See Hemp & CBD Panel here.

With the cannabis space continuing its significant pace of growth, the industry has witnessed new players enter the arena: hemp and cannabidiol (“CBD”). The demand for hemp and CBD has skyrocketed in recreational, industrial, and retail spaces, however, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has not kept up with this influx despite its prohibition of the sale of CBD. Attendees of the Third Annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference had the opportunity to learn from the experts during our Hemp and CBD panel. Among other things, our panelists discussed future FDA enforcement actions and what possibility there is, if any, of regulations loosening.

Moderated by Scott Moskol, co-chair of Burns & Levinson’s Cannabis Business Advisory Practice, the panel opened with a brief discussion of the lack of standardization in the CBD industry despite the ubiquity of CBD products. Kevin Pilarski, the Chief Commercial Officer of Revolution Enterprises, underscored the need for independent third-party testing of CBD. With respect to compliance, Mr. Pilarski explained that until the industry standardizes a testing requirement it is difficult for hemp purchasers to know what they are getting. Such uncertainty threatens the overall stability of the … Keep reading

See Hot Smoking Topics in Operations Panel here.

The growth and legitimacy of the cannabis industry is at an all-time high with nearly two-thirds of the country in support of the federal legalization of cannabis. With such legitimacy and potential for further growth, it’s no surprise ancillary businesses are coming to the forefront to provide services to the cannabis industry. However, with so many new and ever-changing developments in the rapidly growing cannabis industry, ancillary businesses need to be positioned to understand and adapt to the complex landscape of the cannabis industry in order to provide sound advice and guidance to cannabis operators.

The Hot Smoking Topics in Operations Panel, presented by Burns & Levinson, examined the landscape of ancillary services provided to the cannabis industry and the Governor’s ban on vaping products.

Tina Sbrega, President and CEO of GFA Federal Credit Union, a well-capitalized, $540 million member-focused credit union, is at the forefront of providing services to the cannabis industry. Under Ms. Sbrega’s leadership, GFA Federal Credit Union created a subsidiary company in 2018 to provide banking services to cannabis operators, employees of cannabis operators and other companies willing to service the cannabis industry.

According to Ms. … Keep reading

See the State of the Cannabis Industry Panel here.

As previously blogged, Burns & Levinson hosted its third annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference on October 23rd with over 200 attendees present. The conference began with its State of the Cannabis Industry Panel that examined where things presently stood on a national and local level within the industry. The panel opened with a reflected upon what has transpired over the past year and dug into what may be expected as legalize marijuana continues to come online throughout the country. Such an examination was led by Frank A. Segall, who moderated the panel of speakers in the State of the Cannabis Industry Panel.

Public support for cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, with nearly two-thirds of the country supporting federal legalization. Pursuant to such trends, the House of Representatives has shown increased willingness to support the increasing popularity of federal legalization. The “McClintock Amendment,” which would protect adult-use marijuana programs similar to that of the “Rohrabacher–Farr amendment,” which protects medical-use marijuana programs, passed the full House by a vote of 265-167; the Senate has yet to take action on the Amendment. Furthermore, the House passed the … Keep reading

See Full Interview with Steven Hoffman here.

In the rapidly growing multi-billion dollar cannabis industry, new developments frequently occur in capital markets, investments, M&A, and regulation. Attendees of the Third Annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs firsthand from many of the industry’s leading experts. In a Spotlight Interview, Frank Segall, Burns & Levinson Chairman, Business Law and Finance, sat down with Steve Hoffman, Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission of Massachusetts (CCC).

With a background in business and finance, Hoffman admits that this was not a position he had sought after. He had never been in public service before and voted “No” to Question 4 in the original legislature that made marijuana legal in the state. Nevertheless, Hoffman has led a respectable campaign on behalf of the CCC that prioritizes transparency in all aspects.

With a staff of 65 people, the CCC operates with the mission of ensuring that there is room for small players in the big game. Hoffman stressed that there is a responsibility to ensure that the industry meets the expectations of its supporting voter base. To do so, the CCC must tackle problems such … Keep reading

See Keynote Address with Dr. Karen Munkacy and Dan Fireman here.

As previously blogged last week, Burns & Levinson hosted its third annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference on October 23rd, with over 200 attendees present. The conference featured a keynote address by Dr. Karen Munkacy, Founder and CEO of Garden Remedies, Inc., and Dan Fireman, Founder and Managing Partner of Fireman Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in the consumer sector.

Dr. Munkacy is a physician, mother, and breast cancer survivor, who began her public health care advocacy with cannabis legalization in June 2011 when she testified in front of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Public Health Committee in favor of cannabis. Since then, she has built the only physician-and woman-led cannabis company in Massachusetts.

Mr. Fireman founded Fireman Capital Partners in 2008 and currently focuses on all aspects of the Fund’s investment strategy execution and portfolio company management. Over the last ten years, Mr. Fireman has been responsible for raising and investing over $250 million across 29 transactions, the total value of which exceeds $1 billion in aggregate today.

This dynamic duo partnered together in May 2019. At the Conference, they shared … Keep reading

State of the Cannabis Industry Conference: Capital Markets, Investments, M&A, Regulatory and Other Timely Issues

See 2019 Cannabis Conference Introduction Video here.

In both the Commonwealth and New England — and, indeed, the country — these are exciting times for the cannabis industry. As a consensus on the topic of legalization continues to build, technology and banking, specifically, are unlocking doors that have long barred entry to the industry, presenting visionaries and pragmatists alike with opportunities never before possible.

Potential, in many ways, is limited only by imagination. The cannabis market will influence, and be influenced by, countless others, including the biotech, agtech, finance, and manufacturing industries. The synergistic possibilities are endless.

From our first involvement in the cannabis industry in 2012, Burns & Levinson recognized those possibilities. It is in this spirit that we have, once again, convened dozens of national experts and professionals to explore those possibilities and bring the reality of legalization into sharper focus. Their strategic legal and financial perspectives are what separates this conference from other cannabis-focused conferences, workshops, and seminars, and it is our hope that their experience and insight will help industry players chart their own course for future success.

Held on October 23rd, Burns & Levinson’s third annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference brought … Keep reading

SAFE Banking Act Passes House, Moves to Senate

Since the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (the “Act”) found bipartisan support in the House Financial Services Committee back in March,[1] the industry has been waiting for even the slightest sign of its legislative progress. Fortunately — on September 25, 2019 — the U.S. House of Representatives formally passed the SAFE Banking Act of 2019,[2] which marks the first standalone cannabis reform bill to ever pass the House. The Act, if codified into law, would unshackle the cannabis industry and open access to insurance, traditional banks and other imperative financial service companies.

Even as states have made marked progress on cannabis legalization, the federal government’s regulatory regime continues to burden the industry, including with respect to banking and similar services. Two primary issues plague the cannabis industry’s access to meaningful  financial services: (i) any business operating pursuant to a state law, whether it be a financial institution, real estate company, or any other ancillary operation working in connection with cannabis industry, is subject to risk of being construed as aiding or abetting a criminal conspiracy in violation of the Controlled Substance Act since those services do, in fact, facilitate and promote the marijuana industry; and … Keep reading

Got "Reliable and Scientific Evidence" on CBD? A Close Look into the FTC's Stance on CBD-Related Health Claims and Response From Industry Participants

Over the past seven months, and just as recently as three weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has released several warning letters to businesses selling CBD products. These letters concern the FTC’s review of potential violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, §§ 41-58, as amended, (the “FTC Act”) made in websites and marketing materials of CBD-related businesses. Participants throughout the CBD industry may take prudence in reviewing not only these health claims called to question by the FTC, but also by how these other industry participants have responded to the FTC’s warning letters.

The FTC and the CRS Evidence Standard

The FTC is an independent federal agency centered on maintaining marketplace competition that benefits both businesses and consumers. The FTC identifies its purpose as, “seek[ing] to protect consumers by enforcing laws and rules that promote truth in advertising and fair business practices, and by educating consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.” FTC Warning Letter to 4Bush Holdings, LLC, dated September 9, 2019.

In its warning letters, the FTC expressed concerns with companies “making false or unsubstantiated advertising claims about the health benefits of products containing cannabidiol (CBD).” The FTC … Keep reading

In Massachusetts, a Return to Economic Empowerment in the Marijuana Industry

On September 24, 2019, the Cannabis Control Commission (“CCC”), the Massachusetts government agency that oversees and regulates the state’s marijuana industry, voted to approve a set of revised marijuana regulations that provides for a number of updates to the existing versions, including several significant changes.  Of note, the CCC is contemplating the establishment of a licensing process that would permit marijuana companies to engage in new lines of business, including social consumption and delivery services.  While home delivery services are expected to begin within the coming months, the CCC noted that the newly approved “Social Consumption Establishment Pilot Program” may require legislative action before it can be implemented.

Under this Social Consumption Establishment Pilot Program, certain brick and mortar marijuana establishments will be permitted to sell marijuana products to customers who could consume the goods on-site.  Similar businesses, often referred to as “cannabis cafés” or “cannabis lounges”, were first made popular in Amsterdam and have recently become a hot topic in the domestic U.S. industry, as more states, such as California, have passed regulations allowing for their proliferation.  While many have voiced valid concerns regarding such businesses (including local neighborhood nuisances and the intoxicated operation of motor vehicles), there … Keep reading

Governor Baker Institutes Immediate Ban on Vaping Products

In response to the growing crisis around vaping-related illness, Governor Baker has declared a public health crisis and issued a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products in Massachusetts. The state’s Public Health Council subsequently issued a formal approval of the ban shortly thereafter. The ban – which went into effect immediately on September 24th – is set to last through late January 2020.

Since the media first reported on the issue, doctors have identified more than 530 confirmed or possible cases of vaping-related illnesses across 38 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”). And while the CDC has reiterated that many patients have in fact used THC-based products, some obtained on the street rather than from state-licensed recreational or medical marijuana retailers, the exact cause of such vaping-related illnesses has yet to be determined. Nonetheless, Massachusetts’ officials have reported 61 possible cases of vaping-related illnesses in the state as of this week, including among teenagers — a jump from 38 just last week. In light of this uncertainty, the Governor has halted all sales to allow for investigations by both medical and law enforcement authorities, at both the state and federal level.

Pursuant to … Keep reading