WeedLife News Network

Hot off the press cannabis, marijuana, cbd and hemp news from around the world on the WeedLife News Network.

It goes without saying, but 2020 was a pretty wild year for the California cannabis and hemp industries. We think 2021 will be a pretty active year and want to list out some things to watch out for as we kick off the new year.

Agency Consolidation: It was announced in January 2020 that California’s three cannabis agencies’ regulatory authority would be consolidated into a single, new agency, the Department of Cannabis Control. We expect that there will be significant efforts in 2021 to make this happen, which will be a big shake-up for California’s regulated cannabis industry.

Hemp Production Plan Adoption: California submitted a hemp production plan to the U.S. Department for Agriculture recently, and it’s still under review. The plan will eventually be approved (though USDA may require some changes) in early 2021, necessitating changes for the regulation of California’s hemp industry.

Enforcement: We predicted at the end of 2019 that 2020 would be the year where California’s cannabis agencies began enforcement actions and efforts in earnest. In large part, that was delayed due to COVID-19, but we still saw some enforcement efforts (i.e., the BCC’s lawsuit for civil penalties). We expect that enforcement efforts and actions will increase significantly in 2021.

Prop. 65 Litigation: With the expansion of Prop. 65 to cover additional cannabis and hemp products, we expect to see more and more lawsuits and demand letters going out to businesses that allegedly fail to comply with these requirements.

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Kansas is way behind when it comes to cannabis legislation, as their laws are some of the strictest in the country, and they’ve yet to see anything significant come through. However, they are finally moving in a positive direction when it comes to workers comp. 

A new bill would help ensure that an employee can still get money for being injured on the job, even if they are a cannabis user, and the bill would accept that cannabis is not in the same class as other controlled substances. 

This new proposed bill, known as House Bill 2040, would take cannabis off of the drug impairment list, meaning that even if a worker is found to have certain levels of cannabis in their system following an injury, they aren’t automatically kept from getting workers’ comp money because of their cannabis use. This would change things for those who use cannabis in their spare time outside of work, as cannabis can stay in the system for weeks after use. 

In legal language, the bill would create a “rebuttable presumption” that an injured worker who has used alcohol or illegal drugs, also including cocaine, opiates, and methamphetamines, can still try for a payout. It would remove cannabis and THC from the list of drugs that cause impairment entirely. So, while this is still a very small step compared to what many states are doing, they are making it a point to differentiate between cannabis and other controlled substances. 

In addition to H.B. 2040, Kansas lawmakers also introduced House Bill 2016, which would also have an impact on workers’ comp claims. The bill would look into whether or not the accident was a “substantial” factor in causing the industry, rather than just the “prevailing” factor. 

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The first several months of the new Congress will tell us everything we need to know about its intentions and its dedication to cannabis reform.

Although Democratic control in Congress this year was supposed to lead to the legalization of marijuana at the federal level, the word on the street is that the newfound leaders of Capitol Hill might not be able to get that done for two years. Two years!

The Democrats have struggled to get marijuana-related legislation so much as heard in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has always stood in the way. But now, McConnell’s out, following a bruising victory by Democrats in the Georgia runoffs, so why all of a sudden are they pumping the brakes?

Some interesting movements took place late last year showing that Democrats were prepared to legalize marijuana if they were successful in Georgia. In December, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity and Expungement Act), designed to eliminate federal marijuana prohibition. The bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and establish a taxed and regulated pot market similar to alcohol and tobacco.  

Even though the Democrats knew that the Republican reign of terror in the Senate would stop them from taking this measure all the way, they still made it one of their last pieces of business in 2020. 

Senator Mitch McConnell Congratulates Biden, But Will He Work With Him On Weed?

With newly installed Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature and a governor who has signaled his unequivocal support this week, many believe it is a foregone conclusion that New York will finally join other states in responsibly regulating marijuana use this year. That’s welcome news, and it’s long overdue. But it’s also abundantly clear that getting it done is not the same as getting it right.

As lobbyists, activists and lawmakers haggle over competing proposals to establish legal marijuana access for adults, there are several non-negotiable tenets that must be included in any legislative deal. Chief among them is the abiding principle that New York's marijuana legalization package must be laser-focused on putting impacted communities first.

First and foremost, adult use marijuana regulation must address the harms wrought by the decades-long war on drugs. Treating this as an issue of both economic and criminal justice reform, New York must use any legalization proposal as a vehicle to right the wrongs of the past and build the foundations for a more equitable future. This means not only ending housing and employment discrimination for communities devastated after years of criminalization and racist enforcement, but also the critical step of allowing re-sentencing for individuals with marijuana convictions. It’s also time for the state to remove a positive marijuana test as the sole factor determining a parole or probation violation, as New York City has already done.

New York's marijuana regulation law must ensure the newly created industry is both equitable and diverse. One benefit of not being the first state to end marijuana prohibition is that we have a much clearer sense of which programs have worked well and which ones have fallen short in other states. Adopting and building upon the best practices of other jurisdictions, New York can lead the way by establishing a licensing structure that prioritizes small businesses, co-operatives, and family-scale farms, not giant corporations focused primarily on profits. In addition, a social equity program that is funded from day one is essential in order to generate economic opportunity by offering priority licenses to communities disproportionately hurt by the drug war.

 

 

Photo credit: Getty Images.

Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana in North Dakota are embarking on another petition effort after missing the signature cut-off for their measure to appear on last year's ballot.

Supporters of the measure, which would amend the state Constitution to legalize personal possession of cannabis, submitted their petition to Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Monday, Jan. 11, seeking approval to appear on the 2022 general election ballot.

If Jaeger approves the measure, backers can begin collecting the 26,904 signatures needed to appear on the ballot.

The new measure is the same as the one that circulated ahead of last year's election, according to the measure's chairwoman Jody Vetter, and focuses strictly on the personal growth and possession — not the sale — of cannabis for residents 21 and older.

Last year, Vetter's measure came up some 2,000 signatures shy of qualifying for the ballot. But Vetter said their last push was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted the petitioning process for months, and noted that she believes they are better prepared and have more time ahead of the next election.

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There are plenty of reasons for legalization advocates to feel confident about the outlook for 2021 in Virginia. They have support from the sitting governor, and polls showing that voters in the commonwealth are ready to take the step, too. 

Now, they have legislation to make it a reality. The new bill comes via Democrat Steve Heretick, a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates who has put up legalization proposals in the past. While those previous efforts have all fizzled out, there is good reason to believe that this time will be different. 

The most obvious reason, of course, is the dramatic shift in public opinion toward marijuana legalization in the United States—a sea change that has brought an end to prohibition in both blue and red states, alike. Polls show that there is similarly robust support for legalization in Virginia. A 2019 survey from the University of Mary Washington found 61 percent of adults in the commonwealth are in favor of marijuana legalization. 

Emboldened by those relaxed public attitudes, prominent Democratic Virginia lawmakers have likewise embraced legalization in recent years. In 2019, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he supports bringing an end to prohibition; in his announcement, Herring even pointed to the poll from University of Mary Washington as a reason for Virginia to take the step.

 “Virginians know we can do better. It’s time to move toward legal, regulated adult use,” Herring said at the time.

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A state senator introduced a proposed amendment to the Nebraska Constitution on Thursday that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. If advanced by the Nebraska Legislature, the proposed amendment from state Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha would appear on the ballot in 2022.

Under Legislative Resolution 2CA, voters would decide on a proposed amendment to the state constitution in next year’s general election in November. The amendment would legalize marijuana for all adults age 21 and older and require state lawmakers to enact legislation governing the “cultivation, manufacture, distribution, consumption, and sale of cannabis in any form” by October 1, 2023.

2020 Ballot Initiative Nixed By State Supreme Court

The proposed amendment comes following an unsuccessful bid by activists to legalize medical marijuana last year with the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment (NMCCA). Supporters of the ballot measure submitted more than 182,000 signatures in July, and the following month Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen announced that the measure had garnered enough signatures to qualify for a vote and certified the initiative for the November 2020 general election ballot.

However, that decision was challenged by Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, who filed a lawsuit to block the initiative from appearing on the ballot on the grounds that it contained misleading language and violated a rule limiting initiatives to one subject. The challenge was upheld by a vote of 5 to 2 by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled that provisions that provided for retail sales, home cultivation, and other issues were not sufficiently connected to legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis.

 

“If voters are to intelligently adopt a State policy with regard to medicinal cannabis use, they must first be allowed to decide that issue alone, unencumbered by other subjects,” the court wrote in its conclusion. “As proposed, the NMCCA contains more than one subject—by our count, it contains at least eight subjects.”

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It may be hard to pinpoint the exact time when cannabis will be legalized worldwide, but it’s a safe bet that eventually, most, if not all of the planet, will end cannabis prohibition.

In theory, there could always be a limited amount of countries that stay on the wrong side of history for a very long time. However, most countries will presumably legalize at some point.

Cannabis prohibition is a failed public policy wherever it exists, and that, combined with the economic benefits of a vibrant cannabis industry, is going to influence lawmakers around the globe to step up and end prohibition in their jurisdictions.

Right now, only two countries have legalized cannabis for adult use: Uruguay and Canada. 

With 2021 now underway, other countries could be added to the list. Below are some of the most likely candidates.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he will introduce a proposal that would finally legalize marijuana in New York state.

“I’m announcing a proposal to legalize cannabis and create an equitable adult-use cannabis program in NYS,” Cuomo tweeted Wednesday. “This program will generate much-needed revenue, while allowing us to support those that have been most harmed by decades of failed cannabis prohibition.”

Under the proposal, New York would establish a new Office of Cannabis Management, which would oversee both the recreational program and the state’s preexisting medical marijuana program. If approved later this year, the proposal would allow adults over the age of 21 to buy marijuana at state-approved dispensaries, with the state reaping an estimated $300 million in tax revenue from legalization.

While New York decriminalized personal-use possession of marijuana in 2019, the Empire State has lagged behind other states — including, most recently, Montana, Arizona, North Dakota and New Jersey — in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Cuomo has twice attempted to legalize marijuana in the largely Democratic state, but both tries stalled when they reached the legislature. However, state Democrats obtained a supermajority following the November elections, giving them the ability to override any veto.

The timing of Cuomo’s proposal — like news that Cuomo will also allow sports betting in New York — seems to be financially motivatedm, as the state rebounds from a ballooning deficit and the economic impact of Covid-19.

Supporters of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) rally on the steps of New York City Hall on November 21, 2019. The law would legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in New York State, ending disproportionate policing and providing millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Democrats taking control of the Senate — decided Wednesday by Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff's win over GOP Sen. David Perdue in the Georgia Senate runoff election — significantly changes the prospects for passing cannabis legislation in the new Congress.

But don’t expect President-elect Joe Biden to sign a comprehensive legalization bill by Easter.

Full legalization remains a tall order with such a slim majority: They will have a 50-50 share of the chamber and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a Democrat, will be able to join to break ties.

 

Some pro-cannabis senators and advocates say legalization may be more likely to progress if it is part of a policing and criminal justice reform package. Piecemeal legislation with broader bipartisan support such as banking access for cannabis businesses and medical marijuana research, however, have a better chance to advance. Chances greatly increase under a chamber led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the removal of a rider prohibiting the District of Columbia from starting a regulated cannabis industry.

Schumer v. McConnell: The two Senate leaders could hardly be more different on cannabis policy. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shut down attempts — even by Republicans like former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner — to pass any marijuana reform legislation aside from medical marijuana research expansion.

In this Aug. 15, 2019 file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif.

State legislators in Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina have filed or pre-filed bills establishing such medical marijuana programs, according to a Reckon report.

These states would join Mississippi, the latest state to adopt a medical cannabis program, making it the 35th state to legalize medical cannabis.

In Alabama, state Sen. Tim Melson plans to file a medical cannabis bill similar to the one he filed in 2020.

This will be the third year Melson has presented a medical cannabis bill in the state legislature.

 

Smokable and vaping medical cannabis products would not be authorized under the bill, only tablets, certain types of edibles and creams. It would not allow any food products containing cannabis, like cookies or candies.

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ENTREPRENEURS eager to enter the marijuana business are calling on the Government to bring legislation which will allow them to do so without fear of being arrested.

The Cannabis Control Bill, aimed at legitimising marijuana retail businesses in Trinidad and Tobago, has been a topic of discussion since the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act in December 2019.

The amendments allowed for the possession of up to 30 grammes of marijuana and growing four female plants for every adult in a home.

The bill was sent to a joint select committee (JSC) led by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in 2019, which was initially due to report to Parliament in February last year, but there have been some setbacks.

Chairman of the legislative committee and member of the JSC Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat told Sunday Newsday last Thursday the bill is expected to be laid in Parliament sometime after March as the JSC is still accepting stakeholders' suggestions.


Five years after Texas legalized medical marijuana for people with debilitating illnesses, advocates and industry experts say the state's strict rules, red tape and burdensome barriers to entry have left the program largely inaccessible to those it was intended to help.

But with a new legislative session gaveling in next month, some Texas lawmakers see an opportunity to fix the state's medical cannabis program - known as the Compassionate Use Program - by further expanding eligibility and loosening some restrictions so Texas' laws more closely resemble those of other states that allow the treatment.

There are 3,519 Texans registered with the state to use medical marijuana, though advocates say 2 million people are eligible based on current law.

Texas' program pales in overall participation and scope compared with other states: It has fewer enrolled patients and businesses than most other states with medical marijuana programs. At least some form of medical marijuana is legal in 47 states nationwide, but Texas' restrictions put it in the bottom 11 in terms of accessibility, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"We're pretty dang close to the bottom. We're pretty far behind," said state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, referring to how access to Texas' medical marijuana program fares compared with other states. Menéndez will push legislation in the next session to further expand the program.

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On the eve of Missouri’s next legislative session, one Republican lawmaker in the state is angling to legalize pot.

State House Rep. Shamed Dogan says he intends to put up a bill in the upcoming session that would add the “Show Me State” to the ranks of those that have ended the prohibition on marijuana.

“We spend more time and more law enforcement resources going after marijuana smokers than all the other drugs combined,” Dogan said, as quoted by local television station Fox 4. “Ten percent of the arrest in the state of Missouri right now are from marijuana possession.”

According to the state, Dogan’s bill will represent the first time “a Missouri Republican representative is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana.”

“I think alcohol prohibition taught us that trying to prohibit something this way, the way we’ve gone about marijuana prohibition, it backfires,” Dogan said, adding: “I mean, you can buy any amount of alcohol you want, right? You can buy any amount of tobacco that you want, so I think it should be regulated the same ways.”

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If, ten years ago, you'd had to place a bet on whether traditionally red Arizona or the comparably liberal state of New Mexico would legalize marijuana first, you’d probably have gone with New Mexico.

But though medical pot is legal in New Mexico — a little over 100,000 residents, about five percent of the population, are cardholders there — the legislature’s attempts to legalize it for everyone have consistently stalled out.

That could change this year.

“Voters purged most conservative Democrats from the New Mexico state Legislature in this year’s primary election,” the Santa Fe New Mexican recently reported. “Their departure means legalization of recreational marijuana has its best chance ever of passing.”

A bill that would do exactly that is already queued up for the upcoming 60-day legislative session that begins January 19. (Ballot issues are much harder to pass in New Mexico than in many other states, so legislators would prefer to do it by statute.)

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Illinois has been receiving some flack lately, as the state made it seem like expunging charges was a priority after legalization took hold, but so far, has been slow to roll those out. Now, the state is making up for that lost time, having recently expunged nearly 500,000 low-level convictions

These expungements, made by the Illinois State Police, tackled non-felony and cannabis-related arrest records and were signed off on by Governor JB Pritzker. 

Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, the state has promised that cannabis arrest records from 2013 to 2019, totaling 47,000 in eligible cases, be cleared by the first of this year. By 2025, the state is expected to be up and running with automatic expungement. The state is now ahead of schedule instead of behind, having reached 492,129. 

However, even though this makes the state four years ahead when it comes to state-level charges, counties still have to deal with their own, local expungements, and still must do so by 2025. 

Some counties, including DuPage, Kane, Knox, Lake, McHenry, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, Will, and Winnebago counties, already have their records expunged, but more need to catch up. 

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A bill signed into law by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last week enables veterinarians in the state to discuss cannabis treatments with pet owners.

Prior to the signing, the ability to discuss industrial hemp or marijuana-based treatments was a bit of a grey area legally speaking, so many vets were hesitant to provide any sort of information to pet owners. This isn’t a situation confined to Michigan – there are similar issues in other states and countries

State Rep. Greg Markkanen led a push for clarification after being contacted by a veterinarian who was concerned about the issue. The bill that resulted was also sponsored by State Rep. Sara Cambensy and two other state representatives.

HB 5085 simply stated:

” (1) A veterinarian may consult with an owner on the use of marihuana or industrial hemp on an animal of the owner.”

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Arizona legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older in November after the state’s voters passed Prop 207. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), who will oversee the state’s new recreational marijuana industry, just released the draft rules for the new industry.

The new law will allow adults to buy, possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis.

Arizona dispensaries will begin selling recreational marijuana by April 5, 2021.

Prop 207 key facts

– Allows adults 21 and older in Arizona to buy and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, but with no more than 5 grams being concentrates (extracts).

– Limits personal home cultivation in Arizona to six cannabis plants per individual’s primary residence and twelve plants at a residence where two or more persons 21 or older reside.

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Minnesota is still pushing for legalization and planning to try again during this legislative session, although they are still facing some resistance from the state Senate

“Public support is growing for legalizing and expunging criminal records for cannabis,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said regarding the new, proposed legislation. He plans to sponsor another bill for legalization this time around. “We want to create a safe, regulated marketplace where people can buy cannabis, know what they’re getting, where law enforcement knows where cannabis is coming into the community.” 

“There are obviously big racial biases in the criminal justice system, very different arrest rates, very different incarceration depending on your race,” he added, regarding some of the other reasons for legalization in Minnesota. “The big hurdle is not really trying to convince people that cannabis is good. Nobody is trying to say that. What we’re saying is, the current system fails every test of a good, public response to a drug that has some adverse effects and has some positive benefits.” 

However, as many bright sides as he sees, Winkler is tuned in to the fact that some people are still not convinced this is the right move to make. Many are concerned about perceived dangers to the community, such as driving while high. 

“There’s always a balance of harms, and I think impaired driving is a relatively smaller harm compared to the harms we’re creating through prohibition,” Winkler said.

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The Cannabis Control Board met for about an hour Wednesday afternoon to discuss changes to the proposed rules and regulations for the recreational cannabis industry.

Board Vice Chairwoman Dafne Shimizu, director of the Department of Revenue and Taxation, presented amendments to the rules for retail cannabis stores and for enforcement and penalties.

Most of the changes are small, related to clarifying the requirements for transferring cannabis between licensed businesses and the process for reporting a customer who presents a fake identification card.

Board members briefly discussed whether there should be daily limits on cannabis purchases, but decided against placing a limit, noting the recreational cannabis law only limits how much cannabis an adult can possess in public, not how much cannabis they can possess overall. The limit when out it public is one ounce of dried cannabis flower.

Board members said they will not vote on the proposed changes until after Rev and Tax has presented additional amendments at a future board meeting.

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