Legislation

Earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum rescinding several Obama-era policies (notably outlined in the Cole Memo) regarding the possession, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana. Whereas the government has largely allowed states to decide how best to define and enforce their positions on cannabis, the Attorney General has now essentially green-lit prosecutors across the country to determine how to enforce federal drug laws regarding the substance, particularly alarming those in states that have moved to legalize.

We believe that further information is necessary to truly assess what impact, if any, this development may have on the industry. For now, our message is: Let’s not overreact.

Sessions saying that it is now up to individual AGs to determine how to handle cannabis, is not much different from the way things are being done now. The Cole Memo was simply a list of prosecutorial priorities. It never prevented the Justice Department from going after cannabis entities—it just stated that, unless certain things were happening (e.g., money laundering or sales to minors), the feds wouldn’t waste resources. Now that Justice is short-staffed and underfunded, it’s doubtful that there will be much movement on this front, except in, perhaps, … Keep reading

What to Watch For: The Near-Term Outlook on Cannabis

We anticipate 2018 as being a pivotal year for cannabis across the country. As momentum for the movement to legalize continues to build, here are some of the things we’re keeping an eye on.

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Extension
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment was extended until January 19, 2018, as part of the budget deal passed on December 21, 2017, that averted a federal shutdown. With the New Year, we are eager to see whether Congress will continue to extend the protection provided by the Amendment, which prevents the federal government from using federal funds to prosecute fully compliant and licensed medical marijuana operations. Should the Amendment not be extended, attention will turn to Attorney General Sessions, to see what measures he may take to shut down or otherwise impede the progress of the industry.

While there is certainly legitimate cause for concern, many industry advocates doubt that the Attorney General will do much in the way of going after licensed medical facilities, given that the Amendment does not bar the use of federal funds for crackdowns on the recreational cannabis industry, coupled with the fact that the government has, at least to date, not begun any such crackdowns.

Tax Code
For 2018, … Keep reading

The Shifting Landscape of Local Communities

When Massachusetts initially approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in November 2016, some communities exhibited a strong resistance to the end of prohibition by implementing local bans or limitations on future cannabis retail. The way the law is currently structured, if a town’s population voted against legalization in 2016, its officials may impose bans or moratoriums on local retail shops. On the other hand, if a town’s population voted for legalization in 2016, it may still impose bans or moratorium on retail shops, but must first hold a local referendum to decide on the matter. Massachusetts towns have since gone on to impose more than 120 bans or moratoriums on marijuana-related businesses. Although this will not prohibit adults from legally possessing or using cannabis in these communities, it may create a lack of retail supply in certain areas when recreational cannabis shops begin opening next summer, beginning in July 2018.

This pattern of local push-back is not unique to Massachusetts – it’s estimated that in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, more than 60% of local communities have implemented bans against cannabis shops. In Washington, approximately 35% of local communities have implemented bans or moratoriums. Many of … Keep reading

Breaking Down California's Proposition 64 Rules

Last year, Californians passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use across the state. On Thursday, November 16th, state regulators released their 276-page set of cannabis rules to go along with the legalization that is set to be effective January 1, 2018. In general, California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce and grow six marijuana plants at home.

Scaled fees are spelled out, with costs for annual licenses ranging from $800 for businesses transporting cannabis, up to $120 thousand for businesses doing multiple activities and making more than $4.5 million annually.

Even though the state seems ready for the January 1st roll-out, some cities – including two of California’s largest, Los Angeles and San Francisco – will not be ready. The reason that matters is that, to apply for a state license, a grower or seller first needs a local permit; therefore, residents in those areas will have to wait until their city finalizes the local cannabis rules.

For people in cities that are prepared for the January 1st date, starting in December, they will be allowed to apply for licenses through an … Keep reading

Throughout history, marijuana has brought many benefits to vastly different populations. Realizing that those benefits outweigh any potential risks, Massachusetts, as a forward-thinking state, has allowed this product (and it is a “product”) to enter the marketplace on a legal basis, though regulatory details continue to be worked out. Below are some salient facts and dates to remember as cannabis comes fully online in the Commonwealth.

When did the law take effect?
The law took effect on December 15, 2016.

What aspects of the law took effect on December 15th?
Although licenses for cultivation, manufacture, testing, and retail sales will not be issued until July 2018, certain personal use provisions allowed for persons 21 years or older went into effect on December 15, 2016. Those include the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, of which five grams may be marijuana concentrate, as well as the home-growth provisions that allow for the possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana in one’s primary residence and six plants per resident, but no more than 12 plants per household. For more specific information, please refer to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 94G.

Where can I grow my plants?
Plants can … Keep reading

On July 28, 2017, Governor Baker signed into law H. 3818, “An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana,” which was passed by state legislators to update state laws governing the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana, following voter approval in 2016. The Act was characterized as an emergency law and declared “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience,” and the majority of its provisions pertain to the establishment of a five-member Cannabis Control Commission, the purpose and duties of which are relative to the regulation of the recreational and medical marijuana industries in the Commonwealth. The law additionally calls for the creation of a 25-member Cannabis Advisory Board, consisting of members chosen for their expertise and knowledge relative to the Board’s mission.

In addition to the establishment of the Commission and the Board, the Act:

– Permits a municipality to establish zoning by-laws or ordinances, which allow commercial marijuana growing and cultivation on land used for commercial agriculture, aquaculture, floriculture, or horticulture;

– Permits a city or town to impose a local sales tax upon the sale or transfer of marijuana or marijuana products by a retailer operating within the city or town to anyone other … 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

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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