Illinois becomes the latest state to legalize marijuana, these states may follow

Illinois became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the regulatory bill legislators passed at the end of May. Legal recreational marijuana sales will begin in Illinois on January 1, 2020.

While many other states have legalized marijuana through voter referendums that can leave details to be agreed upon after the fact, Illinois became the first state in the country to legalize through the legislative process.

“We did something that no other state in the nation has been able to do,” Pritzker cheered at the signing ceremony.

Other states looking to replicate the bipartisan legalization bill Illinois was able to pass haven’t been as successful, leaving many wondering what state might become the 12th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana.

During Yahoo Finance’s The Business of Cannabis special earlier in June, CEOs from the leading marijuana companies, including Canopy Growth (CGC), Curaleaf (CURLF) and Chicago-based Cresco Labs weighed in on that question with differing opinions.

Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton and Acreage Holdings (ACRGF) CEO Kevin Murphy agreed that New York would be the next state to legalize recreational marijuana, while Curaleaf CEO Joe Lusardi and Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell argued New Jersey would be next to change state law.

“The electorate is going to go to the ballot box and continue to vote for cannabis laws,” Lusardi said. “It’s going to get more popular every single month and I suspect we’ll have more medical states, more recreational states in 2020 and the pressure will mount on the federal government to address this issue.”

Setbacks to legalization in New York

In the weeks that followed their comments, New York legislators pushing for legalization through the legislative process suffered many setbacks despite having support from Governor Andrew Cuomo on the issue. New York state legislators failed to agree on where the $1.7 billion in estimated annual recreational marijuana sales would be directed and opted to pass a bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana instead.

Proponents of marijuana reform in New York have defended the decision to abandon legalization efforts in favor of decriminalization as less of a failure as much as it is a step in the right direction.

“Six years I’ve been trying to get it done. We got it done, and it’s a great step forward,” Cuomo said, referring to decriminalization. Efforts to re-introduce legalization plans could resume with the next legislative session.

Cuomo pointed to the failure of politicians in New Jersey to legalize marijuana back in May as a reason for stalled progress in New York.

Legislators in New Jersey resigned to let voters decide the fate of legalizing recreational marijuana through a November 2020 referendum vote.

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US House OKs provision protecting state-legal cannabis industries

U.S. congressional amendments to protect state-legal marijuana businesses are gaining unprecedented traction.  For the first time, an amendment to protect medical marijuana businesses from Justice Department interference recently was included in a spending bill.  And the full House on Thursday passed by a 267-165 vote a broader amendment to protect all state-legal MJ businesses, including adult-use companies. The amendment is part of the fiscal year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill.  Looking ahead, it’s unclear whether the provision will receive support in the Senate.
MJBizDaily takeaway: For the time being anyway, it appears that federal marijuana reform will occur incrementally, with small gains that reflect a gradual shift in favor of legalization on Capitol Hill.

State-legal Cannabis program protections advance to the full US House

Read full article at: Marijuana Business Daily

A key legislative panel advanced an amendment to the full House for consideration that would protect all state-legal cannabis programs from interference by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. House Rules Committee cleared the amendment for a full House vote as it passed the fiscal year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill by an 8-4 margin late Tuesday.

The spending bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis businesses.

The amendment to protect the lawful adult-use industry as well as MMJ programs was submitted by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, and Tom McClintock, a California Republican.

A Blumenauer amendment that would prevent the Justice Department from cracking down on Veterans Affairs doctors who recommend medical cannabis in lawful states also is heading to the full House for a vote.

Spending bill provisions offer protections for only a year, however.

Industry officials are lobbying for longer-lasting protections for state-legal marijuana programs, such as through the STATES Act.

Senate reverses decision on inhaling medical marijuana

Original article by Mark Ballard at

With an amendment, the Senate Monday reversed its opposition to allowing patients to inhale medical marijuana.

Senators voted 21-14 Saturday to strike inhalation, then killed the bill. On Monday the Senate included inhaling then advanced the legislation on a vote of 31-7.

St. Martin Parish Republican Sen. Fred Mills brought House Bill 358 back up Monday and added language that dosage could only be taken using a metered dose inhaler.

“You’re not smoking at all, it’s just a puff of the medication,” Mills said. “It’s just the delivery form of the concentration of the medicine.”

Medical marijuana patients take their doses orally. Inhaling allows the medicine to hit the system faster, he said.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said when the program to allow the use of marijuana products for medicinal purposes a few years ago, promises were made that patients wouldn’t be allowed to inhale marijuana. The products are used to combat pain and seizures.

Mills’ amendment was approved on a 30-7 vote.

House Bill 358 by Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Ted James would have let therapeutic cannabis patients use an inhaler, like asthma patients use. The House overwhelmingly had agreed to the inhalation proposal.

The original language in HB358 was not tight, but the amendments added enough restrictions, said Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles. “This is not inhaling raw marijuana,” he said.

Medicinal-grade pot isn’t yet available to patients. Regulatory disagreements slowed getting the product to shelves, with estimates it could be available later this month.

Voting to allow inhaling medical marijuana (31): President Alario and Sens. Allain, Barrow, Bishop, Boudreaux, Carter, Chabert, Colomb, Cortez, Donahue, Erdey, Gatti, Hensgens, Hewitt, Johns, LaFleur, Lambert, Luneau, Martiny, Mills, Morrell, Morrish, Peacock, Peterson, Price, Riser, G. Smith, J. Smith, Tarver, Ward and White.

Voting against HB358 (7): Sens Appel, Claitor, Fannin, Long, Milkovich, Thompson and Walsworth.

Not Voting (1): Sen Mizell

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Lawmakers back legislation to legalize hemp, regulate CBD products in Louisiana

Original article by Sam Karlin at


Louisiana lawmakers have agreed to legalize the growth of hemp and allow the sale of some CBD products, sending two pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk that would lay out a highly-regulated program in line with the federal farm bill.

State Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s House Bill 491, which was heavily rewritten in the Senate, won final approval from the House Monday. The bill lays out a tightly-regulated program for growing hemp, with oversight from the state Agriculture Department.

Another bill by Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, would exempt hemp grown in line with federal regulations from the legal definition of marijuana and defines the drug. House Bill 138 is headed to the governor’s desk.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has voiced support for allowing and regulating the growth of hemp.

Hemp comes from the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa, as marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, hemp does not have enough THC to get users high. Instead, it is used in a wide range of industrial products, textiles, fuels and other products. Producers also extract Cannabidiol, or CBD, from hemp, infusing the chemical with oils, tinctures, lotions, food products and others.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain would have broad regulatory powers over the hemp program, creating rules, handling permits and destroying crops that don’t meet THC thresholds. Strain has said the program will be tightly-regulated and in line with federal rules.

Supporters have touted the legislation as a potential boon to Louisiana farmers.

“When our farmers are having a down year, they’ll be able to grow a crop that will be successful,” Schexnayder said in a recent hearing on the bill.

The sale of CBD products has spread in Louisiana in recent years, but in a legal gray area. State agencies have disagreed on whether CBD products, which don’t get users high, are legally distinguishable from marijuana. Supporters have said CBD has health benefits, and while the products have become increasingly available to consumers, some state agencies have cracked down on their sale.

Sales of CBD products have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, culminating in the high-profile arrest of a CBD seller in Lafayette last month.

Connick’s bill distinguishes CBD and marijuana, and Schexnayder’s bill lays out a list of regulations for selling CBD products. The products would be regulated by the Louisiana Department of Health and Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control under the bill.

Schexnayder’s bill was rewritten multiple times in the Senate.

The 2018 federal farm bill laid out a process for states to grow hemp, and Louisiana is expected to submit a plan to the USDA by November if the governor signs off on the proposal.

The legislation bans selling CBD in beverages unless the Food and Drug Administration approves of it as a food additive, and also prohibits CBD products marketed as dietary supplements. CBD products would have to come from hemp grown under a state program outlined by either the 2014 or 2018 farm bill and meet certain labeling requirements.

Penalties for processing or selling CBD products that don’t meet the requirements in the rule would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. Currently, CBD products are sold throughout Louisiana despite some state officials, including Strain, dubbing them illegal.

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the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee will meet. HB 491 is the only bill on the agenda.

URGENT: This morning (Tuesday) 05.21.19, at 10a CST in Room C of the Senate, the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee will meet.  HB 491 is the only bill on the agenda.
Supporters, Friends and Allies- 
We need your assistance on one of the most important Cannabis-related bills of the 2019 LA Legislative Session, HB 491.  We’ve come to you before on this bill and your responsive effort absolutely made the difference.  So we return to ask more of you, the difference-makers.  Please call any or all of these few people ( or send them an email and state: Hello, I am _________ (your name).  I am a Louisiana resident or I live in __________ (town or parish).  I am calling/emailing to ask for your support of HB 491.  Keep it short and sweet.
Keep it SMPL!  There’s only seven (7) of them!  We got this.  If you only have time for one, buzz the Chairman and let ’em know we’re here and we’re watching closely.
Chairman Francis Thompson: [email protected] and 318.878.9408.
Power to the people!

Louisiana House of Representatives passed the first hemp bill of the 2019 legislative session on Tuesday.

Far from a perfect bill, Representative Clay Schexnayder’s HB 491 sets up a hemp growing program under the Louisiana Department of Agriculture that would take advantage of the US Congress’ passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that laid the foundation for nationwide trade in industrial hemp.  Hemp, the name for a low THC (0.3% or less) cultivar of the otherwise identical plant species to “marijuana” goes by the scientific name, Cannabis sativa.  Hemp is an excellent source of food, fiber, oil and medicine including the cannabinoid, cannabidiol or CBD.  Schexnayder’s bill was designed by Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain’s office in close association with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association or LSA.  Predictably then, it did not allow for cannabidiol until today and even in its significantly improved and amended form, does not allow CBD infusion into food or drinks, it does not allow for inhalation which is absolutely necessary as a delivery method for certain diseases requiring rapid titration or uptake into the body, it prohibits anyone with a felony conviction in the last ten (10) years from participating in the program and it places retail stores selling CBD under the jurisdiction of the state Alcohol and Tobacco Control or ATC among other changes.  It is worth nothing that the bill advancing in the Texas legislature right now (HB 1325) does allow for the infusion of food and drink and medicines with CBD.  Forty two (42) other states have already taken action to seize on the changes Congress made to hemp’s new status at the federal level.  SMPL’s membership is the #1 catalyst for positive changes to our state’s backward drug laws and the best chance our citizens and patients have to beat back the LSA’s efforts to insert itself into the doctor-patient relationship.  As one of the states top few most powerful lobbying groups, the LSA inserts itself into far-ranging policy discussions and manifests control over things it ought not have any say in – including hemp farming or the use of CBD.  Please contact your state Senators and ask them to oppose HB 491 unless it is at least amended to allow for CBD in food, drink and for inhalation.  Right now, law enforcement via the LSA is having more influence over this medicine than we the people, the patients and the health care professionals of our state.  Roll up your sleeves, reach out and Just Say No to the Sheriff’s control of our health care decisions!

Congratulations to patients in Arkansas!

Medical marijuana sales there are expected to begin this Sunday, May 12, 2019.  Arkansas voters approved therapeutic Cannabis on November 8, 2016.  Louisiana’s legislature approved of the modern therapeutic Cannabis program by passage of SB 143 in the summer of 2015 and signature of then Governor Bobby Jindal on June 29, 2015.  So it looks like Arkansas is going to beat Louisiana to implementation by at least a full year.


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HB 568 by Dustin Miller passed out of the House Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A simmering feud between one of Louisiana’s medical marijuana growers and the program’s regulator has spilled into the Legislature. Lawmakers are considering reworking oversight of therapeutic cannabis to end disagreements that have slowed release to patients.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Louisiana State University’s grower GB Sciences aired ongoing disputes Tuesday in the House health committee.

The hearing was contentious, with the two sides trading accusations. It wrapped up with lawmakers voting 6-4 for a proposal to strip Strain’s agriculture department of regulatory authority and give that oversight job to the health department.

The measure by Rep. Dustin Miller moves to the House floor.

Miller, an Opelousas Democrat, is frustrated that four years have passed since lawmakers created the framework for dispensing therapeutic cannabis and marijuana still hasn’t reached patients.

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Schexnayder proposes legislation to produce industrial hemp in Louisiana

Representative Clay Schexnayder (District 81) is proposing legislation for the 2019 session that creates an opportunity for Louisiana farmers to produce industrial hemp, as authorized in the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) approved by Congress.

Under this state legislation, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry would be the regulatory agency responsible for this initiative, and developing the regulations for the production and sale of industrial hemp and industrial hemp products, according to a news release from Schexnayder’s office. All regulations will require approval by the USDA prior to implementation.

Based on the recently passed Farm Bill, industrial hemp is defined as cannabis with a THC level below 0.3% and has been removed from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. If this legislation is approved, industrial hemp would be an additional commodity available for the state’s agricultural producers, further expanding Louisiana’s agricultural market opportunities, according to the release.

“Industrial hemp is an alternative specialty high-value crop with the potential to create new industries and enhance economic development for Louisiana,” says Rep. Clay Schexnayder. “The importance of agriculture in Louisiana increases the need to provide both opportunities to introduce first time producers to agriculture and allow existing producers the opportunity to diversify their farming interests for economic stability options. ”

Representative Clay Schexnayder (District 81)(Photo courtesy: La. House of Representatives website)

The release states, as of 2018, more than 33 states had enacted legislation authorizing the production of industrial hemp, or research initiatives under the 2014 Farm Bill, and reauthorization of and expansion of the federal approval for agricultural producers to grow industrial hemp will likely expand states participating in industrial hemp programs across the country.

“Industrial hemp would be a welcomed crop for Louisiana Producers to diversify their harvest.” Says Ronnie Anderson, Louisiana Farm Bureau President.

Schexnayder and other interested legislators and legislative staff have been meeting with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, law enforcement representatives, the LSU Agricultural Center and producers from across the state to formulate language that meets the federal requirements and maintains strong regulatory oversight, according to Representative Clay Schexnayder’s press release.

“Throughout the history of America, industrial hemp has played a vital role in agriculture. Reintroduction of this commodity will provide new opportunities, especially for our small to mid-size farmers,” said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.

Louisiana’s climate creates challenges for producers of all commodities. Whether rain, drought, insects or disease, all will be unique factors that need to be addressed. This legislation will authorize the agricultural arms of the state’s land-grant institutions to conduct research on industrial hemp to aid producers and create value added opportunities.

LSU Vice President for Agriculture, Bill Richardson commented, “The AgCenter’s crop scientists can develop and test industrial hemp varieties that are tolerant to Louisiana conditions and provide high fiber and oilseed for processing.”

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