Cannabis Law

As banks are learning to navigate the murky legal waters inherent to cannabis-related businesses, they are increasingly becoming open to housing cannabis-related business accounts, even with the substantial burden placed on them by the federal government to comply with their respective state laws.

In August 2013, then-Attorney General James M. Cole issued a memorandum to all U.S. attorneys, which was published by the Department of Justice, setting expectations for the federal government, state governments, and law enforcement on how to address state-implemented, legal-adult-use cannabis programs. In summary, the Cole Memo told states that, if they implement a strict regulatory framework; prevent diversion by employing a seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor the growth, distribution, and sale of regulated cannabis; and create a transparent, accountable market, the federal government will, essentially, leave them alone.

Almost six months later, Attorney General Cole issued further guidance as to how the original memo would impact certain cannabis-related financial crimes. He stated that the provisions of money-laundering statutes, the unlicensed money-remitter statute, and the Bank Secrecy Act remain in effect with respect to marijuana-related conduct, and that Section 1956 of Title 18, otherwise known as the federal anti-money laundering statute, makes it a criminal offense … Keep reading

Now that Massachusetts has legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal and limited recreational purposes, how should employers in the Commonwealth deal with worker use of marijuana? Here are three things any employer should be aware of about marijuana use in the workplace.

1. Employers can prohibit employees from reporting to work or performing work under the influence of marijuana, even if they cannot control the use of recreational marijuana outside of work.

However, detecting the current use of marijuana can pose a challenge, since cannabis-related substances may remain in an employee’s system for more than 20 days.

2. Although the medical marijuana law in Massachusetts allows employers to prohibit use in the workplace, for medical marijuana used in accordance with a valid prescription from a healthcare provider, employers must engage in an interactive dialogue to determine whether the lawful medicinal use is a reasonable accommodation of the employee’s disability.

In the recent case of Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected the employer’s defense that the use of medical marijuana in the workplace is a facially unreasonable accommodation because such use is still a crime under federal law. Rather, the SJC … Keep reading

Introduced in 2003, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Its original text stipulated that:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such states from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

In December 2014, the amendment was inserted, without a vote, as a rider during final negotiations of the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill. Soon after, President Obama signed the bill into law. To remain in effect, it was required that the amendment be renewed each fiscal year.

In October 2015, a court ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer lifted an injunction against a California dispensary to operate, providing supporters of the amendment with a major legal victory. Judge Breyer vehemently rebuked the Justice Department’s … Keep reading

In 2012, Anthony Pisarski and Sonny Moore, marijuana cultivators operating legally under California law, were raided by federal agents, who seized 327 cannabis plants, firearms, and over $400 thousand in cash. Pisarski and Moore were each charged with conspiracy to manufacture and possession with the intent to distribute.

Five years later, and only days ago, their case was reviewed by the Honorable Richard Seeborg, a California U.S. District Court judge.

Judge Seeborg’s decision blocked federal prosecutors from pursuing claims against Pisarski and Moore, ruling that Pisarski and Moore’s actions were legal in light of California’s laws governing the growth and sale of medical marijuana. In his decision to dismiss the federal prosecutor’s claims, Judge Seeborg expressly stated that “[Pisarski and Moore]’s conduct strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by California law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Pisarski and Moore’s defense was based primarily upon legislation known as the Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment, which was passed in 2014 and mandates that federal funds cannot be allocated toward prosecuting individuals following state cannabis laws.

In rendering his trailblazing decision, Judge Seeborg cited United States v. McIntosh, a case heard by the Ninth Circuit last year. In … Keep reading

On Monday, a six-person committee of Massachusetts House and Senate members completed work on a legislative compromise (Bill H.3818) that seeks to overhaul laws regarding cannabis approved by voters in last November’s election.

Local cannabis supporters have criticized the legislation, primarily because it proposes an 8% tax increase on adult-use marijuana.

Below are some of the salient points of the bill:

  • The tax rate on retail cannabis will be 20%, representing a significant jump from the 12% that voters approved last fall. Despite the hike, proponents of the bill, including Governor Charlie Baker, argue that the higher rate is commensurate with, if not lower than, those in other states where recreational use is legal – for comparison, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington tax recreational cannabis at 20%, 27.9%, and 37%, respectively.
  • The ability of cities and towns to determine whether to permit marijuana businesses will vary by municipality. Specifically, those cities and towns that voted in favor of legalization (comprising roughly 72% of the state’s population) will be able to make the decision to ban or limit marijuana establishments by referendum; for those that opposed, elected officials alone will make the final call.
  • Under the new legislation, the rules, regulations,
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