General

Security Standards for Medicinal Cannabis Businesses

Last week the firm moderated a discussion of banking and lending in the cannabis industry. The event was well attended and most importantly provided practical insights concerning the financing of cannabis businesses (medicinal and recreational) and detailed review of just how regulated and scrutinized operations are when it comes to business financing or daily financial transactions. The bottom line appeared to be that in order to obtain financing or to evolve from a cash business, an organization needs to be squeaky clean.

One question that arises regularly is whether medicinal cannabis firms are subject to HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is the primary set of laws and regulations applicable to the privacy and security of patient information. It makes sense intuitively that if a dispensary fulfills a prescription or request for a CBD product then the information associated with the patient, the order, and payment should all be considered “protected health information” or “PHI” under HIPAA.

Does HIPAA Apply to Medicinal Cannabis?

Typically, a medicinal cannabis dispensary or related business would not be subject to HIPAA. However, circling back to the discussion of banking and lending, any organization in the … Keep reading

Tomorrow night, Cannabis Business Advisory Group Co-Chairs Frank Segall and Scott Moskol will speak on a panel hosted by TMA New England. Details about the event and a registration link can be found below.


With the cannabis space projected to grow at a significant pace over the coming years, the panel will explore how banking has evolved to accommodate the needs of a vibrant and energetic industry. Topics will include the technology solutions that have become available to help marijuana-related businesses deal with the lack of traditional commercial banking services, how the Commonwealth accommodates the needs of the local industry, and the legal and regulatory framework surrounding cannabis investing/financing, and how it may change in the weeks, months, or years ahead.

A networking reception will immediately follow.

Speakers

Jordan Allen, Principal and CEO, Reich Bros Finance
Scott H. Moskol, Partner, Co-Chair Cannabis Business Advisory Practice, Burns & Levinson
Karen Munkacy, M.D., Founder, President and CEO, Garden Remedies
Tina M. Sbrega, President & CEO, GFA Federal Credit Union
Frank A. Segall, Chair Business Law & Finance, Co-Chair Cannabis Business Advisory Practice, Burns & Levinson

Details

January 31, 2019
5:00-8:00 PM
Boston Marriott Long Wharf
Harborview … Keep reading

Briefly: Harborside

It’s a new year, but why not live in the past just long enough to talk briefly about that last couple of Section 280E cases that trickled in at the end of 2018? Today, I’m reviewing the two Harborside cases.[1]

Harborside

Weighing in at 60-plus pages, and paraphrasing Shakespeare, it’s a wonder that we didn’t learn much more from the first Harborside opinion. Harborside is a medical marijuana dispensary located in California whose 2007 through 2012 tax years were audited, with the IRS issuing deficiency notices covering all six years. The deficiency notices disallowed the company’s Section 162 expense deductions pursuant to Section 280E, and made adjustments to costs of goods sold. Of importance to one of Harborside’s arguments in the case, the business had also been the subject of a civil-forfeiture action filed in 2012, stemming from what the federal law continues to view as its illegal drug-trafficking activities. That action was subsequently dismissed with prejudice in 2016.

In its petition, Harborside asked the Tax Court to decide whether:

  • res judicata precludes the Commissioner from applying Section 280E where the prior civil-forfeiture action was dismissed with prejudice;
  • Harborside’s business “consists of” trafficking in a controlled substance under
Keep reading
A Year in Review: Looking Back on the Forward Movement of the Cannabis Industry in 2018

As we begin this New Year, we’re taking some time to reflect on all that’s transpired in the cannabis arena over the past 12 months. It’s clear that 2018 was one of the most pivotal and exciting years for the burgeoning marijuana industry. In addition to seeing successful state legalization efforts across the country, we saw signs of support from both political parties (including the President), and witnessed the first legalization of recreational marijuana in an industrialized country with the passage of the Cannabis Act in Canada.

Despite a shaky start to the year, triggered by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ revocation the Cole Memorandum, five states approved legalization initiatives (including Vermont’s vote to approve marijuana in the same week Sessions revoked the Memo). With Vermont and Michigan approving recreational marijuana in 2018, and Oklahoma, Utah and Missouri approving use of medical marijuana, there are now 32 states with some form of legalized marijuana, including 10 which have legalized adult-use marijuana.

This year also saw bi-partisan support for cannabis legalization and its potential social and economic impact. There were a handful gubernatorial races in which candidates made cannabis legalization a key campaign issue. Democrats J.B. Pritzker (IL), Tim … Keep reading

Last week, a House-Senate panel approved the 2018 Farm Bill, thereby ending a months-long stalemate over a piece of legislation that provides critical subsidies to farmers. While much of the bill mirrors current law, the legislation, if passed, will bring an end to five decades of hemp prohibition. Hemp was afforded limited legal protections in 2014, when Congress passed a farm bill that authorized states to develop pilot programs for its research. The 2014 Farm Bill eventually gave rise to a patchwork of state regulations regarding hemp and hemp-derived CBD.

While the hemp industry experienced substantial growth under the 2014 Farm Bill, the new bill is undoubtedly a watershed moment for the entire cannabis industry, as its changes to current law are more far-reaching than its predecessor. If passed, the bill would remove hemp’s low amounts of THC from the Controlled Substances Act, allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate the crop like any other agricultural commodity, and permit hemp products – like CBD – to be introduced into interstate commerce. Further, it would lift restrictions on advertising, banking, and other financial services.

The bill would also:

  • Allow hemp production in all 50 states for any use, including
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CCBJ: High Times Ahead for Cannabis-Related Business

The following interview appears in the November–December 2018 issue of the Corporate Counsel Business Journal.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Corporate Counsel Business Journal: Burns & Levinson has had a cannabis law practice since 2013 and has already handled hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate transactions in this emerging industry. How has your cannabis practice evolved and changed since you first started?

Frank A. Segall: Our goal in entering the cannabis space was to bring our sophisticated corporate expertise to this industry. While we certainly started and remain committed to representing operators looking for licensure, we are heavily focused on working with entities raising capital through the public and private markets, forming venture capital funds and acquiring and selling operations on a nationwide basis. We have also been retained to assist groups in cannabis-related workouts and restructures. In addition, we are highly focused on addressing the banking issues confronting this industry, and we are structuring solutions by working with banks and credit unions that are willing to enter this space.

Understanding the depth of the industry, we endeavored from day one to predict the legal needs of the many cannabis-related businesses that are essential to this industry. We are fortunate to … Keep reading

Healthy Pharms Litigation Dismissed on Eve of Massachusetts Cannabis Sales

The closely watched Massachusetts cannabusiness case, Crimson Galeria Limited Partnership, et al. v. Healthy Pharms, Inc., et al., has been dismissed. On November 9, 2018, Judge Allison D. Burroughs of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued an order closing the action upon stipulation by the parties to dismiss the action with prejudice. Plaintiffs, whose property is located within 200 feet of Health Pharms’ registered marijuana dispensary, alleged that the operation of the RMD diminished the market value of their properties and restricted future development opportunities. They contended that the RMD made the surrounding area less desirable for prospective buyers or renters, who would “reasonably worry” about “increased crime” and “pungent odors.”

The Healthy Pharms case was followed closed by those in the cannabis industry due to several important issues raised in the complaint. The Plaintiffs asserted claims against the “Government Defendants” for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that federal law (i.e., the Controlled Substances Act) preempts Massachusetts’ legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries. They also asserted claims against Healthy Pharms and the other Dispensary Defendants, alleging civil violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, for acting and conspiring to distribute marijuana in violation … Keep reading

In the News: 3 States Adopt New Cannabis Laws; AG Sessions Resigns

Following Tuesday’s midterm elections, three states—Michigan, Missouri, and Utah—adopted new cannabis laws: Michigan voters approved a measure that legalizes marijuana for recreational use, Missouri approved the creation of a comprehensive medical marijuana program, and Utah passed a measure legalizing medical marijuana for patients with certain qualifying illnesses.

Michigan

Proposal 1 makes Michigan the first Midwestern state to pass adult-use marijuana legalization. It establishes several classes of licenses and gives the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) up to one year to promulgate regulations. For at least 24 months, LARA will only accept adult-use applications from existing medical marijuana businesses. Marijuana Business Daily has projected Michigan’s recreational cannabis market will generate between $1.4 billion and $1.7 billion in annual sales within several years of launching, making it one of the largest in the nation.

Missouri

Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 (Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative), making the Show-Me State one of the 33 in the Union that have embraced medical marijuana. The measure creates regulations and licensing procedures for medical marijuana and medical marijuana facilities—dispensaries, cultivators, and testing and marijuana-infused-product manufacturing facilities. Moreover, Amendment 2 tasks the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to regulate the … Keep reading

In My Opinion: Alpenglow Botanicals v. United States

If you read my most recent post on Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, you might have picked up on my disappointment with the Alpenglow opinion. Whether the conclusion is right or wrong, in my estimation, it could have been much more thoroughly reasoned.

In Alpenglow, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals was asked, among other less interesting questions, whether the IRS has authority to apply Section 280E if the taxpayer has not been convicted of drug trafficking. The court summarily concluded that the IRS’s authority was not limited to instances involving a conviction. The opinion’s main themes are as follows:

  • The IRS has authority to determine whether and when to deny deductions under Section 280E.
  • Section 280E has no requirement that there be a criminal investigation or conviction in order for it to apply, and if that was Congress’ intent, they could have easily placed that language in the statute.
  • Other courts have upheld tax deficiencies against state-sanctioned cannabis businesses based on application of Section 280E without questioning the IRS’s authority.

If you consider the legislative intent, this historical application, and what is currently taking place in the cannabis industry, it feels like this was … Keep reading

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the first of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the U.S.) to fully legalize the consumption and sale of recreational cannabis nationwide – and only the second country worldwide, following Uruguay in December 2013. While recreational marijuana consumption remains largely prohibited throughout the world, there seems to be no stopping the upward-trending legalization movement sweeping the globe. Case in point: 13 countries – Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sri Lanka, and the UK (effective November 1, 2018) – now permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes.

Over recent years, especially, marijuana has realized a monumental –and, perhaps, unprecedented – shift in public perception and, in turn, investment activity. Regarding the former, take, for example, the UK: its government is reversing policies on cannabis and is now set to legalize its medical use, with a current investigation into relaxing laws that govern when cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed by doctors. With respect to the latter, the industry is experiencing a flurry of global investment from pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, and food and beverage companies, which are partnering with or providing significant capital to cannabusinesses, to … Keep reading