Cannabis news briefs: FDA meets today to hear testimony regarding CBD safety, SAFE Banking Act heads for a vote, Illinois Senate passes recreational bill, and much more

FDA hearing testimony on CBD safety

Friday, May 31 marked a historic day for CBD, the starting point for FDA rulemaking regarding the use of CBD in foods, pet supplements, and cosmetics. Kicking off the 8 am Eastern start was acting FDA commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless. Moderator Dayle Cristinzio is hosting nine hours of testimony, slide shows, data, and opinion coming from 140-plus speakers. Video and audio feeds can be accessed all day at https://collaboration.fda.gov/cannabispart15_2.

At the head table, various DC regulators listening live will be:

  • Dayle Cristinzio, Presiding Officer, Director, Stakeholder Engagement, Office of External Affairs, FDA

  • Amy Abernethy, MD, Ph.D., Principal Deputy Commissioner, FDA

  • Nick Alexander, JD, Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Policy, Legislation, and International Affairs, FDA

  • Jarilyn Dupont, JD, Director of Regulatory Policy, Office of Policy, FDA

  • Randall Gnatt, JD, Regulatory Counsel, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

  • Rebecca Goldberg, JD, Associate Chief Counsel, Office of the Chief Counsel, FDA

  • Sharon Mayl, JD, Senior Advisor for Policy, Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, FDA

  • Erik Mettler, MPA, MPH, Asst. Commissioner for Partnerships and Policy, Office of Regulatory Affairs, FDA

  • Timothy Schell, Ph.D., Director, Office of Surveillance and Compliance, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

  • Lowell Schiller, JD, Principal Associate Commissioner for Policy, Office of Policy, FDA

  • Sherene Sepehri, JD, Associate Chief Counsel, Office of the Chief Counsel,  FDA

  • Douglas Throckmorton, MD, Deputy Director of Regulatory Programs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

Key business and pharma witnesses will present from 1:45 to 3:00 Eastern, which will offer some significant insights during their 5-minute comments.

Witnesses include:

  • Bill Grubb - Noramco

  • Deb Kimless - Pure Green Canna

  • Douglas MacKay - CV Sciences

  • Ray Mannion - Zynerba Pharmaceuticals Inc.

  • Rosemary Mazanet - Columbia Care LLC

  • Alice Mead - Greenwich Biosciences Inc. (GW Pharma)

  • Stephen Mueller - Mile High Labs

  • James Sharkey - Therabis, LLC

  • Priyanka Sharma - Kazmira LLC

USDA speaks to the transporting of hemp

The USDA general counsel underscored the transportation portion last week, stating that even states with no hemp growing authorization are not allowed to confiscate legal hemp shipments moving through their state. And as with the transference of hemp oversight from the DEA to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, the general counsel held that no further enacting legislation is required. “In other words, hemp is no longer a controlled substance. Also, by amending Schedule I to exclude THC in hemp, Congress has likewise removed THC in hemp from the CSA,”  said USDA.

[Way More Pot is Coming Through LAX]

Federal Court directs DEA to consider marijuana rescheduling ASAP

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on Thursday that it would hold open a case challenging the scheduling status of marijuana under federal law and admonished federal government to “promptly” decide on marijuana rescheduling so that those who rely on its medical benefits don’t unduly suffer.

The case was dismissed by the court last year, arguing that the plaintiffs should have first pursued reform through an administrative process via federal agencies responsible for drug scheduling, prior to filing the case. However, that process could take years. The court agreed that the issue was put before the court prematurely but added that the federal law does, indeed, jeopardize the health of U.S. citizens who rely on medical marijuana in their treatment regimen.

[Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act introduced to federally decriminalize cannabis]

A statement from the court said that justices are “troubled by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s history of dilatory proceedings. Accordingly, while we concur with the District Court’s ruling, we do not dismiss the case, but rather hold it in abeyance and retain jurisdiction in this panel to take whatever action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch.”

The action implies that the appeals panel will keep the matter open in case the DEA fails to consider a change to marijuana’s legal status.

SAFE  Banking Act heading for a House vote

The SAFE Banking Act from lead sponsors Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Rep.  Denny Heck (D-WA) is heading toward a likely positive vote from the U.S. House, opening up a safe harbor for financial services to the cannabis sector. When it arrives in the U.S. Senate, it will be assigned to the Senate Banking Commission, chaired by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who, like lawmakers in his home state of Idaho, have been no friend of cannabis.  

[California cannabis charter banks bill moves forward while the nation calls for federal action]

This week, however, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (a strong advocate for MJ reforms) said he had asked the chairman to have an open mind about the safety and accountability solutions the bill may offer. Crapo, according to Paul, will keep an open mind, even as several Republican members of the Senate have expressed support for the SAFE Banking Act. To reach chairman Carpo with an informational (constructive) message, please email him at https://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/email-me.   

Illinois Senate passes recreational marijuana bill

The Illinois Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and over. The bill also creates a state-regulated market and promotes social equity, including expunging the records of individuals with convictions for marijuana possession. Under the bill, marijuana with less than 35 percent THC would be taxed at 10 percent, while marijuana products with more than 35 percent THC would be subject to a 25 percent tax. THC-infused products would be taxed at 20 percent. The state also has a 6.25 percent statewide sales tax, and local jurisdictions may impose an additional 3.5 percent tax. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute projects the bill could create 24,000 jobs, bring in over $500 million in tax revenue, and produce about $1 billion in economic activity by 2020.

Five-years running Arizona extracts case finally settled

Arizona, the biggest western state with no adult-use policy and one of the largest MMJ states, found two bright spots for MJ advocates this week. First, the state's Supreme Court ruled that use of MJ concentrates is, in fact, legal under the state's MMJ law, and felony charges against 100-plus patients are likely to be dismissed.  

Also, at the end of the legislative sessions (literally, the final bill voted in session), Arizona lawmakers installed a strict program for cannabis testing and inspection against a wide range of molds, toxins, and heavy metals. The bill also contained a repair to allow more rural MMJ dispensaries.

[VIDEO: Cannabis industry flocks to New York for the Cannabis World Congress and Expo]

Despite high hopes, no changes were made to the state's tough felony-level charges for simple possession. The group of pro-cannabis bills (including decriminalization) early in the session were largely torpedoed when the scandal-plagued legislator and sponsor eventually resigned.

Nonetheless, Arizona activists have reported strong support for next year's expected Nov. 2020 recreational voter initiative.

More on this story here.

Iowa governor vetoes medical marijuana expansion bill

Late last week, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed a bill that would have expanded the state’s medical marijuana program, arguing that caution is the better point of valor when dealing with the state’s pre-approved potency levels of marijuana products.

“The health and safety of Iowans is too important for us not to get this right,” Reynolds said in her veto message, which she released prior to the beginning of Memorial Day weekend.

Unfortunately, this veto marks a strike against the Hawkeye State’s current medical marijuana program. In accordance with current state laws, patients with specific medical conditions may take specific cannabis products to treat their condition.

Read more here.

Stanley Bros.

The Stanley Brothers handed over the reins of Charlotte's Web to corporate management with last month's appointment of Deanie Elsner, past senior marketing exec at Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, and Kelloggs. This week Elsner held her first Q1 2019 analyst call sharing CWEB's product growth to 6,000 retail "doors" in 18 states, and projecting $120-$170 million in gross sales for 2019. The first quarter brought in $21.7 million—up 66% from 2018.  Elsner said after a 2018 yield of 675,000 pounds of biomass, for 2019 CWEB will grow 700 acres of hemp (200 each in Colorado and Kentucky, 300 in Oregon) and will launch its pet CBD line, and commence planning for a new Boulder corporate center. CWEB is uplisting to the Toronto Stock Exchange at the end of May.

[These are the pot stocks to watch when it comes to the cannabis-infused beverage industry]

MJ Business Daily Projects up to $48 billion economic impact in 2019

The new annual compendium of in-depth cannabis activity from MJ Business is out, offering some key near term U.S. industry projections. Among the detailed review of state and federal actions, they project:

  • The marijuana industry will create a $39 - $48 billion economic impact for the U.S. in 2019 with potential to surpass $100 billion in economic benefits in 2023.

  • Sales of legal recreational and medical cannabis in 2018 came in at an estimated $11.2 to $13.7 billion, or over three times the amount spent on E-cigarettes last year.

  • Legal cannabis sales represent a fraction of the estimated total demand for legal and black market cannabis in the U.S., which is around $50 to $60 billion.

  • The number of full-time workers supporting the cannabis industry is expected to reach 175,000 to 215,000 in 2019, an increase of 34% over 2018’s estimated 130,000 to 160,000 workers.

An executive summary of the "7th MJ Business Factbook" is available here.

Colorado bills allow social consumption venues

In Colorado, several new measures were signed by MJ advocate Gov. Jared Polis.  "These bills help maintain our leadership potential in job creation," said Polis who signed bills creating a statewide delivery program (starting in 2020 for MMJ, then 2021 for recreational), social consumption licenses, and new allowances for expanded out-of-state investment into the state's nearly 10,000 cannabis licensees. The social use bill will allow cities to opt-out, but supports indoor smokables, stand-alone clubs, or single event licenses where adults will be allowed to consume.

Bluebird, Hoban, and Bish to launch hemp education website

Bluebird Botanicals, Hoban Law, and Bish Enterprises are pooling their collective resources to provide consumer and business-level messaging in an attempt to quell confusion over the country’s rising hemp sector. HempIsLegal.org will offer education on how the Farm Bill and associated state-based rules have taken hemp from the former Schedule I industrial hemp plant. The web site also calls strikes for several instances where social media giants (ie., Facebook) have deleted or altered access to their platforms for hemp companies. Addressing often confusing topics surrounding hemp, the group stated for clarity:

  • Hemp farmers are specifically authorized to access crop insurance, grants, and certifications

  • Tribal governments are specifically authorized to cultivate and produce hemp

  • Interference with interstate transport of hemp and hemp products is expressly prohibited

[Filling in the gaps: How these educators are training the modern cannabis market]

New CBD magazine available

“CBD Snapshot” is a new bimonthly print magazine that is aiming for high-quality reporting on CBD while cutting through a lot of the hype and misinformation that surrounds the cannabinoid. Editor-at-large Brooke Alpert told the Dallas News she wants the magazine to be "a go-to resource for customers and readers.” According to Alpert, it will feature research, personal stories, and articles that focus on what CBD really can and can’t do, sorting through the scientific claims and identifying proven high-quality products. More details can be found here.

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