Legislation

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

Legislative Update: Where to Watch

Legalization efforts (and victories) have continued to spread across the country in 2021. Over the last few months, we have seen New Jersey and, subsequently, New York legalize adult-use cannabis – programs that are expected to produce more than $4 billion in annual revenue within five years. Both the Virginia and New Mexico legislatures also legalized adult-use cannabis earlier this year – programs expected to generate about $2 billion in annual revenue within five years.  Now, industry experts are watching other east coast states like Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island for the next wave of pro-cannabis legislation.

Legislators around the country are feeling the economic pressure of the market as well as pressure from their respective voters. More than two-thirds of Americans are in support of adult-use legalization, and 40% of Americans now live in states where marijuana is recreationally legal. Just this week, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved a bill to expand the state’s current medical marijuana program by allowing patients to purchase whole-flower cannabis. The legislature also advanced another proposal to establish licensing fees for adult-use cannabis if the state decides to legalize it under separate legislation.

Several other states could legalize medical or adult-use cannabis … Keep reading

Mexico Inches Closer to Legalization

Early this week, two special committees in the lower house of the Mexican Congress signed off on a draft bill to decriminalize cannabis nationally. Members of the chamber’s Health and Justice committees approved the cannabis bill in a combined vote of 34-11, with 12 abstentions.

The bill – which has been revised significantly since its passage in the Senate last November – will now be sent to the full chamber for a vote. After a 2018 Supreme Court ruling held that the prohibition on cultivation and personal possession of marijuana was unconstitutional, lawmakers were tasked with implementing a decriminalization policy, though Congress has repeatedly postponed its deadlines. If passed, the legislature will be close to establishing one of the world’s largest cannabis markets. The floor vote is expected to take place this week.

With support from the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the bill marks what many hope might be a watershed moment in the history of a country long plagued by violence among competing drug cartels. Until now, the failed war on drugs has continued to fuel a massive cannabis black market. This new legislation is considered by many to be a solution: legalize, tax and … Keep reading

New Jersey Adult-Use Legalization Puts Pressure on Neighboring States

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. This bill would decriminalize cannabis on the federal level and provide retroactive expungement for certain marijuana offenses. The proliferation of pro-cannabis legislation is also present in state legislatures.

Last week, New Jersey approved a historic bill that will establish rules and regulations for legal adult-use cannabis. The Garden State, which was one of five states that approved cannabis ballot measures this November, is now the first state in its region to legalize both medicinal and adult-use cannabis. Experts, including Marijuana Business Daily, project New Jersey’s adult-use market to become the largest on the east coast, generating $850-$950 million in annual retail sales by 2024.

The New Jersey Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 49-24, while the NJ Senate approved the legislation by a margin of 23-17. As is the case in other jurisdictions, much of the division among legislators concerned the perceived strength of the bill’s social equity provisions. However, the bill in its current form features provisions that would give licensing priority to microbusinesses owned by residents as well as applicants from economically disadvantaged communities and those impacted by the war … Keep reading

In Case You Missed It: Election Day’s Green Wave

If the 2020 elections taught us anything about the burgeoning cannabis industry, it is that more Americans believe cannabis should be legalized now than ever before. A recent Gallup poll, released on November 9th, found that 68% of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized, which is the highest percentage in more than 50 years of polling. This is extraordinary growth since the Gallup polls first began tracking the American consensus on marijuana legalization back in 1969. At the time, only 12% of respondents were in the legalization camp.

Instead of a Red wave or Blue wave, America experienced a Green wave this November, which transcended party lines. Six states passed varying degrees of cannabis legalization and many by a larger margin than the presidential election. Additionally, two other jurisdictions had psychedelics mushrooms on the ballot. So which states were the big winners this year?

  • Arizona – Approved adult-use legalization
  • Mississippi – Approved medical use
  • Montana – Approved adult-use legalization
  • New Jersey – Approved adult-use legalization
  • Oregon- Approved legalization of psilocybin for therapeutic uses and Approved decriminalization of non-commercial possession of controlled substances
  • South Dakota – Approved both medical use and adult-use legalization
  • Montana – Approved adult-use
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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

Blumenauer Introduces the "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act"

As described in last week’s post, 2018 proved to be an exceptionally exciting year for the cannabis industry: five states approved legalization initiatives, Canada ended its nearly century-long prohibition, and legalization was a key issue in a number of gubernatorial races. Moreover, Congress helped cap off a robust year by legalizing hemp, and therefore hemp-derived products, through the 2018 Farm Bill. And notwithstanding the current gridlock in Washington, it appears that last year’s pro-cannabis momentum has carried over into 2019.

On January 9, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 420, also called the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.” Many readers will remember Blumenauer from the eponymous Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment, the appropriations provision that prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws. (Last fall, he also circulated a legalization agenda for a 2019 Democratic House.) Blumenauer’s proposed legislation provides for a complete overhaul of the federal government’s treatment of marijuana. Among other things, the bill:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana by removing it from all schedules of the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Amends the Federal Alcohol Administration Act to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to issue permits to those wishing to manufacture,
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On December 23, 2018, the Department of Public Health will transfer oversight of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Program to the Cannabis Control Commission, the agencies recently announced, giving the CCC oversight of both recreational and medical marijuana programs. (The Adult-Use Act mandated that the transition occur by the end of the year.)

The DPH has run the Medical Use of Marijuana Program since its inception in 2014. To date, there are 47 registered marijuana dispensaries that have been approved for sales across Massachusetts; those RMDs serve more than 57,000 patients and over 7,000 personal caregivers. DPH and CCC officials have assured the public that patients in the medical program will not see any substantial changes as a result of the transfer.

In a statement issued last week, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel stated:

We want to assure medical marijuana patients in the Commonwealth that we have worked closely with the CCC and our constituents over the past several months to support a smooth transition of the program and to ensure that patient access is not impacted by this change.

Echoing Commissioner Bharel’s assurance, CCC Chairman Steven J. Hoffman publicly noted “the considerable collaboration between DPH and the CCC.” … Keep reading