Cannabis news briefs: North Dakota decriminalizes cannabis, California Tax revenues go higher, and more

May 28, 2019

Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act introduced to federally decriminalize cannabis

Two companion bills were introduced which aim to remove marijuana from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Controlled Substances list. The measures, collectively titled “Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act” were introduced by New Yorkers, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Four of the 2020 presidential candidates have already signed on as sponsors. If the bills pass, in addition to removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances, they would earmark some of the tax revenue from marijuana sales for grants to socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals who wish to be a part of the fast growing cannabis industry. The bills would also support efforts to expunge past marijuana convictions. The four Democratic candidates who have signed on as sponsors include Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Read more here.

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

A California bill to establish state-chartered cannabis banks has passed its first legislative hurdle and lives to see another committee hearing. Senate Bill 51 has passed through the State Senate and is headed to the second house, the State Assembly, for the second round of committee hearings, possible amendments, and then hopefully on to Gov. Gavin Newsome for a signature. SB 51 would allow private banks and credit unions to apply to the state for a limited-purpose charter which would enable them to provide banking services to state-licensed cannabis businesses, including growers and retailers. The bill was approved by a vote of 35 to 1. More on that story here.

Biden campaign expresses support for federal cannabis reform

Although presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s stance on marijuana stops short of legalization, he recently stated that no one should spend time in jail for smoking marijuana. In an attempt to clarify Biden’s position, Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, told CNN that Biden "would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana's positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug." Bates further clarified that Biden “supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, so those affected don't have to figure out how to petition for it or pay for a lawyer." Read all about it here.

North Dakota Gov. Burgum Signs Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

North Dakota has decriminalized marijuana and eliminated jail time for those caught holding small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed the decriminalization bill last week. Under House Bill 1050, a first-time offense of possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana is now a criminal infraction, punishable by a fine up to $1000. The bill also reduced penalties for possession of larger quantities. The bill will go into effect on August 1. Voters in the state rejected a recreational marijuana initiative in 2018. However, advocates are gearing up to present another public referendum in 2020.

[Medical marijuana expansion and expungement reforms moving forward in New Jersey]

California Tax Revenues Get Higher

Legal cannabis taxes have doubled in California to $116.6 million in the first quarter of 2019 driven by higher cultivation tax, and overall legal consumer sales climbing from the end of 2018. Compared with the first quarter of 2018, the state excise tax rose from $32 million in 2018 to $55.6 in 2019, cultivation tax rose from $1.6 million to $17.2 million, and statewide sales tax rose from $27.3 million to $38.4 million.    Taxes paid to local cities and counties are not included in the report from California's taxation division. The $60.9 million total reported for Q1 2018 shocked national observers for its shortfall-trashing budget hopes which would have given the state more than a quarter-billion dollars in quarterly revenues, a figure that has now been revised downward by Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget office. Estimates have projected the massive California market as selling through 70 to 80 percent gray/black market channels. Another positive growth potential for Calififornia legal retail MJ is expected to be delivered as statewide delivery services (able to deliver into cities that have banned local retail sales) kicks in later this year.

[California: High taxes and potconomics]

Canopy Growth acquires UK CBD pioneer

Living up to plans to expand into global CBD markets, Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth Corp. has paid $55 million to acquire a British pioneer in CBD beauty and sleep formulations.  London's "This Works" will continue to be run by founder Dr. Anna Persaud, who reports selling more than 4.2 million of its CBD-infused pillow-spray for inducing sleep in Europe, China, and the U.S. “Canopy Growth will provide the expertise, research, scientific rigor and quality assurance that will allow This Works to drive the agenda in wellness beauty’s ever-evolving market,” said a company press release. The company continues to develop advanced CBD skincare and beauty based products, including its "deep dry leg oil."    The deal will also expand the company’s presence in the UK, where it already has a joint venture called Spectrum Biomedical, which is focused on producing medicinal cannabis products for patients in the UK.

[Khiron and Dixie brands announce joint-venture to boost cosmeceutical sales in Latin America]

Five fallacies about hemp

Project CBD does an exceptional run-down on 5 fallacies that surround CBD—especially often repeated post-Farm Bill arguments on legality and regulation. Project CBD Founder Martin Lee and Project Director Zoe Sigman present an excellent analysis called "Five Fallacies about Hemp." On the issue of 0.3 percent THC barrier, they write, "the 0.3 percent THC legal limit for hemp is an arbitrary, impractical, irrational relic of reefer madness. Although it lacks scientific validity, it has become the cornerstone of cannabis prohibition, a discredited, anachronistic policy that impedes medical discovery and patient access to effective therapeutic options, including herbal formulations with various mixtures of CBD and THC, both of which have important remedial properties, especially when combined."  Read the article here.

Ean Seeb named new Colo. senior cannabis policy advisor

Colorado Governor Jared Polis' office has named cannabis pioneer and NCIA past chair, Ean Seeb, as the new state Senior Policy advisor for cannabis. Seeb was a co-founder of MMJ pioneer "Denver Relief" and helped hundreds of new national licensees with Denver Relief Consulting. Seeb was active in the successful Denver vote for social consumption and has served various leadership roles at the NCIA.

[How one online university helps entrepreneurs start their own cannabis business]

RIP: Dallas Tonsager

The head of the Farm Credit Administration has died after a bout with lymphoma. Dallas Tonsager, 64, previously an under-secretary of Agriculture, said in April he was planning to announce whether his USDA sub-agency would commit its 64 affiliates to enter financing help for the newly-legal hemp farming industry. No action from FCA has been forthcoming.

HEADSET issues THC pricing

Seattle-based HEADSET has issued an interesting analysis of THC and product pricing in 4 key western states. The analysis shows non-bud product prices, with Nevada being the highest priced state for all products, with California being cheaper than other states for most products. A per-milligram analysis shows the highest consumer pricing for topicals, and the lowest priced overall for edibles  Read the entire 16-page study here.

A chart showing comparisons of prices per milligram of THC in various products across four states is shown. The four states are California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington.

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