U.S. House Plans December Vote on the MORE Act, New Jersey Lawmakers Consider Bill to Implement Adult-Use Cannabis Program: Week in Review

This week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced plans for a December vote on the MORE Act, which would federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. Elsewhere, in New Jersey, Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced legislation to implement the state’s adult-use cannabis program, just days after voters passed a legalization initiative on Election Day.

Here, we’ve rounded up the 10 headlines you need to know before this week is over.

  • Federal: The U.S. House is planning a December floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation that would federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. In a Nov. 9 letter to colleagues, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer outlined the legislative schedule for the lame-duck session in November and December, and said lawmakers will take up the bill next month after postponing a September vote on the legislation. Read more
  • Nearly seven in 10 Americans support legalizing the possession and use of cannabis by adults, according to nationwide polling data compiled and reported by Gallup. Sixty-eight percent of respondents endorse legalization—the highest percentage of support ever reported in a national Gallup poll. Read more
  • New Jersey: New Jersey Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has introduced legislation to implement the state’s adult-use cannabis program, just days after voters passed a legalization initiative on Election Day. The bill, S.21/A.21, outlines how the state’s newly legal cannabis industry will operate, and largely mirrors an unsuccessful legalization bill Scutari sponsored last year. Read more
  • In another effort to roll out the state’s adult-use cannabis market, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has named two members to the state’s five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will oversee the state’s medical and newly legal adult-use cannabis industries. Murphy has named Dianna Houenou, associate counsel and senior policy adviser to the governor and former policy counsel for the ACLU-NJ, as the chair of the commission, and Jeff Brown, the current assistant commissioner of the Department of Health who oversees the state’s medical cannabis program, as the executive director of the commission. Read more
  • Tennessee: Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) has announced plans for a new medical cannabis legalization bill. Bowling, who has backed legislation to legalize medical cannabis in the state for years, plans to introduce the new bill when the state legislature re-convenes in January. Read more
  • Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker has issued an executive order to implement a coronavirus-related business curfew that requires all adult-use cannabis sales to end at 9:30 p.m., although medical cannabis sales can continue past the curfew under the order, which went into effect Nov. 6. The rules are part of a new stay-at-home advisory, which aims to address a second wave of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. Read more
  • Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board held a quarterly meeting this week, where it rejected adding insomnia to the state’s list of qualifying conditions. The board voted 7-4 to reject insomnia as a new qualifying condition, and tabled a discussion on whether to add traumatic brain injuries to the list. Read more
  • Texas: State lawmakers have pre-filed several bills that would expand Texas’ medical cannabis program and legalize adult-use ahead of the 2021 legislative session. New legislation introduced by Sen. Jose Mendez, S.B. 90, would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients with any condition they deem necessary, while Rep. Roland Gutierrez has pre-filed S.B. 140 to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. Read more
  • Illinois: Sangamon County Judge Adam Giganti has allowed Illinois regulators to rescore cannabis applications as part of the state’s controversial licensing process to issue 75 new dispensary licenses. On Nov. 12, Giganti denied a request to bar officials from rescoring the applications, ruling that the plaintiffs have not shown that they will be irreparably harmed by allowing the licensing do-over to continue. Read more
  • Montana: The Montana Department of Revenue has announced preparations for licensing adult-use cannabis businesses. The department will make cultivation and retail licenses available by Oct. 1, 2021, and under Montana’s recently approved adult-use cannabis law, only licensed medical cannabis businesses can apply for adult-use licenses for the first 12 months after they become available. Read more

Read the full article here.


Congress Planning Vote On Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill In September, Sources Say

Leadership of the House of Representatives is moving toward holding a floor vote on a comprehensive federal cannabis legalization bill in September, multiple sources familiar with the developing plan tell Marijuana Moment.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act—introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) last year—has already cleared his panel and was referred to several other committees. In the months since, advocates have been eagerly awaiting further action to advance the legislation to the floor.

While the coronavirus pandemic has stalled legislative efforts on a wide range of issues, sources in the advocacy world and an aide to a key House committee chair say that a floor vote of the MORE Act is now being planned for September.

The mechanics of that plan are tricky, as several additional committees would have to either hold their own markups on the bill in the coming weeks amid the pandemic and a planned August recess, or the chairs would have to waive jurisdiction outright, as the Small Business Committee has already indicated it will. The aide to a committee chair who spoke to Marijuana Moment did so on background only in order to be able to candidly discuss plans that haven’t yet been publicly announced by House leaders.

“Looking at the legislative calendar, realistically we have limited time to get this on the House floor for a vote before time runs out and Congress has to turn their attention elsewhere,” Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), told Marijuana Moment.

DPA is also part of a coalition, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and NORML, that circulated a letter on Wednesday urging Congress to move on the bill, arguing that the COVID-19 outbreak has underscored the need for reform. The legislation currently has 78 cosponsors.

“This Congress, the House made history when it passed an industry-led marijuana bill,” Adesuyi said, referring to the passage of cannabis banking legislation. “It would be shameful for them, as one of the most progressive group of electeds in recent memory, to end the year without addressing victims of the war on drugs or centering those most adversely impacted by marijuana’s criminalization. We need the MORE Act now.”

In addition to that floor vote on the standalone banking bill last year, the House approved its provisions again as part of a coronavirus relief package in May.

The MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a federal five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to its use.

Read the entire article here.


Marijuana Legalization May Not Be A Blue State Issue

In November of 2019, a Pew Research study revealed that 9 out of 10 Americans favor legalization of either medical or recreational/adult-use marijuana. As a political issue, the study found that a majority of Republicans—55%—and a majority of Democrats—78%—were in favor of legalization. American voters no longer believe marijuana should remain a criminalized, Schedule I substance. This is not shocking. The people have spoken, the money is flowing, and the globe keeps on spinning.

As his 2020 presidential campaign rolled out, former Vice President Joe Biden took the position that marijuana should be decriminalized, but not legalized. He justified his position by citing the debunked “gateway drug theory,” which even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has acknowledged lacks scientific merit.

Recently, a task force formed between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders issued a number of criminal justice reform measures. This is not yet Biden’s or the Democratic Party’s official platform stance, but it is instructive.

The joint task force findings do not recommend the federal legalization of marijuana, but rather look toward decriminalization and deferring to the states for their judgment(s) on medical or adult use marijuana legalization. As I’ve touched on before, this follows the philosophy of the Republican-supported States Act.

The task force further indicates that the federal government will not prosecute state-related marijuana crimes, and would view marijuana violations as something to be addressed with drug treatment rather than incarceration.

The task force also recommended not launching federal prosecution for legal matters at the state level – an obvious reference to Attorney General William Barr, accused of inappropriately using Justice Department funds to target the legal cannabis industry. Whether or not Barr abused his power remains to be seen.

Despite the overwhelming support of voters, the Biden-Sanders task force recommendations stop short of marijuana legalization. Why? Isn’t this a blue issue? Not so fast.

It’s been said that marijuana legalization is the “superweapon” that Biden refuses to use. The mere fact that Biden refuses to use this superweapon is indicative of Democratic policy, which has consistently favored the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory policy lane. This was Hillary Clinton’s position, equal to the rescheduling of cannabis to a Schedule II substance. This overall conservative approach to marijuana by the Democrats in the upcoming election is strategic – lay low and don’t say anything controversial.

Can the Democrats win an election based simply on the perceived disdain toward Trump, rather than having excitement and support for their own candidate? Are the Dems trying not to lose, rather than trying to win, playing it safe rather than setting forth an agenda – a hollow jack and the winner take the hand. The task force’s position on marijuana indicates that they see the issue as a distraction, one that could cause voters to abstain or switch party lines.

It’s unfortunate to watch the Democrats not see the opportunity for social progress by using cannabis as a vehicle for change. Legalizing marijuana is about undoing a century of racist drug policy that disproportionately targets Black and Latino communities — an issue ripe for the Democrats to own. Not to mention job creation. What does the country need right now in the face of a COVID-induced economic crisis? Jobs.

Perhaps Biden doesn’t want to be called a hypocrite. He did advance policy which included strict enforcement for drug crimes and mandatory minimum sentences, all of which disproportionately affected minorities. Again, 55% of Republicans support legalization. The days of Jeff Sessions’s prohibitionist policy are over. The native son just lost the Alabama primary.

A new breed of young Republicans have supported this issue. Whether that’s Cory Gardner in Colorado and his support of the States Act, or former California representative, Dana Rohrabacher, an Orange County Republican so in favor that he enacted the spending legislation with Democrat Sam Farr – the Rohrabacher Farr Amendment – to prohibit federal interference to state marijuana programs.

For Republicans, marijuana legalization is big business. At the end of the day, this is now an essentially designated business responsible for creating at least 250,000 new jobs across the country. All the core conservative platform issues are present: personal freedoms, liberty, and states’ rights. While our current President is a wildcard on this issue, and most others, these principals align with the GOP.

The legalization and commercialization of marijuana has taken the world by storm. Dozens upon dozens of countries are enacting marijuana legalization and commercialization reforms – some specifically because of the economic potential of the cannabis industry to combat a COVID-exacerbated recession.

A proactive candidate would recognize these issues. But here we are in America – skyrocketing cases of the virus, a mobilizing social movement for racial equality, and facing one of the deepest political divides in our nation’s history.

All the while, the marijuana issue just sits there, waiting to be seized. Since Joe looks to let it lie, perhaps the opportunity rests with the Republicans.

Read the full article here.


Congress Will Legalize Marijuana In 2021 Despite Biden Opposition, Democratic Senator Says

A Democratic U.S. senator says that if his party reclaims the Senate and White House in November, lawmakers will “move very quickly” to legalize marijuana regardless of where presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden stands on the issue.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was asked about a variety of cannabis-related issues during an interview on Saturday, and he said Democrats are positioned to advance marijuana reform as soon as they have a majority in both chambers of Congress. While Biden remains opposed to adult-use legalization, the senator said supporters will have the votes to pass it in any case.

“From my perspective, this is another issue that’s just right there on the ballot in November,” he told The Young Jurks podcast. “We’ll move very quickly in January to change these laws to make sure that there are national protections which are put in place. But unfortunately, Trump controls the discretionary use of these personnel, and they’re kind of committed to keeping this crazy non scientifically based analysis of marijuana front-and-center.”

Markey said he and home state colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are “confronted with this obstinate, obdurate opposition from the Trump administration.”

Read the full article here.


Louisiana veteran serving life for $30 marijuana sale will get a new hearing

Louisiana courts have held for decades that state convicts can’t challenge their sentences as excessive once they’ve appealed a conviction and lost.

The Legislature in 1980 laid out specific grounds to file such “post-conviction” claims — new DNA evidence is now a common one — and didn’t include a review of sentencing errors, the state’s highest court would reason 16 years later.

But last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court dealt that stance a constitutional blow, as it granted a new hearing to an Abbeville man now serving life in prison as a habitual offender over a $30 marijuana sale.

In the case of Derek Harris, a Desert Storm veteran who got addicted to drugs after returning home from the war, the issue was whether his attorney failed him by not stopping the judge who said his hands were tied as he handed Harris his terminal sentence.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has found that judges can and must deviate below a mandatory minimum sentence in a case if they determine it “shocks the conscience.”

Harris had offered up .69 grams of the drug to an undercover agent who knocked on his door in 2008.

Four years later, 15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque found him guilty of marijuana distribution and said at Harris’ initial sentencing that he didn’t think a 30-year maximum sentence was warranted; he opted for 15 years instead.

But after Vermilion Parish prosecutors invoked the state’s habitual-offender law, Conque sentenced Harris to life, saying he had no choice under the law.

It was then that his lawyer should have told the judge otherwise, argued Cormac Boyle, Harris’ attorney with the Promise of Justice Initiative, at a hearing before the high court at Tulane University in January.

Harris’ prior convictions dated back to a 1991 conviction for dealing cocaine, according to court filings. He was later convicted of simple robbery in 1992 and 1993, simple burglary in 1997, theft under $500 in 2005 and distribution of marijuana.

Retired Judge James Boddie, sitting ad hoc as a justice, wrote that Harris’ sentencing warranted an exception to a rule laid out by the court in 1996, and repeatedly cited since, that found state law provided no basis for “review of claims of excessiveness or other sentencing error post-conviction.”

His lawyer’s “failure to object to the sentence or file a motion to reconsider at the habitual offender proceedings deprived (Harris) of an important judicial determination by the trial court,” Boddie wrote, “and also failed to correct any inaccurate assumptions concerning the law and the court’s capacity to deviate downward if warranted.”

All but one justice – Will Crain – agreed last week that it would violate Harris’ right to due process not to grant him a proper hearing before a district court judge on his claim. But three justices said labeling Harris an “exception” undersold the court’s decision.

Justice Scott Crichton, in a concurring opinion joined by Chief Justice Bernette Johnson and Justice James Genovese, wrote that the court was rightly overturning its 1996 ruling, which he called “egregiously wrong when it was decided.

“The consequences of it have been significant and negative,” Crichton added, “leaving defendants like this one with no real remedy for the denial of the Sixth Amendment right to effective representation during sentencing, a critical stage of the proceedings.”

Crichton also panned an argument raised by the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, that granting Harris a new hearing would open the floodgates to thousands of new challenges to sentences handed down long ago.

“The State has been unable to explain why the legislature would have decided that the Sixth Amendment somehow matters less during sentencing than it does during trial,” Crichton wrote.

He downplayed the potential impact of a change, citing the views of a few conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court recently in a different Louisiana case, when they outlawed non-unanimous jury verdicts.

Crain, the lone dissenter, objected to what he described as the court “creating an additional basis for post-conviction relief” under the state law. The court could review the constitutionality of Harris’ sentence without touching the state law, “and leave any needed amendments … to the legislature,” Crain wrote.

Harris’ attorneys described it as a “landmark” decision.

“The opinion rightly recognizes that the Louisiana courts made a mistake in foreclosing from review an entire class of important constitutional claims, and that there must be an opportunity for a person to challenge their unconstitutional sentence in state post-conviction,” Boyle said.

Kristin Wenstrom, an attorney who argued for Harris on behalf of the state public defender board, said the message to the Legislature was clear.

“The Louisiana Supreme Court did the right thing for Mr. Harris and others like him who are serving unconstitutional sentences,” she said.

“What’s left now is for the Legislature to bring the relevant statute in line with the court’s ruling; we hope they will do that in the next session.”

Read the full article here.


Colorado Governor Could Mass-Pardon Marijuana Possession Convictions

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is one pen stroke away from having expanded powers to pardon persons in the state with low-level marijuana possession convictions.

The proposed measure is the result of an amendment to a bill approved by Colorado’s General Assembly at the end of this legislative session. The bill, HB 1424, would expand access to the state’s cannabis industry for people of color. The amendment, put forward by Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), would allow the governor to mass-pardon possession convictions of 2 ounces or less of cannabis, without the input of the District Attorney or the judge concerned with the particular case.

The main provisions in the bill would remove restrictions on individuals with past cannabis convictions from applying for a marijuana industry license. Another would give higher priority for marijuana industry licenses to individuals from socially-deprived areas.

Rep. Singer had previously sponsored a standalone bill that would automatically expunge past cannabis convictions, but his plans were scuppered due to the coronavirus outbreak. With Colorado lawmakers largely consumed by the state’s response to COVID-19 – as is the case across the country – and with the 2020 legislative session coming to a close, Singer decided to try and insert an expungement amendment onto the bill concerning social equity in the marijuana industry.

“When we talk about a business licensing and equity model, we need to be thinking about people left behind in the War on Drugs,” Singer said. “There are people who are still paying for their crimes that are now legal and constitutional.”

“As someone that ended up making a lot of their career in the legislature on everything from helping people struggling with substance abuse to creating the legal marijuana industry as we know it now, this is the biggest blind spot,” he said.

The amendment was approved by the conference committee with one addition: that the governor can consult with others about pardons if he or she wishes to.

The inclusion of an expungement amendment to a bill concerned with social equity in Colorado’s marijuana industry was not universally welcomed. Rep. Matt Soper, (R-Delta), withdrew as a sponsor of the bill citing his disapproval with the process under which the amendment was added, rather than the content of the proposal itself.

“It shifted from a marijuana business licensing bill to becoming a criminal justice bill concerning mass expungement and record sealing for an entire class of offenders,” Soper said.

Under legislation passed in 2017, individuals with misdemeanor marijuana convictions can petition the courts to seal their records. The new proposal would allow the governor to do this unilaterally. Gov. Jared Polis is thought to be supportive of the initiative but his spokesperson, Conor Cahill, declined to confirm whether or not the governor would sign the bill into law.

“The Governor is happy that a meaningful, bipartisan bill addressing marijuana equity passed the legislature and thanks lawmakers for their efforts to get this bill to his desk,” Cahill said.

Read the entire article here.


Louisiana medical marijuana market expected to grow after program changes, but headwinds remain

Louisiana’s medical marijuana market is poised to grow in the wake of new legislation that allows more physicians to authorize the drug for added medical conditions.

But the state’s nascent regulated cannabis sector still faces significant challenges to its business outlook, including:

  • Low patient numbers to date.
  • A limited number of retail outlets, limiting access by geography.
  • Comparatively high prices for available product forms.
  • Constraints on allowable forms of MMJ that prevent the sale of cannabis flower in plant form.

Still, Louisiana medical cannabis retailers and licensed growers told Marijuana Business Daily they’re optimistic the program will improve as it matures, attracting more patients by lowering prices, increasing access and eventually permitting cannabis flower.

Increase in patient numbers expected

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program launched in August 2019, and the Marijuana Business Factbook estimated MMJ sales in the market last year totaled only $1 million-$1.5 million.

For 2020, the Factbook estimates sales between $15 million and $20 million.

Louisiana patients currently need a doctor’s recommendation to buy MMJ products from dispensaries called medical marijuana pharmacies.

But MMJ can be used only for specific medical conditions – and it can be recommended only by physicians explicitly authorized to do so by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

That will change when Louisiana House Bill 819, signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards on June 15, takes effect in August.

The bill permits any physician in good standing with the board of medical examiners to recommend MMJ for any condition that a doctor considers debilitating to the specific patient.

“This essentially allows every doctor to practice medicine and participate in the program, and it allows every patient to have access to talking with their doctor about whether (medical marijuana) is appropriate for them,” said John Davis, CEO of Louisiana cannabis producer Wellcana.

For now, patient numbers remain low.

Only nine medical marijuana pharmacies are licensed to serve Louisiana’s population of around 4.7 million that’s scattered across nine large regions.

The most recent available figures from the state show those pharmacies served relatively few customers at the outset: Just 4,350 total patients accessed medical marijuana between the program’s launch in August 2019 and the end of that year.

Retailers constrained by regional demographics, high prices

Louisiana’s low patient count suggests “the lion’s share of cannabis medicine in Louisiana is being supplied by the black market,” said David Brown, owner of Willow Pharmacy in Madisonville and former president of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana.

Brown said his pharmacy serves the highest number of patients in Louisiana, which he attributes in part to the relative affluence of his region in the southeastern sector of the state, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

In other regions with less wealth and fewer physicians recommending medical cannabis, he added, a pharmacy’s business outlook might be less rosy – in the state’s northeast region, he pointed out, the licensed medical marijuana pharmacy is open ony two days a week.

The sheer size of the regions served by each pharmacy also creates a barrier to success, said Kevin Caldwell, co-president of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana.

“There are many cases, specifically up in northern Louisiana, where a patient would have to take on the undue burden of really traveling a long distance to get to the dispensary,” he said.

Joe Williams, CEO of The Medicine Cabinet Pharmacy in the central Louisiana city of Alexandria, hopes the anticipated increase in doctor recommendations “opens up a whole new market for us, with access – but we also know, obviously, that prices are too high.”

Williams’ pharmacy averages about 12 transactions per day for regulated products containing THC.

He said the business is currently breaking even.

“It’s still very disappointing, don’t get me wrong, but I do feel some momentum, and I’ll tell you what’s really been good is (over-the-counter) CBD sales,” Williams said.

“Why? It’s about a third of the price, but more importantly, you don’t have to go through the hassle of going to a doctor … We can’t keep it (in stock) – we’re making $12,000 to $15,000 in profit every month on CBD.”

Limited number of producers

Two state universities hold licenses to produce medical marijuana in Louisiana. Both have contracted operations to private companies.

Wellcana, partnered with Louisiana State University, is the only producer currently selling THC-containing products to medical marijuana pharmacies.

CEO John Davis acknowledged wholesale prices for Wellcana’s tinctures have been high but said his company’s ability to lower prices is constrained by its contract with the university.

Under that agreement, Wellcana’s wholesale prices are based on the company’s cost of goods sold, Davis said.

With low patient numbers limiting the number of completed sales in that equation, he explained, Wellcana’s cost of goods sold is higher than it would be in a mature market.

“We have not sold enough products to remotely get into the black,” Davis added.

“We’re working in the red, and this change in the law that would allow for greater patient access and greater physician participation, we’re anticipating that that is going to allow us to provide an even more affordable product, and array of products, and allow us and (LSU) to hopefully move from the red to the black.”

In fact, Davis told Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate this week that Wellcana is cutting its wholesale prices.

Louisiana’s other cannabis producer, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, is partnered with Southern University.

Ilera currently sells a hemp-derived, over-the-counter CBD product to client pharmacies, but CEO Chanda Macias said the company’s upcoming THC line will be focused on affordability.

The flower question

Wellcana plans to introduce new marijuana product forms, including topicals and buccal strips, later this year.

But Louisiana’s ongoing ban on dried cannabis flower means the market might be failing to capture some potential clients.

A bill proposed this year would have removed the restrictions on allowable forms of medical marijuana to permit flower, but the measure didn’t make it through the legislative session.

“Until we get flower in the state of Louisiana for the patients, then we’re just nibbling around the edges at reform,” Willow Pharmacy’s Brown said.

Ilera’s Macias said she plans to keep lobbying for removal of the flower restriction.

“The forms that we need to expand, to be comparable or, even at this point, surpass, any medical marijuana program in the nation would be vaporizables … and a flower market,” she said.

Wellcana’s Davis said any legislative change permitting cannabis flower would depend on “continued education of those governmental stakeholders,” including law-enforcement groups and regulators.

“But it’s going to take time, because there has been a very effective campaign to thoroughly demonize and stigmatize medical cannabis and cannabis in general,” he said.

Read the entire article here.


La. Governor signs medical cannabis expansion

Good news! Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill (HB 819) that will allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis for any medical condition the physician “considers debilitating to an individual patient” that the physician is qualified to treat. Currently, patients can only receive a recommendation for cannabis if they have a medical condition that is specifically listed.

HB 819 also adds several qualifying conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain associated with sickle cell anemia or fibromyalgia.

Gov. Edwards also signed a bill to protect banks serving medical cannabis businesses from state penalties (HB 211) and one to protect physicians and medical facilities involved in medical cannabis (HB 418).

All three take effect on August 1.

HB 819 was sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley (R). Bagley had been opposed to medical cannabis until he heard from constituents who found it relieved their pain. Now, he has become a champion.

His turnaround shows the dramatic impact constituent stories can have on their lawmakers. Considering reaching out to your state legislators about other marijuana policy reforms you care about.

If you’re a medical cannabis patient who has had problems with the program — perhaps due to the limited number of medical cannabis pharmacies or the lack of access to raw, flower cannabis — you may want to let your state senator and representative know.

You can also reach out to urge your lawmakers to support decriminalization or legalization of cannabis.

Courtesy of the Marijuana Policy Project


One of the Applicants for the Southern University License, Columbia Care, Sued for Fraud in New York Court

The complaint accuses New York-based Columbia Care of tortious interference with contract, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting fraud and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, among other offenses,

A Florida company focused on low-THC cannabis sued a New York-based cannabis company in New York County’s Supreme Court Commercial Division Friday, arguing that a medical marijuana license worth tens of millions of dollars was fraudulently misappropriated.

In the complaint, which accuses New York-based Columbia Care of tortious interference with contract, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting fraud and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, among other offenses, Kasowitz Benson Torres partner Sarmad Khojasteh also accused Columbia Care of “a pattern of racketeering and tortious activity” in other states, including Arizona and Massachusetts.

Khojasteh argued that his client, Florida MCBD, spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars seeking a license to operate a medical marijuana treatment center from the Florida Department of Health, starting in 2015.

To complete that process, Florida MCBD entered into a joint venture agreement with Sun Bulb, a Florida-based nursery, to help meet the state’s requirements for medical marijuana treatment center licenses, according to court filings.

Read the full article here.


Louisiana Senate And House Both Approve Significant Medical Marijuana Expansion

The Louisiana Senate approved a bill to significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program on Wednesday, and a committee advanced separate legislation on banking access for cannabis businesses.

The expansion proposal, which the House of Representatives approved last week, would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee advanced the proposal last week and now the full chamber has approved it in a 28-6 vote. Before the bill heads to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for signature or veto, the House will have to sign off on an amendment made by the Senate to require dispensaries to record medical marijuana purchases in the state prescription monitoring program database.

As originally drafted, the bill> sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley (R) would have simply added traumatic brain injuries and concussions to the list of conditions that qualify a patient for a marijuana recommendation. But it was amended in a House committee to add several other conditions as well as language stipulating that cannabis can be recommended for any condition that a physician “considers debilitating to an individual patient.”

Under current law there are only 14 conditions that qualify patients for marijuana.

“House Bill 819 is the new standard for medical marijuana programs. The bill allows any doctor who is licensed by and in good standing with the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners to make medical marijuana recommendations for their patients,” Bagley told Marijuana Moment. “The bill also ends the Legislature’s task of picking medical winners and losers each session, and instead allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any condition that a physician, in his medical opinion, considers debilitating to an individual patient.”

Bagley also introduced a House-passed bill to provide for cannabis deliveries to patients, but he voluntarily withdrew it from Senate committee consideration last week and told Marijuana Moment it’s because he felt the medical marijuana expansion legislation would already allow cannabis products to be delivered to patients like other traditional pharmaceuticals.

The delivery bill would have required a government regulatory body to develop “procedures and regulations relative to delivery of dispensed marijuana to patients by designated employees or agents of the pharmacy.”

It’s not clear if regulators will agree with Bagley’s interpretation, as doctors are still prohibited from “prescribing” cannabis and marijuana products are not dispensed through traditional pharmacies. That said, they recently released a memo authorizing dispensaries to temporarily deliver cannabis to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s possible officials will be amendable to extending that policy on a permanent basis.

State lawmakers also advanced several other pieces of cannabis reform legislation last week.

A bill introduced by Rep. Edmond Jordan (D) to protect banks and credit unions that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by state regulators cleared the full House in a 74-20 vote.

That measure was approved by Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs on Wednesday, setting it up for floor action in the chamber.

Also last week, the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee unanimously approved a resolution to establish “a task force to study and make recommendations relative to the cannabis industry projected workforce demands.”

Text of the legislation states that “there is a need to study the workforce demands and the skills necessary to supply the cannabis industry with a capable and compete workforce, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners.”

Legislators have until the end of the legislative session on June 1 to get any of the measures to the governor’s desk.

Read the full article here.


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