Cannabis news briefs: H.R. 420 introduced in Congress, another presidential candidate goes pro-pot, and the shutdown stymies the farm bill
By Rick Schettino
Jan 15, 2019
In an attempt to remove marijuana from the DEA’s controlled substances list, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, House Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced the "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act." In an interview with Willamette Week, Blumenauer said, “While the bill number may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the issue is very serious. Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch, and have negatively impacted countless lives. Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support. It's time to end this senseless prohibition.”
The number 420 is a reference to a cannabis culture icon — the time 4:20, which is akin to tea time for pot smokers, and the date 4/20 which has, in recent years, become a celebration day for cannabis consumers.
Kamala Harris calls for legalizing marijuana
Former California state attorney general and potential 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris called for the federal legalization of marijuana in her new book, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey." She suggested that ending prohibition needs to be done "with eyes wide open, understanding that there is unfinished business when it comes to legalization."
Implying that the War on Drugs has failed, Harris goes on to state, "we also need to stop treating drug addiction like a public safety crisis instead of what it is: a public health crisis… When someone is suffering from addiction, their situation is made worse, not better, by involvement in the criminal justice system.”
Decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level isn’t just a smart thing to do —it’s the right thing to do. We can’t keep repeating the same mistakes of the past. Too many lives have been ruined by these regressive policies.
Only recently has Harris expressed support for the issue. Harris declined to support California’s Proposition 64 initiative which was passed by voters in 2016. Her evolution on the matter is thought to be at least in part the result of the popularity of the issue among Democratic voters. Other potential 2020 Democratic candidates who now support legalization, according to Forbes, include Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
Legal marijuana’s impact on alcohol sales in question
The Distilled Spirits Council which represents the majority of large American distillers has released a research report that suggests that the legalization of marijuana has not impacted alcohol purchases in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon — the three states that have allowed recreational pot smoking the longest. That is despite conflicting reports to the contrary. To come up with the figures, researchers compared tax and shipment data for the two years before legal recreational sales in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, with those of three to four years after.
To the contrary, just this week Investment banking firm Cowen and Company reported that between 60-70 percent of current and former users say they drink less when they get high, and around 20 percent say they substitute cannabis for alcohol.
Shutdown delays Dept. of Agriculture action on farm bill, hemp
The federal government shutdown, soon entering its fourth week, is likely to result in a delay in U.S. Department of Agriculture rule-making for the newly passed Farm Bill. It could include the development of provisions for new crop insurance and paths to hemp research grants, and delay responses to state plans for hemp growing regulations and oversight. State oversight of Farm Bill changes will be handled at USDA's "Agricultural Marketing Service.” The agency’s website currently states, "This website will not be updated during a lapse in federal funding,” and content, “will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved."
2017 hemp acreage data
A free report offered by Hemp Industry Daily estimates that more than 26,000 acres of hemp were planted in the U.S. in 2017, with 56 percent of the harvest completed by hand. Their report, entitled, "The 2018 Farm Bill: What's Next for Hemp," claims that little more than a third of all hemp farmers have seen any revenue from their initial hemp crop. The report lists the top states by acreage planted as follows:
Colorado (9890 acres)
North Dakota (3020)
North Carolina (2135)
New York and Minnesota (1,205 acres)
Lots of news out of the states this week:
In Minnesota, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2014, a new group called Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation is hoping to build a coalition to pass legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Sarah Walker, of the Second Chance Coalition, and Carin Mrotz, of Jewish Community Action, are among steering committee members for the newly formed group.
Gov. Tim Walz has also declared his support for legalization. A report on StarTribune.com points out that a list of ten priorities released last week by House Democrats did not include marijuana legalization. The group, founded by Leili Fatehi and Laura Monn Ginsburg, says it will host educational events around the state. Visit mnisready.org for more info.
— Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation (@mnisready) January 15, 2019
The Arizona Supreme court accepted the complex case of whether cannabis extracts and the edibles produced with them are legal products under the state’s medical marijuana rules. Back in 2013, Cardholder Rodney Jones was handed a 2-1/2 year prison term for possessing 0.05 ounces of resin. Jones' attorneys will argue that the Arizona state health department has allowed the sales of several cannabis delivery forms through dispensaries since the program was approved by voters in 2010. While Arizona's patient count is approaching 200,000 cardholders, the state still has not decriminalized cannabis for recreational use. A major fight for full legalization is expected during the spring legislative session in Phoenix, and a legalization initiative is expected to be pitched to voters for 2020. An initiative on the 2016 ballot was rejected.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture has published proposed rules for the state's Industrial Hemp Act which was signed into law in August. The department is accepting comments during a 45-day first notice public comment period. Written comments on the proposed rules may be mailed to the attention of Pamela Harmon at the Illinois Department of Agriculture, State Fairgrounds, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281. Learn more here.
Two Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have announced that they will be submitting medical marijuana legislation in the Volunteer State. The measure would create a regulated medical marijuana industry. State Sen. Janice Bowling and State Rep. Ron Travis have said they will introduce the bill in the coming weeks.
According to a report by Tennessean.com, the plan is already endorsed by the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association. The proposal is being described as “a carefully crafted mix of medical marijuana strategies that have worked in other states.”
A report out of the University of Michigan claims that more than half of medical marijuana users in the state have driven under the influence of the drug. The study surveyed 790 of the state's medical marijuana patients, 56 percent of whom reported driving within two hours of using marijuana. The findings were published Wednesday in the "Drug & Alcohol Dependence" journal. About 270,000 people in Michigan have medical marijuana cards, second only to California with roughly 916,000, MMJ cardholders.
Yesterday, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize and the Cannabis Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party sent the following letter to Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel regarding a public health, safety and welfare... https://t.co/tGUkXRQ2PF
Newly enacted legislation in Michigan removes CBD oil from falling under the state’s marijuana regulations. Sponsored by state Rep. Steve Johnson, the legislation was passed by late last year and signed into law on New Year's Eve. Although the measure comes on the heels of the recently signed farm bill, it was prompted by a decision from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs made some time last year.
RECALL: The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in Michigan have issued a recall notice for several medical marijuana products that they claim failed laboratory testing. The strains which include Citrix, Gelato, Green Crack and Oreoz were sold Dec. 27-30 at HG Lansing on East Oakland Avenue in the city of Lansing. Patients or caregivers who have purchased affected products should return them to HG Lansing for proper disposal. HG Lansing is required to notify patients or caregivers who bought the recalled products.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will present his plan to legalize recreational marijuana in New York on Tuesday as part of his state budget proposal. Last week, Cuomo suggested that the state’s tax rate be competitive with Massachusetts and New Jersey, should it pass legalization legislation as expected. Several Senate and Assembly leaders have also expressed support for legalization.
2018 cannabis M&A highlights
New Frontier Data put together a look t last year’s biggest deals in the cannabis industry, from Constellation Brands to Altria. Check it out in the chart below in this week’s Cannabit: