Legislation

The cannabis market in America has expanded and continues to grow with each election cycle. State lawmakers and their respective voters continue to propose and pursue the passage of ballot referendums, constitutional amendments, and new legislation that seek to legalize the recreational use of cannabis and establish a framework for the adult-use commercial market and the regulatory oversight thereof. The November 8th midterm elections are no exception, as five states seek to legalize recreational cannabis.

The following states seek to join the nineteen (19) states that have previously legalized recreational cannabis.

Arkansas

  • Action: Ballot Referendum. Lawmakers in Arkansas passed a constitutional amendment to permit the addition of this initiative to the ballot. The state Supreme Court upheld the constitutional amendment and ordered the initiative to legalize recreational cannabis to be added to the ballot for November 2022.
  • Opposition
    • Faces a legal challenge claiming the title of the ballot initiative is misleading. Many state officials are arguing that this legal challenge should be resolved before adding it to the ballot, which remove it from this year’s ballot.
    • The legal challenges have delayed the secretary of state’s ability to certify the signatures received supporting the ballot referendum. The initiative
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Massachusetts Cannabis Industry Reform

Over the past few years, August has become a popular month for cannabis industry reform in Massachusetts.

Most recently, the Massachusetts legislature approved a bill, S. 3096, earlier this week that significantly changed many of the challenges faced by operators in the Commonwealth’s cannabis market for years. At a high level, the reforms focused on two main aspects – social equity and host community agreements (HCAs). The bill has been sent to the desk of Charlie Baker for approval.

Here’s the top three things you need to know about the updates to social equity and HCA as proposed in the new bill.

Social Equity

  • Leveling the HCA Playing Field – The new bill establishes that the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) will now have the power to develop a model HCA with minimum standards and best practices to be implemented during the negotiation process between social equity licensees and their host communities that they intend to operate. These standards will be specific to social equity businesses (SEBs), which presumably could give SEBs a leg up in negotiating power with municipalities with respect to HCAs that may not necessarily be available to other licensees.
  • Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund
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Key Takeaways from Benzinga 2022

After a few days in the Miami sun — well, actually, in the air-conditioned exhibition spaces of the Fontainebleau hotel — the Burns & Levinson team is happy to report that the 2022 Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference was a great success.

Our Cannabis Business & Law Advisory Group was well represented by Frank A. Segall, Scott Moskol, Bryan Natale, and myself – Max Borg. We had the opportunity to connect with many of our fantastic clients throughout the industry and to meet many key industry participants we hope to work with soon.

Benzinga was a concentrated gathering of many – if not most – of the key players throughout the cannabis industry, from the largest investors in the space to founders and CEOs of the largest cannabis companies in the world, to activists, politicians, consultants, advisors, professionals and many others.

Before discussing my five biggest takeaways from the conference, I want to briefly reflect on the experience of the event itself. The passion and enthusiasm for this rapidly growing industry could be felt throughout the conference. It was a fantastic networking and educational experience, and people seemed to be having FUN! I wonder if it was a coincidence the … Keep reading

Coming Up: Cannabis Business & Law Events with Clear-Headed Guidance

Happy 4/20! Today, our team is celebrating by gearing up for two exciting events hosted by Burns & Levinson featuring experts and cannabis marketplace pros from across the industry.


CannaBusiness Advisory Webinar
Permissible Payments in Cannabis
Safer alternatives to cashless ATMs, blockchain, and more
Thursday, April 28 | 4:00 p.m. ET

Register to join us on Thursday, April 28 at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Join industry trailblazers for a virtual discussion and industry advisory on the current state of permissible payment platforms in the cannabis industry and legal, ethical alternatives to cashless ATMs and blockchain.

Cashless ATMs are a popular method of payment for consumer cannabis purchases. However, the legality is questionable, and as cashless ATMs may be violating the policies of major credit card companies, the method may soon be shut down.

Frank A. Segall and Scott Moskol of Burns & Levinson, and Terry Neeley of West Coast AML Services, a top compliance advisor to cannabis lenders, will address how cashless ATMs and blockchain payment options may violate credit card company policies and expose dispensary operators, customers, and their banks to potential claims.

Tina Sbrega of Lighthouse Biz Solutions, and Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli of KindTap Technologies, will discuss their … Keep reading

Spotlight Series: Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli, Co-Founder and President of KindTap

The CannaBusiness Advisory Spotlight Series features expert perspectives from Burns & Levinson clients and contacts who are blazing new trails in the cannabis market.

This week we spotlight Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli, Co-Founder, President and Chief Payments Officer of KindTap.

From your corner of the cannabis industry, what’s the single greatest challenge right now?

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge is the conflict in regulations at the state and federal levels. I think of it as “regulatory schizophrenia.” At the state level, cannabis businesses are legal, tax paying companies contributing to the economic and social needs of their communities. At the federal level, they are illegal businesses denied access to mainstream financial services, limited in the legitimate business expenses they can deduct and paying more for just about everything as suppliers increase prices to cover their own risks of serving the cannabis industry. It’s a real credit to the creativity and tenacity of the leaders of the industry – and the value of the product – that the U.S. cannabis market has grown to $30 billion in spite of these challenges.

How does your business solve issues related to this challenge?

KindTap provides compliant digital payment products to consumers … Keep reading

Life as a Cannabis Attorney

Earlier this week, Burns & Levinson’s attorneys Lauren Medeiros Forster and Gustav Stickley V (Gus) spoke on a panel hosted by the Law Firm Alliance about their experiences practicing law in the red-hot cannabis industry.  Today on the blog, they’re sharing their perspectives, experiences as cannabis attorneys, and industry predictions. For background: Lauren’s practice focuses on commercial contracts, mergers & acquisitions, finance, securities, lending, and private equity matters in a range of industries, including cannabis. Gus represents cannabis clients focusing particularly on general corporate matters and governance, mergers and acquisitions, finance, securities, and lending.

What is alluring about practicing business law in the cannabis space?

Gus: Working in the cannabis industry makes me feel like a pioneer. New markets are opening up every election cycle, new regulations are being crafted by state regulators, then amended and further amended to keep up with developments and trends in the market. Companies of all sorts pop up with different goals, and different products (some entirely new to the market!). There is always a new problem that arises that taxes the brain and helps us earn the trust of our clients.

Lauren: I like that I have the opportunity to work … Keep reading

Scott Moskol, Burns & Levinson Cannabis Advisory Group

Scott Moskol, Burns & Levinson Cannabis Advisory Group

Readers, welcome back to the CannaBusiness Advisory blog! It has been a busy last few months as we took a short hiatus from publishing weekly posts. We first launched CannaBusiness Advisory in July 2017, and late last year we hit pause to re-focus our content and manage some large initiatives in our firm’s cannabis business and law advisory practice. Burns & Levinson’s 2021 Annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference was our biggest and most successful event since we kicked off the conference series five years ago. This was our first in-person cannabis event in Boston since the beginning of the pandemic, and our team was proud to have nearly 200 in-person attendees (vaccinations were required), 60 virtual attendees, 23 expert speakers, and countless connections made. We are hard at work planning our 2022 conference, and in the meantime you can revisit last years’ panels on our YouTube channel.

The spring season is a time of renewal and revitalization. Just as NECANN held its first live Boston event this past weekend, reinvigorating the local cannabis community with the possibilities of the future, we are excited to see where future blog posts take us and our readers with respect to … Keep reading

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act: Too Much Too Soon? Too Little Too Late? Or Just the Right Time?

On July 14, 2021, Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker and Ron Wyden introduced a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis at the federal level, titled “The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.” This short, impactful bill is sure to stir up controversy and polarizing debate among legislators when, and if, it ever reaches the Senate floor.

The deadline for public comment recently passed – September 1, 2021 – and, unsurprisingly, the drafters of the bill were flooded with input from special interests groups, including the U.S. Cannabis Council, the Marijuana Policy Project, a number of prominent universities and legal scholars, and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

While not required, it is likely the drafters of the bill will revise based on some of the comments received, with the actual filing of the bill to follow. Once filed, it will be sent to committee for continued revision and debate.

Recent polls state that 60% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis, but, despite the ideological promises of a representative government, popular support does not necessarily convert into affirmative votes on the Senate floor. The bill requires the support of every Democratic Senator and at least 10 Republicans.

Many Washington insiders are … Keep reading

Cannabis Reform Hits the Senate: A Brief Overview of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

This past week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) unveiled the first draft of his long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level. Along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Schumer presented the proposal at a July 14 press conference. Titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, the legislation – which was partly modeled after the social equity-focused Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act – largely aligns with advocate and stakeholder expectations.

See “MORE Act: Federal Cannabis Legalization Reintroduced in House” for discussion of the House legislation and its social equity provisions.

“Communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace,” reads the findings section of the bill, further noting that a “legacy of racial and ethnic injustices, compounded by the disproportionate collateral consequences of 80 years of cannabis prohibition enforcement, now limits participation in the industry.” If enacted, the senators’ bill would decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, expunge prior convictions, and allow the states to create their own marijuana policies.

The proposal is multifaceted and comprehensively addresses several critical issues:

  • Federalism: States may decide whether or how
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MORE Act: Federal Cannabis Legalization Reintroduced in House

Just before the start of Memorial Day weekend, U.S. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler reintroduced the MORE Act – formally known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act – which would federally legalize cannabis by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act. This would allow people with cannabis convictions to have their records expunged and would create a federal tax on marijuana with the revenue allocated to community reinvestment programs. This is not the first time the MORE Act has made its way through Congress. During the previous Congress, the House passed a similar version of the bill by a vote of 228-164, but it failed to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

If approved by both chambers and signed by President Biden – which is possible, but by no means a certainty – the MORE Act would provide enormous economic opportunities for plant-touching and ancillary businesses across the country. Further, federal legalization would disrupt the current patchwork of state-legal marijuana markets. To date, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized adult-use cannabis, although states have yet to officially launch their programs. The opportunity for interstate trade and the formation of regional (and national) cannabis markets would spark … Keep reading