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Marijuana weekly review: Support grows for Farm Bill passage; more companies looking to invest in pot

Congress' support for the 2019 Farm Bill was strong in the first joint conference committee meeting held on September 6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appeared personally to urge passage of the overall bill, and in particular, the industrial hemp legalization section that he sponsored.

The measure takes hemp off the Controlled Substances Act and facilitates crop insurance and USDA research. Another provision forbids former marijuana drug offenders (growers, dealers, delivery) from obtaining a hemp grow permit.  

Also speaking in favor of the farmer-supported hemp fix was the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Of the nine Senators and forty-nine House members on the conference, Kentucky freshman Congressman James Comer also spoke in favor of the bill.

[Read More: Michigan's recreational marijuana initiative to appear on ballot this November]

With zero opposition to the hemp-fix provisions, the remaining barrier to a September 30 deadline for passage of the new four-year Farm Bill could still be conference fights over how far to increase work requirements for consumer food stamp eligibility.

Anheuser Busch and Philip Morris posturing on pot

Anheuser Busch signaled their possible interest in the Canadian cannabis market, naming a new chief officer to handle the giant liquor company's "non-alcoholic beverage" division. And a senior executive at tobacco giant Altria (Philip Morris, Marlboro) told the Barclays 2018 Consumer Staples conference that his firm is aware cannabis may someday be legal, and it will continue to "study and evaluate opportunities."  

Earlier this year, liquor giants Molson-Coors (with Quebec's HEXO) and Constellation Brands (with Ontario's Canopy Growth) confirmed their plans to increase their cannabis position with new investments for cannabis beverages and other innovative products. Also, several British tobacco makers have taken minority positions in medical marijuana operators in Europe.

Federal Drug Czar pushes propaganda agenda

Last week, BuzzFeed broke a story on the White House Drug Czar organizing a federal panel to push negative marijuana data to the public. At week's end, no denials of the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee’s existence were made, and no comments on the group's future activity were available.

Some industry pundits concluded that President Trump (favoring a purported pro-state, hands-off cannabis policy) did not know the group's formation.

[Read More: Lawmakers introduce bill renewing push to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans]

Since the new drug czar, James Carroll, came to the White House Office of National Drug Control after working directly under Chief of Staff General John Kelley, another theory group thinks the anti-pot group might have been ordered by Kelly, a conservative four-star general with little patience for national expansion of cannabis access.

Marijuana ETF passes CAD$1 billion in funds

The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (HMMJ.TO) broke the billion-dollar mark ($760 million U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate), according to a statement. The fund invests in North American-listed marijuana companies. The ETF’s shares have surged 43 percent in the past month and 124 percent since it debuted on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April 2017.

Marijuana weekly review, state-by-state

In Texas, North Dallas Congressional representative Pete Sessions is facing a coordinated effort against his re-election from pro-cannabis forces. Opponents have raised thousands and are organizing voter contact with the goal to oust Sessions. As chair of the House Rules Committee, Sessions killed a myriad of cannabis reform bills (such as giving veterans access to doctor-approved medical marijuana).

The effort is also gaining traction as the statewide enthusiasm for challenger and marijuana-decriminalization backer Beto O'Rourke continues to make headway against anti-marijuana conservative incumbent Senator Ted Cruz.

[Read More: Why marijuana stock investors should ditch Aphria for Village Farms]

Representative Sessions serves the north Dallas suburbs, which voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but the seven-term Republican who calls cannabis a gateway drug has seen little opposition. Last week Sessions hosted a sympathetic meeting with Texas mothers wanting improvements to medical marijuana access for their sick children.

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As the second half-year of cannabis legalization in California kicks in, opponents of a Bureau of Cannabis Control plan to allow statewide licensing for cannabis delivery services are preparing themselves for a public relations push against the policy.  

Last week, union members of the United Food and Commercial Workers unexpectedly joined forces with the California Police Chiefs Association and the California League of Cities to start a new anti-delivery website, www.StopWanderingWeed.com.

Proponents of the state delivery plan say they want the freedom to bring cannabis to consumers in many of the 482 California cities and 58 counties, nearly 80 percent of which have banned local retail marijuana sales.   

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Cannabis reform advocates in Michigan are optimistic. It’s widely believed that the state’s voters will approve a measure to legalize and regulate both recreational marijuana and hemp in the state. The initiative, now officially titled, “Proposal 1,” will appear on ballots November 6. The final language was approved by Michigan's Board of State Canvassers in discussions on Thursday. The CRMLA initiative borrows from the best practices used by other states as well as Michigan’s existing Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act which was passed with bipartisan support in 2016. More on that story here.

DEA eradicating fewer plants, even as seizures go up

According to information from New Frontier Data, the number of cannabis plants eradicated over the past decade has fallen, even as DEA seizures have hit an all-time high. The details are in this week’s Cannabit:

Source: New Frontier Data
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