Cities and towns across New York are considering whether to allow retail cannabis dispensaries and consumption lounges legalized under state law to operate within their jurisdictions, with some officials urging them to act as a deadline approaches.

In March, the New York state legislature and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved legislation to legalize marijuana for adults and establish a regulated and taxed economy for the commercial production and sale of cannabis. Under that legislation, municipal governments have the right to opt out of the establishment of licensed cannabis dispensaries and consumption lounges within their borders. Towns and cities that decide not to allow such businesses must hold a referendum on the ban if at least 20 percent of registered voters sign petitions calling for such a vote.

During a recent webinar, Sarah Brancatell, the legislative director for the New York State Association of Towns, warned municipal leaders that do not want cannabis lounges and retailers in their communities that they have only until the end of the year to approve a local ordinance. Cities and towns that do not opt out before that time will not be able to in the future.

“The local law has to be adopted on or before Dec. 31, 2021. That’s coming up really quickly,” said Brancarella. “It’s like a one or done shot. If you adopt it on Jan. 1, it has no effect.”

New York Local Officials Taking Action

Municipal leaders across the state have begun to take notice, and movements to enact bans on cannabis businesses are already underway. In North Salem, a suburb of New York City in Westchester County, the Town Board has set a hearing to be held June 22 via Zoom on a proposed opt-out ordinance. At a meeting of the board on May 25, Supervisor Warren Lucas said that if the town opts out of the businesses, the decision can be reversed at a later date.

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With the country seeing a variety of marijuana reform measures advance in spring 2021, Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas and South Carolina are now the only states in the country where marijuana is fully criminalized.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a limited medical marijuana bill into law in May, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also signed legislation in May that will legalize medical marijuana in the state. Further reform has also been advancing in states which have already legalized or decriminalized marijuana, such as Nevada, Louisiana and Conneticut.

There is also movement in Wyoming, Idaho and Kansas that could change marijuana’s legal status. The Libertarian Party and other activists will be delivering two ballot initiatives to the Wyoming Secretary of State on Friday — one that would legalize medical marijuana and another that would decriminalize marijuana for personal use.

The Idaho Citizens Coalition similarly turned in 20 signatures of registered Idaho voters to begin the work to get a marijuana decriminalization measure on the 2022 ballot on June 3.

Medical marijuana legalization bills in Kansas and South Carolina stalled in May but could see movement in 2022, according the Marijuana Business Daily.

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The state Senate passed legislation that would legalize recreational cannabis just before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The bill passed 19-17, with six Democrats voting against and one Republican voting in favor. Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, and Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, both voted and stood to argue against the measure.

While the state House is expected to debate the bill over the next few days, time is dwindling to push the bill through the legislature, as the legislative session ends Wednesday at midnight.

House leaders acknowledged the tight deadline, especially given the fact that the House plans on taking up the state budget on Tuesday, but maintained confidence that the bill would become law.

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said he believes the votes are in place to pass the bill.

"It's largely the same as what came out of judiciary committee about two months ago, but we've made adjustments," he said Monday. "We do have a strong commitment from the House Democratic caucus to vote on a cannabis bill."

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The state House on Monday approved a set of revisions to Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, seeking to make permanent some of the changes put in place temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Representatives voted 164 to 38 for the bill, which would permit dispensing a three-month supply at a time, up from one month’s supply. Patients will be able to continue to pick up their medicine outside a dispensary, rather than coming inside the building.

State Health Department communications director Barry Ciccocioppo said the agency was concerned about provisions of the bill he said threaten product quality and patient safety.

” We look forward to working with the legislature to resolve these concerns for the best interest of Pennsylvanians,” Ciccocioppo said.

The legislation would also let caregivers provide help to more than five patients at once and would ease the process by which contaminants must be removed before the final testing. Grower-processors would be permitted to use pesticides under standards the Agriculture Department would develop.

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Marijuana Advocacy groups Are Pushing Congress To Pass A Federal Cannabis Bill This Month

A collection of influential advocacy groups are pushing for federal cannabis reform. Both the ACLU and NAACP are pressing the heads of a congress to conduct a vote. This vote would be in regards to a House bill to legalize cannabis on a federal level. The vote and potential passing of the bill are trying to be accomplished by the end of the month.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) shared their thoughts on cannabis reform. This was done in a letter that was sent just last week, to the House leadership. The group stated that it’s important to pass the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act. Back in 2020 the MORE Act passed the House and is now being reintroduced.

Ever since last year when the House approved the MORE Act. “the circumstances of this past year have made the War on Drugs even more untenable and amplified the voices of those demanding transformation in our criminal-legal system,” the groups wrote.

“In the face of a growing national dialogue on discriminatory law enforcement practices, including the disproportionate policing of drug use in communities of color, transforming our criminal-legal system and redressing its harms is more relevant and more pressing than ever before,” the letter states. “Marijuana reform represents a modest but necessary first step toward that transformation and toward repairing the harm wrought by the War on Drugs. The MORE Act remains the most effective and equitable way forward.”

Federal Cannabis Reform A Step In The Right Direction

Jerrold Nadler who is the Judiciary Committee Chairman has stepped up as the sponsor of the bill. This bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. As well as erasing the past cannabis crimes for people who have been in trouble with those issues. Next, this bill would also impose a federal tax on cannabis. The tax money that is made from legal cannabis would be used to rebuild communities and fund other programs. 

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A collective of organisations, businesses, and working groups have united to launch The Cannabis Industry Council – the first representative cannabis body dedicated to advancing the UK’s cannabis sector.

The Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) has been launched following renewed calls for the Government to reduce the red tape hampering the cannabis industry. The CIC aims to set standards and drive meaningful change within the UK’s medical cannabis and CBD sector. It is made up of almost 100 members who have collaborated to define and maintain gold standard industry practice.

The Council brings together disparate organisations, businesses and working groups, including clinics, patient access groups and doctors, insurers, licensed producers, and cannabis infrastructure bodies. Membership invitation has also been extended to representatives from the Home Office, The Department of Health, and NHS England, in the hope of strengthening ties between the cannabis industry and the UK public sector.

Supporting the UK’s cannabis sector

With six sub-groups, Quality Standards, Parliamentary lobbying, Research, Environmental & Social Responsibility and Hemp, the CIC is calling for patients to be better supported by the sector and for the government to reduce the red tape currently restricting the growth of the industry.

The Council will be organising a round table where leading public and private bodies across the UK will be invited to discuss how the UK can develop a robust cannabis industry which could drastically improve patient access and stimulate the economy post pandemic.

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Police in Great Britain reportedly discovered that a 17th century castle had been used as a massive cannabis growing operation.

The castle, located in the southern region of Somerset, is apparently owned by a “controversial British aristocrat” named Sir Benjamin Slade. Known as Woodlands Castle, it “is known locally as a high-end wedding venue and is situated just a few miles away from Slade’s other castle—an ancestral home that dates back to the 13th century,” according to the Canadian newspaper Regina Leader-Post.

The newspaper reported that Slade “has long been a provocative figure among British peers thanks to his massive firearms collection and provocative statements (especially regarding women and foreigners), having once placed an ad seeking a ‘castle-trained’ wife who would be a good ‘breeder.’”

He had apparently offered Woodlands Castle to the British government to serve as a medical site during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they Leader-Post says that “the proposal was evidently declined, and he ended up renting out the property instead,” and that authorities at this time think Slade was unaware of the illegal marijuana operation at the castle.

“Officials took multiple days to remove plants and cultivation equipment from the building, but have not shared whether any damage was incurred to the centuries-old property as a result of the grow,” the newspaper reported. “Trung Nam Pham, 39, was arrested and appeared in court last week on the charges. He will remain in custody pending a crown court hearing.”

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Colorado has submitted a revised Hemp Management Plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it says aligns with the Department’s Final Rule.

The USDA’s interim final rule on hemp was published back in late October 2019, followed by a consultation process Colorado participated in. Colorado decided not to submit a revised plan to the USDA until after the release of the Final Rule, which occurred in mid-January. In the state’s opinion, the resulting Final Rule was “vastly improved”, but the Colorado Department of Agriculture will continue to advocate for additional rule revisions with view to creating even more flexibility for producers.

Currently, the state’s hemp program is still operating under provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill, but it can only continue to do so until September this year – so this Plan is a very important document.

“I’m proud Colorado is home to a strong hemp industry and that our state is the leader in the development of industrial hemp,” said Governor Jared Polis. “The revised Hemp Management Plan gives Colorado’s hemp producers a realistic way to expand operations while also ensuring that testing is in place.”

According to the Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP) report released in April, the state hosted approximately 13 percent of all hemp acres registered and planted in the USA in 2019, the most of any. While hemp acres planted has dropped off since, there are plenty of parties currently registered for cultivation in the state – this listing is 109 pages long.

It was back in 2012 when Colorado’s citizens voted to pass Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, which contained a directive to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp. Legislation adopted the following year delegated the responsibility for establishing registration and inspection regulations for hemp cultivation to the CDA.

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Can you imagine a place where over 300,000 voters overwhelmingly pass a law only to have 7 governing elites overturn it with a bogus lawsuit? 

Welcome to Mississippi. 

 

In a stunning turn of political events, the Supreme Court of Mississippi has overturned the will of the voters and thrown out medical cannabis legalization in a state known for its hospitality. I guess that only applies to non-cannabis patients in Mississippi. People with terminal cancer, kids with severe epilepsy, adults with MS, and countless others suffering from addiction to chronic pain will be left behind and forgotten once again. The legislature must act as a check and balance on an extremist court, and restore the will of the voters once and for all. They must exercise their constitutional authority and moral duty by acting now. 

It’s a well-known medical fact that cannabis helps extend life for children with severe epilepsy. These kids and their families deal with daily life that no one can imagine as hundreds of seizures inflict untold suffering on these children. Many die young as the toll of the disease wears their poor bodies down. Access to affordable medical cannabis is often the only hope for these families; many have migrated to states like Colorado and California to gain access and help their kids. They deserve better from their leaders in Mississippi.

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Senate Democrats just don’t have enough of a majority to use the budget reconciliation process to their full advantage this year.

There has been some discussion over the past couple of months that Senate Majority Chuck Schumer might employ some clever finagling to bypass the 60-vote supermajority requirement to push through a comprehensive marijuana reform bill. As it stands, an old rule known as the filibuster is in the way of Schumer securing the votes necessary to make legal weed a reality. But if he could wrap it up in a budget reconciliation proposal, there’s a chance it would pass with a simple majority.

If the term budget reconciliation sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the only way Democrats have been able to get anything accomplished in the past few months. The budget reconciliation process allows the Senate to pass bills with a simple majority (51 votes), basically moving a bill through the upper chamber without Republican support. This is how they passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill, despite Republicans throwing a fit about how it would cripple America.


Photo by Harold Mendoza via Unsplash

The problem with this tactic, however, is the controlling party can typically only use it once per fiscal year.

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Alfredo Pascual: Hello, and welcome everyone. My name is Alfredo Pascual; I am vice president of investment analysis at fast forward innovations. And today, I will be moderating this panel with Tjalling Erkelens, CEO of BEDROCAN, and Alex Agius Saliba, member of the European parliament. And let’s start by letting Tjalling and Alex say a couple of words about themselves and how they ended up involved in the cannabis industry or policy in the case of Alex.

Tjalling Erkelens: Thank you very much, Alfredo. Yes, my name is Tjalling Erkelens, CEO and the founder of BEDROCAN. BEDROCAN is one of the older companies, and we have a strong European focus.

Since 2003, we are contracted by the Dutch ministry of health to produce high-quality cannabis for medicinal purposes. So we’re doing that for 18 years already now. One of the core things of the company is that we always say we do work for patients, and we do work at the highest quality levels.

Standardization is one of those quality legs under the stool. But also having your certificates right, so GMP and all that kind of quality assurance things are taken care of in our company. That’s who I am.

Alfredo Pascual: Thank you, Tjalling. Alex?

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When it comes to cannabis hash, one country in Northern Africa stands above all other nations, Morocco.

This country is the largest exporter of hashish worldwide, which has been the case for many years, with a lot of that hash going to Europe.

Cultivating cannabis, manufacturing it into hash, and selling it domestically or internationally is illegal in Morocco, although that obviously hasn’t stopped farmers from doing it.

A recently adopted measure will finally change that, at least in some instances.

Lawmakers Pass Bill 13.21

Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior crafted a measure (Bill 13.21) that would finally legalize and regulate the production of cannabis.

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While California led the charge to legalize marijuana, more precisely defined as “cannabis” under state law — I know, it’s confusing — the state has also repeatedly failed to forge a legal path for hemp-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD).

Following the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released an FAQ entitled, “FAQ – Industrial Hemp and Cannabidiol (CBD) in Food Products” (emphasis added by the CDPH), which provided that hemp, including CBD, could not be added to any kind of ingestible product like foods, beverages, dietary supplements, or animal products. Interestingly enough, there wasn’t, and still isn’t, any state law that actually prohibits adding hemp or CBD to finished products intended for human consumption. Instead, the CDPH adopted the federal FDA position.

Although the FAQ did not expressly say so, it was clear from its reading that the CDPH treated hemp-derived ingestible products adulterated under the state’s Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law (the Sherman Law), the state equivalent of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act  (FDCA). In fact, local agencies, like the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, later issued their own statements, which expressly categorized these products as adulterated, ostensibly confirming the CDPH’s unexpressed position.



Therefore, without going through the proper rule-making process, the CDPH effectively banned hemp-derived consumables, a policy that local agencies proceeded to enforce.


Could California be on the brink of decriminalizing psychedelics? A proposal aiming to do just that passed a major legislative hurdle on Monday, as it was approved by the state Senate.

The legislation now moves to the California General Assembly. Senate Bill 519 “would make lawful the possession for personal use, as described, and the social sharing, as defined, of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), by and with persons 21 years of age or older,” according to the text of the bill, which was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener.

In a message posted to Twitter on Monday, Wiener trumpeted the bill’s passage in the state Senate as a “big step for this legislation and the movement,” as well as a step toward “a more health and science-based approach and to move away from criminalization of drugs.”

He also thanked supporters for helping promote the legislation.

In an interview with local television station FOX40 last month, Wiener said that, regardless of what one thinks about drugs, “the question is ‘Should we be arresting and jailing people for possessing and using drugs?’ And I think the answer is absolutely no.”

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Kentucky-based hemp company GenCanna has filed a lawsuit again hemp processor Vertical Wellness, alleging that the company reneged on a contract to dry up to 12 million pounds of hemp, reports Law360.

GenCanna allegedly asked Vertical Wellness to pause the drying operations in November, as the company had filed bankruptcy and was in the process of selling its assets to MGG Investment Group.

GenCanna alleges that Vertical Wellness initially complied but then resumed drying operations at its Cadiz, KY facility in December without the company’s permission.

GenCanna maintains that the contract gave them an option to halt processing, while Vertical Wellness says the agreement was based on GenCanna’s desire to have the hemp processed by the end of 2020.

In a statement to Law360, J. Smoke Wallin, CEO of Vertical Wellness, said GenCanna and MGG breached the contract and called the lawsuit “completely frivolous.”

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If nine out of ten Americans believe that marijuana should be legal for adults—and according to a Pew Research poll conducted in April, they do—this begs an obvious question: Why hasn’t Congress passed federal marijuana legalization?

 CQ-ROLL CALL, INC VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

The country’s closest brush with national cannabis reform was last December, when the House of Representatives for the first time approved a legalization bill with a floor vote. As expected, the milestone was symbolic: The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (or MORE Act) did not receive a hearing in then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate. (The fact that its sponsor was then-Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), the vice-president elect, probably didn’t help.)

With Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House—and with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer an avowed legalization supporter, will things be any different, or better? On Friday, House Democrats on Friday reintroduced the MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, wipe certain marijuana-related offenses from individuals’ criminal records, and steer money towards individuals and communities hurt by the War on Drugs.

DC Marijuana Justice

More than 100 additional recreational marijuana dispensaries will be coming to Illinois under a bill approved by state lawmakers last week. The measure, HB 1443, received nearly unanimous approval from the state Senate on Friday after being passed by a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Passage of the bill in Illinois clears the way for the issuance of licenses for 75 adult-use cannabis dispensaries that were scheduled to be awarded in May 2020 but were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure also includes provisions to support social equity applicants in the selection process for 110 additional retail cannabis dispensary licenses. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the legislation, according to media reports.

“As a state that values making our laws reflective of our diverse communities, we must ensure that social justice is at the center of everything we do—and today, that means building upon our work of passing the most equity-centric cannabis law in the nation,” Pritzker said last week after the bill was approved by the Illinois House of Representatives.

The bill is designed to rectify controversies with the 2019 Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized the use and sale of adult-use cannabis in Illinois. More than 900 applicants had vied for the 75 licenses that were supposed to be awarded in May of last year. But when only 21 applicants received a perfect score on their application and qualified for a lottery to issue the licenses, the process was put on hold by state officials.

Two Cannabis License Lotteries Upcoming in Illinois

Since that time, applicants have been allowed to correct their applications and submit them to be rescored. Under HB 1443, 55 new licenses will be awarded through a “Qualified Applicant Lottery” open only to those who scored 85 percent or higher in the application process for the original 75 licenses, allowing those who did not receive a perfect score another chance at receiving approval.

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Fiji’s capital Suva has been in and out of Covid lockdowns over recent weeks, and my Netflix got a workout. I watched a TV show called “Cooked with Cannabis”. Admittedly there were a few baked hippies, but the cooking was good. Jokes aside, the show revealed the sophisticated and lucrative global cannabis industry, projected to grow to an extraordinary US$90.4 billion internationally by 2026.

Watching the show also got me thinking about Fiji’s economy as the country fights through a second wave of the pandemic via containment measures and a vaccination drive. Fiji has taken an almighty hit. GDP was slashed to approximately $4.3 billion in 2020, with growth falling by 19%, according to the International Monetary Fund. Foreign tourists have vanished, all non-essential businesses have been forced to close, and the much mooted Pacific travel bubble is likely to be off the cards for the immediate future. With national debt levels soaring, a nasty storm is brewing.

Fiji needs to diversify its economy away from a reliance on tourism. Despite the government’s best efforts to provide relief through food ration deliveries and a $90 emergency payment to families affected by Covid, these well-intentioned initiatives have arguably fallen short. Many people complained that calls to the food-ration hotline went unanswered, or the deliveries never arrived, while the need for Fijians to provide tax details in order to claim the relief payments meant those in the informal sector were all but left behind.

That’s where cannabis presents an opportunity.

A cannabis industry in Fiji would not be limited to growing the crop. A whole value-add supply chain could be created.


Sources have confirmed that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is committed to trying to push through a more global legalization bill before pivoting to a smaller bill like the SAFE Banking Act.

The saga of cannabis legalization at the federal level is ongoing, as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives continues to pass sweeping legalization bills that (to date) have gotten little traction in the divided U.S. Senate. (Link). The result has heightened speculation throughout the cannabis community, as activists, entrepreneurs and those with cannabis convictions wait for the federal government to act.

And while it’s impossible to say precisely what a final cannabis-reform bill will look like, those in the know (like the publishers of an unidentified cannabis-newsletter, for example) have gleaned some interesting things from the smoke signals coming from Capitol Hill.

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images

Chuck Will Have a Lot to Say

As Politico recently wrote, “Chuck Schumer really likes to talk about weed.” (Link). Indeed, cannabis reform has become the cause celebre of the senior Senator from New York, as he continues to advocate for a sweeping legalization bill that could include everything from criminal justice reforms to provisions allowing plant-touching companies to access the U.S. capital markets.

Will Chuck Schumer’s Latest Plan To Go Over GOP Heads Help Cannabis Reform?

When states first began to “experiment” with the legalization of marijuana, lawmakers, state officials, and everyone else, for that matter, were eager to see how selling legal weed would pan out.

On the one hand, naysayers wanted to judge whether the socioeconomic cost of legalization was worth the tax dollars the market would surely drive into state and local coffers. At the same time, advocates stood waiting for a “told ya so” moment, when they could show the nation that a legitimate pot market would not lead to a drug-addled society. Years later, the results have been mixed.

However, a new study in the journal Addiction attempts to shine some light on the legalization of recreational marijuana. More specifically, it shows what can be expected to happen with illicit drug markets in states that pass recreational marijuana laws, and it is interesting, to say the least.

For starters, fully legal marijuana, subject to state regulations and taxes, appears to make black market pot products more affordable. Researchers found a 9.2% drop in the price of street weed in places with recreational marijuana laws on the books. In some cases, lower quality bud experienced a price decrease of 19.5%. The “prediction,” as the study calls it, is that marijuana legalization is creating less demand for black market weed and therefore driving down the prices.

 

Still, real life tells us that legalization is fueling the black market in a lot of ways. This is especially true in states like California, where illicit pot operations still outnumber the legal ones. The legitimate market has also increased black market dealings across state lines. Law enforcement in prohibition states continue to report more increases in marijuana seizures all the time.

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