marijuana sales begin sometime in the near future.

Marijuana in the Midterms

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Marijuana legalization is going to be a lead issue in the 2018 elections. Advocating for an end to our decades-long failed prohibition is not only good policy, but good politics. Regulating the adult use of marijuana is currently supported by a majority of Americans from all political persuasions, and any candidate for local, state or federal office would be wise to advocate for the will of the people and make ending prohibition a core plank in their election platform. Supporting sensible reform to our nation’s marijuana laws is not just overwhelmingly popular, it is the economic, scientific and moral thing to do.

  With nine states having passed adult-use marijuana regulations, and 30 states authorizing medical-marijuana access, issues surrounding cannabis policy have taken center stage in local, state and federal elections. Over 90 percent of Americans support medical-marijuana access, and 60 percent support legalizing and regulating marijuana in a manner like alcohol.

If you look back at just the past year, it is clear that if we want the implementation of marijuana-reform laws to succeed, we need to begin voting out officials who are permanently afflicted with reefer madness and replace them with forward-thinking individuals who will fight for rational marijuana policies at all levels of government.

 

With a majority of states now engaging in activities that are in conflict with federal prohibition, it is absurd that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) refuse to even hold a hearing on this issue.

However, it is not just members of Congress who deserve our attention. With ongoing efforts to delay the rollout of legalization and regulation of marijuana in Maine and Massachusetts, mostly at the behest of those states’ governors, we need to push 2018 gubernatorial candidates to take proactive and positive stances on marijuana policy. If you look to New Jersey as an example, which recently saw the exit of anti-drug zealot Chris Christie and the election of pro-legalization Phil Murphy, you can see the positive impact of having a reform-friendly governor on the tenor of the debate. Already, the state is moving to expand and reinforce its long-suffering medical-marijuana program, and Murphy’s election catapulted the topic of full legalization to the top of this year’s legislative-priorities list.

There are a number of races this year that are worth watching from a marijuana-reform perspective. In Texas, the opportunity to replace Senator Ted Cruz with pro-legalization Beto O’Rourke would add a new, outspoken supporter to the US Senate. In California, there is an outside chance that Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, who long opposed our efforts despite the vast majority of her party now being in support of reform, could be ousted by current California Senate President Kevin de León, who has a far better record on cannabis issues. Also of incredible importance are the many gubernatorial elections being held, particularly in Maine, where the current governor (and ardent prohibitionist), Paul LePage, will be term-limited out of office. Governor LePage has spent every day since the 2016 election working to slow down or outright prevent the implementation of his state’s marijuana-legalization initiative. We need to ensure that whoever takes the position after him is progressive and aggressive in implementing legalization.

 

Even on the local level, these elections have a huge impact. In Easton, PA, an effort to decriminalize marijuana failed in the past month due to just one vote, and counties in states that have legalization are often empowered to “opt-out” of allowing retail marijuana outlets in their jurisdictions. Local politics, in many ways, matters just as much if not more than what is happening at the federal level, and reform supporters need to be just as diligent in lobbying their local officials and candidates as those at the top of the ballot.

With the clock ticking down to Election Day, get informed, be sure you are registered, and go out and “smoke the vote” this November.

Wall Street Analyst Estimates US Cannabis Market Will Reach $47 Billion

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For years, “$20 billion by 2020” was an oft-heard refrain from market analysts who saw a bright and prosperous future for the legal cannabis industry. Now, with that horizon fast-approaching, analysts are setting their sights on what the next decade has in store. And one analyst, RBC Capital Markets’ Nik Modi, is seeing green.

Analyst Says Concentrates and Edibles Could Propel Sales To $47 Billion Annually

RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank that’s part of Royal Bank of Canada, issued a memo to clients outlining the rapid growth of the U.S. marijuana sector. The memo, authored by Nik Modi, shows how cannabis sales in the U.S. are gaining ground on beer and wine sales.

Projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent, Modi estimates that the legal cannabis category could reach $47 billion in sales annually in the United States within the next decade, according to Business Insider.

Yet the cannabis market in the U.S. faces uncertainties that Canada does not. Regulatory environments are constantly and rapidly shifting as states implement legalization and adopt different approaches to dealing with federal prohibition. Investing in the industry still carries risk.

 

But RBC Capital Markets analyst Nik Modi brushed off concerns about the unpredictability of legal cannabis in the U.S.. Instead, he drew clients’ attention to a shift in consumer trends that is already having a major impact on domestic retail markets.

Data from BDS Analytics, included in Modi’s memo, shows that the margin on cannabis flower has steadily declined since the beginning of recreational sales in Colorado in 2012. That’s indicative of a larger national move away from flower and toward cannabis edibles and concentrates.

In Colorado, flower made up 70 percent of legal sales when shops opened in 2014. By the end of Q4 2017, flower accounted for just 46 percent of total sales. Picking up the slack were edibles and concentrates. Both are surging in popularity everywhere, and Modi thinks those forms of cannabis can propel total sales beyond $47 billion a year by 2027.

 

Including Illegal Cannabis Sales Drastically Shifts Financial Forecasts

Another eye-catching aspect of Modi’s analysis is another BDS Analytics chart showing the estimated U.S cannabis market size. The chart compares cannabis sales to spirits, wine, cigarettes, and beer. From spirits at $58 billion to beer $117 billion, all four categories best cannabis at $50 billion. But interestingly, the chart includes total legal and illegal cannabis sales to arrive at the $50 billion figure. It’s unclear what proportion of that amount is made up by illegal sales.

Other cannabis market analysts say that illegal sales still account for the majority of total marijuana purchases in the U.S. But as legalization continues to channel consumers into the legal market, illegal sales are slowly declining.

While access to legal cannabis expands nationwide, the size of the illegal market remains difficult to measure. So does predicting how much of it will move aboveboard in the coming years.

 

RBC Capital Analyst Praises Big Investment in Canadian Cannabis

The letter RBC Capital Markets sent to clients also lauded Constellation Brands’ recent $4 billion investment in one of Canada’s largest medical cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp. Constellation Brands is the firm behind the popular beverage companies Modelo, Corona and Svedka. The company has been moving incrementally into the Canadian cannabis market, upping its stake each time. Nik Modi says he’d like to see more companies make similar moves in the cannabis space.

Report Shows Teen Marijuana Use in California Has Declined

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A statewide study in California has found that cannabis use by teens in the state has declined. Results of the California Healthy Kids Survey were released by the California Department of Education on Monday. The study is funded by the state’s health and education departments and is conducted every two years.

According to the research, 4.2 percent of 7th graders reported that they had used cannabis at any time between 2015 and 2017. That figure represents a 47 percent drop from the last survey when 7.9 percent of 7th graders reported using marijuana from 2013 to 2015.

Among 9th graders, 17.4 percent reported that they had used cannabis at some time during 2015 to 2017. That is a 25 percent decline from the 23.1 percent who reported using marijuana in the previous study.

Eleventh graders also showed a reduction in marijuana use. In the last survey, 37.9 percent of high school juniors said they had used cannabis between 2013 and 2015 while this year’s result for 2015 to 2017 recorded a 16 percent decline with 31.9 percent claiming cannabis use.

 

The percentage of teens who had used cannabis in the 30 days prior to the survey also declined. For 7th graders, the figure dropped from 5.0 percent in the last survey to 2.3 percent for the latest one. For 9th graders, the drop was from 13.4 percent to 9.5 percent, and for 11th graders, the number declined from 20.1 percent to 16.7 percent.

Will Legalization Affect Future Results?

The study’s authors noted that the survey was conducted prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, which began in California at the beginning of 2018.

“How the recent legalization of marijuana use for adults in California [affects] the declining trend among youth warrants attention,” they wrote.

 

“The next biennial survey will be of particular interest to shed light on whether the change in state marijuana laws [affects] these findings,” researchers added.

Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a press release that educators have a role in making sure that cannabis legalization does not lead to increased use by young people.

“We must continue to be diligent in our efforts to prevent, or at least limit, marijuana use in light of the potential effect of the legalization for adults as a result of the passage of Proposition 64 two years ago,” Torlakson said.

 

Cannabis Activist Responds

Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, said in a blog post from the advocacy group that the legalization of recreational cannabis is actually a factor in the decline of use by teens.

“These initial reports confirm that legalizing and regulating cannabis doesn’t increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect,” said Komp. “The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation.”

Komp also said that sound cannabis policy reforms are the best way to keep California residents and their communities safe.

“It’s time to stop trying to ‘send a message’ to young people about drugs and instead implement sound, science-based policies that best protect our children and public safety, along with our privacy and human rights,” Komp said.

California Lawmakers Pass Bill to Overturn Pre-Legalization Marijuana Convictions

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California lawmakers have passed a bill directing prosecutors throughout the state to overturn convictions for acts that are no longer illegal under the state’s Prop 64 cannabis legalization initiative. The bill would also reduce many felony convictions for marijuana-related crimes to misdemeanors.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1793, was passed by the California Senate Wednesday with a bipartisan vote of 22-8 after being approved by the California State Assembly on May 31 by a vote of 43-28.

If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, it will direct the state Department of Justice to identify cases from between 1975 and 2016 that are eligible to be overturned or reduced by July 31, 2019, and notify the appropriate district attorney for action. Prosecutors will then have until July 1, 2020 to decide if they want to challenge the reduction or elimination of any of those convictions.

Prop 64, passed by voters in 2016, legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis and eliminated many marijuana-related crimes. That decriminalization also applied retroactively, making many eligible for a reduction or elimination of past cannabis convictions. Those with convictions for non-violent felonies including possession or distribution of less than one ounce of cannabis are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors. Prosecutors have the right to challenge relief based on the criminal history of affected individuals.

 

Thousands of Cases Eligible For Relief

The justice department estimates that 220,000 convictions qualify to be reduced or eliminated.  Prosecutors in San Diego and San Francisco have begun to proactively reduce or eliminate convictions, but many other district attorneys in the state have said that they do not have the resources to follow suit. That puts the burden of relief on those with the convictions, many of whom may not be aware that they are eligible. Some with convictions that qualify for a reduction or elimination have taken it upon themselves to petition the court for relief, but only a small minority of those who are eligible have done so.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who voted for the measure, said it “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page,” according to an Associated Press report.

State Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from San Diego County, said that reducing felony convictions to misdemeanors will allow people to regain lost civil rights, including gun ownership.

 

“This bill will take those people off the prohibited list, save us time and money,” Anderson said.

AB 1793 was introduced by Democratic Assembly Rob Bonta of Oakland. He said that “the role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law — not create unneeded obstacles, barriers, and delay.”

Although AB 1793 received broad bipartisan support, not all lawmakers agreed with the elimination of past convictions. Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber argued against passage of the measure by his colleagues in the Senate.

 

“This directs us to forget any prior behavior that was illegal,” Nielsen said. “They should not be given a pass.”

With the approval of AB 1793 by both houses of the California legislature, the bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his approval.

Legal Weed: California Lawmakers Leave Many Marijuana Policies in Suspense

California lawmakers returned from summer recess to a busy week of committee hearings. Seventeen cannabis bills had hearings in Sacramento for the week ending Friday, August 10, 2018. We’ve broken down the status of each bill and what steps are to follow.

AB 1744 — After-school Programs (Placed in suspense file)

AB 1744 would allocate cannabis tax revenues to provide grants for the After-School Education and Safety Program. Qualifying after-school programs are required to provide youth development activities that promote healthful lifestyle choices and behaviors in order to receive funding. AB 1744  was placed in the suspense file with a vote of 7-0 by the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. The suspense file is a holding placing for any bill with an annual cost to the state greater than $150,000. Bills are held in the suspense file before the fiscal deadline to offer each legislative chamber time to allocate funds. Bills that are moved out of the suspense file go to the floor for a final reading and vote, while bills held in suspense die.

AB 1793 — Resentencing for Cannabis Convictions (Placed in Suspense File)

AB 1793 would require the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to review all convictions that could potentially be eligible for resentencing under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 (AUMA), or Proposition 64, before July 1, 2019. The bill would allow prosecutors to challenge convictions that do not fully meet the eligibility requirements. AB 1793 was also placed in the suspense file Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, with a 7-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1863 — Personal Income Tax Deductions (Passed Committee)

AB 1863 would allow California-licensed, state-compliant cannabis businesses to deduct business expenses under the Personal Income Tax Law. If passed, the bill would go into effect immediately. The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 6-0 to pass AB 1863 on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. The bill will proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1996 — California Cannabis Research Program (Placed in Suspense File)

AB 1996 would establish the California Cannabis Research Program to develop studies and conduct cannabis research. The bill proposes to allocate resources from the California Tax Fund to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. The Senate Appropriations Committee placed AB 1996 in the suspense file Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2020 — Temporary Event Licenses for Onsite Sales (Placed in Suspense File proposes a state temporary cannabis event license to be issued to a licensee for events to be held at any venue zoned or approved by a local licensing authority for events. Additionally, the bill would authorize onsite cannabis sales and consumption for adults 21 and older, as long as all participants in the event are licensed under the Medicinal and Adult-use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). AB 2020 was placed in the suspense file following a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2215 — Veterinary Cannabis Medicine Ban (Ordered for Third  Reading)

AB 2215 proposes to prohibit a veterinarian from recommending or administering cannabis to an animal patient. The bill would authorize the Veterinary Medical Board to revoke or suspend a license, or to assess a fine for violating a controlled substances law. AB 2215 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2255 — Transportation Limits (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2255 would prohibit licensed distributors from transporting cannabis that exceeds the amount stated on a shipping manifest. Violations would result in fines. Additionally, the bill would prevent law enforcement officers from seizing cannabis in transport without probable cause. AB 2255 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2402 — Personal Information Privacy (Ordered for Third  Reading)

AB 2402 prohibits a MAUCRSA licensee from sharing a consumer’s personal information to a third party without the consumer’s consent. The bill would also prevent a licensee from denying a consumer a product or service if they do not consent to sharing their information. AB 2402 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2555 — Legal Language of Cannabis (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2555 proposes to amend sections of the California Business and Professions code by adding definitions for the terms “immature cannabis plant,” “mature cannabis plant,” and “plant.” Additionally, instead of requiring a unique identifier to be issued for each cannabis plant, the bill would require a unique identifier for each mature cannabis plant. AB 2555 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2641 — Temporary Event Licenses for Sales (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2641 proposes for the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) to issue a temporary cannabis retailer license to qualified licensees for the transportation and sale of any cannabis products at a licensed temporary cannabis event. The bill would require an application be sent to the BCC, including a list of all licensed participating business. AB 2641 was read a second time, and ordered to a third reading following a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2899 — Cannabis Advertisement Restrictions (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2899 would prohibit a licensee from publishing advertisements or marketing materials for cannabis and cannabis products under a suspended license. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2914 — Cannabis in Alcoholic Beverages (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2914 would prohibit a cannabis licensee from producing or selling cannabis products in alcoholic beverages. Additionally, this bill would prevent any alcoholic beverage licensee from selling, offering, or providing cannabis or cannabis products. AB 2914 would authorize the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to suspend or revoke a license if a violation is found. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered to a third reading.

AB 2980 — Common Areas Shared by Cannabis Businesses (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2980 would require that sections of the MAUCRSA not be misinterpreted in a manner that would prevent two or more licensed premises from sharing common-use areas, as long as all licensees comply with the requirements of the act. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered to a third reading.

AB 924 — Commercial Cannabis Regulation on Native American Tribal Lands (Hearing Postponed by Committee)

AB 924 would establish the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Act for Tribal Entities (CREATE Act). Under the CREATE Act, participating tribes would be required to enter a tribal cannabis regulatory agreement with the governor for the purpose of establishing a tribal cannabis regulatory commission or agency. All tribal cannabis regulatory agreements and subsequent tribal commissions and agencies must be approved by the Legislature. A hearing for AB 924 was rescheduled for Monday, Aug.13, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1459 — County Agricultural Commission Reporting (Passed Committee)

SB 1459 would require county agricultural commissioners to include cannabis among reports of the condition, acreage, production, and value of agricultural products submitted to the secretary of Food and Agriculture. SB 1459 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee 13-4 and has been ordered for a third reading on the Senate floor.

SB 829 — Compassionate-care Licenses (Placed in Suspense File)

SB 829 proposes the BCC issue and regulate compassionate-care licenses, which are issued to donors of medicinal cannabis or marijuana products to qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation. SB 829 was placed in following an Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.   

SB 930 — State-chartered Financial Institutions for Cannabis (Placed in Suspense File)

SB 930 would create a state charter for privately financed banks and credit unions for the purpose of offering banking services to licensed cannabis businesses. Administered by the Commissioner of Business Oversight and the Department of Business Oversight, the program would also create the Cannabis Limited Charter Bank and Credit Union Advisory Board to include the treasurer, the controller and the chief of the BCC as policy directors. SB 930 was placed in the suspense file Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Votes to Legalize Marijuana

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5,871 miles of open Pacific Ocean waters separate the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from the coast of California. But the 15-island chain that makes up the United States’ westernmost territory is poised to do something no U.S. state has ever done.

On Wednesday, 18 of CNMI’s 20 legislators voted to approve a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use. The bill would also legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp. And if CNMI Governor Ralph Torres enacts the bill, the territory will make legalization history—twice.

CNMI Would Be First U.S. Jurisdiction to Go From Total Prohibition to Full Legalization

This isn’t the first time CNMI lawmakers attempted to legalize cannabis. As recently as May, the CNMI Senate approved a piece of legislation nearly identical to the House-approved bill. Procedural issues, however, stymied the bill’s progress.

After another false start in the Senate, the House opted to file its own bill. It took less than a week for the full chamber to vote to approve the proposal.

 

That act alone makes CNMI unique among the 9 U.S. states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. Vermont comes closest, having legalized marijuana through a legislative process rather than a ballot initiative. But unlike CNMI’s proposed legislation, Vermont’s law doesn’t establish a retail market. The Mariana Islands’ legislation would.

There’s a second way CNMI would make legalization history if the bill becomes law. Every U.S. state that has legalized adult-use marijuana did so only after establishing a medical cannabis program. But in CNMI, there is no medical marijuana. The territory would be the first U.S. jurisdiction to go from total prohibition to full legalization.

What’s Next for Legal Cannabis in U.S. Territories?

Despite the tremendous distance between the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the continental United States, the territory has been closely watching legal cannabis unfold there. Indeed, the overwhelming support for the proposal in the House is due to lawmakers’ recognizing the significant benefits of legal weed.

 

The full text of the legislation, SB 20-62, cites how states with regulated markets for marijuana “have observed real and significant benefits to public health, safety and quality of life for all residents,” and goes on to list medical benefits like treatments for pain, epilepsy and PTSD, social benefits like a reduction in overdose deaths and lowered crime and economic benefits like tax revenue and job growth.

But the bill still has a couple more hurdles to clear before it becomes law. The CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 is currently on its way back to the Senate for approval. After that, it will head to the desk of Gov. Ralph Torres, a Republican who has expressed concerns about legalization.

In response to House passage of the bill, Torres stressed the importance of taking “a look at both sides of the coin.” Torres wondered about the crime statistics in states with legal weed and other public safety issues.

 

Whether those reservations would ultimately lead Gov. Torres to veto the legislative effort and oppose the will of CNMI residents, however, remains to be seen. Public hearings about the act had higher attendance than any hearings senators could remember. Initially, legislators had designed the bill as a voter referendum before adopting it in the Senate.

Marijuana festivals, and businesses that benefit from them, are hurting now that cannabis is legal in California

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Marijuana festivals, and businesses that benefit from them, are hurting now that cannabis is legal in California

July 5, 2018 

Marijuana festival organizers were banking on this to be their biggest year yet, now that recreational cannabis is legal in California and the state is legitimizing such events by licensing them for the first time.

Promoters say they planned to stop operating under the loose protections of the state’s medical marijuana laws, where they’d force attendees to get doctor’s recommendations for cannabis before entering the gates. Instead, they hoped to have licenses that would allow anyone 21 and older to buy and smoke cannabis, just like they can buy and drink beer at other festivals.

But with local authorities now able to block such festivals even from the limited venues where they’re permitted by new state rules, there weren’t any state-sanctioned events in Southern California during the first half of the year. And none are on the horizon for the rest of 2018.

The picture is a bit brighter in Northern California. The state licensed marijuana festivals this spring in Sacramento and in Santa Rosa, where the massive Emerald Cup is also expected to go off in December without a hitch.