Florida Governor Softens Opposition to Vertical Integration Licenses: When questioned Tuesday about whether he felt as strongly about vertical integration as he did two weeks ago, DeSantis repeated that he did not know if the system is unconstitutional. “It’s not that it’s strong, it’s just that I don’t know that the vertical is unconstitutional. I know that that’s been in litigation,” he said, adding, “we’ll look at it.” But legislative leaders may not be keen on completely doing away with vertical integration, a move that could destabilize a growing and lucrative market in which one marijuana license recently sold for $63 million in cash. A day after DeSantis called the Florida operators a “cartel,” the Florida House sought to join two lawsuits to defend the state’s licensing structure. One of the lawsuits, filed by Patients and Producers Alliance, has languished in court for more than six months. CBS Local
Baltimore Will Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession Cases: Baltimore’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday that her office will stop pursuing marijuana possession cases and will also move to clear the criminal records of people with prior cannabis convictions dating back to 2011. The office will still prosecute individuals for felony possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, but first-time offenders will be referred to diversion programs instead of being incarcerated. The new policies take effect immediately, Mosby said. Marijuana Moment
New Jersey Lawmakers Considering Taxing Recreational Marijuana by Weight, Rather Than by Price: State leaders are now considering a proposal that would tax marijuana by weight, rather than an excise tax on the sale, according to multiple sources close to the discussions, who didn’t want their names used out of concern it could disrupt negotiations. Details on the proposal are scant, but the new proposal could serve two purposes. Initially, it could help bridge the gap between the governor and legislative leaders on marijuana. Taxes and regulation are the two main issues separating the two sides and debate has largely stalled in January. NJ.com
Unionizing Weed Workers Are Reigniting the Labor Movement: As full pot legalization spreads, labor organizations like the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)—which represents 1.3 million people across multiple fields, from grocery store workers to meatpackers—are seizing on the nascent industry. The UFCW already claims tens of thousands of cannabis workers across the US: In August of last year, Seattle-based dispensary chain Have a Heart inked the state’s first collective bargaining agreement between a recreational cannabis shop and the union. In 2017 in Minnesota, a cannabis production facility and chain of dispensaries struck a deal with the local UFCW. And in New York in 2016, the first union agreement for medical marijuana businesses was established in advance of the seemingly inevitable legalization of recreational use by adults in the state. Other labor organizations, such as the Teamsters, have made inroads to the industry as well. Although it might not seem like it fits squarely in the union’s purview, there are segments of the supply chain—such as cultivation, which has its own legacy of poor working conditions, especially for women—Teamsters have been vying for, beginning in 2010 when their Oakland, California, local organized the country’s first group of marijuana cultivators. The United Farm Workers of America (UFW) is also considering tapping into the newly legal industry. Vice
Canadian Public Transportation Company Bans All Cannabis Use for Employees: The Toronto Police Service and Air Canada have already implemented bans on off-duty cannabis consumption. And this week, the Ontario government’s mass transit agency Metrolinx announced a similar ban. Going forward, Metrolinx is prohibiting all workers in “safety sensitive” positions from consuming cannabis, even on their off time. Transit workers are not taking kindly to the ban. Many are concerned that the ban violates workers’ legal rights to privacy, not to mention their new right to legal, regulated cannabis. The legality of a ban like Metrolinx’s is also uncertain. Canada’s federal law, the Cannabis Act of 2018, does allow employers to set workplace drug and alcohol policies. The law does protect patients with an authorization for medical cannabis treatments from workplace sanctions. But non-medical use cases do not have the same protections. hightimes.com
Trump Attorney General Pick Puts Marijuana Enforcement Pledge in Writing: William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the next U.S. attorney general, made headlines earlier this month when he pledged during his Senate confirmation hearing not to “go after” marijuana companies that comply with state laws. Now, in response to written questions from senators, Barr is putting that pledge on paper. He’s also calling for the approval of more legal growers of marijuana for research, and is acknowledging that a recent bill legalizing hemp has broad implications for sale of cannabis products. www.forbes.com
Study: Reduction of Benzodiazepine Use in Patients Prescribed Medical Cannabis: In a study by Canabo Medical, within a cohort of 146 patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy, 45.2% patients successfully discontinued their pre-existing benzodiazepine therapy Leibert Publishing
California Proposes Slashing Pot Taxes to Help Regulated Industry Compete with Black Market: A bill was introduced Monday in the California legislature that would give legal cannabis businesses a temporary tax break to help them better compete with the underground market. The proposed legislation follows California’s tax revenue for the industry coming in $101 million below projections in the first six months of 2018. State officials have blamed the shortfall on exorbitant taxes placed on the legal pot industry as well as challenges due to limited access to banking. www.cnbc.com
Minnesota Proposal Would Legalize Cannabis Sales in 2022: Several Minnesota lawmakers launched an effort Monday to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, hoping to capitalize on recent successes the legalization movement has enjoyed elsewhere in the country. Sen. Melisa Franzen and Rep. Mike Freiberg, both Democrats, anticipate major resistance to their push to set up a regulatory framework for legal sales of the drug starting in 2022, but they see an opening. Former Gov. Mark Dayton opposed legalizing recreational marijuana. But new Gov. Tim Walz, a fellow Democrat, has said he’d sign it if it reaches his desk. www.leafly.com
New Hampshire Considering More Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana: The measure, House Bill 461, was introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives by Rep. Wendy Thomas. If the bill succeeds, Lyme disease, insomnia, and anxiety would be added to the list of qualifying medical conditions. hightimes.com
Germany is Looking for its First-Ever (Legal) Pot Growers: The government is moving to assure a local supply of the drug by giving out grower contracts for 10,400 kilograms (22,928 pounds) of pot over the next four years. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices’s so-called Cannabis Agency will choose between 79 bidders from growers for 13 contracts by the end of June,. Germany has relied on imports from the Netherlands and Canada since it legalized medical marijuana in March 2017. Now it’s aiming for the first local harvest by the end of next year. www.bnnbloomberg.ca
Philippines: House OKs medical Marijuana Bill: The House of Representatives approved Tuesday on final reading a bill allowing the use of medical marijuana. With 163 affirmative votes, five against and three abstentions, the chamber approved House Bill 6517 or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. The bill provides that medical marijuana will be accessed from accredited hospitals, as well as Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers that will be established throughout the country. cnnphilippines.com
Thailand Suspends Patent Applications for Medical Marijuana: Thailand’s military government on Monday suspended the licensing of commercial marijuana-based products for medical use amid concern that foreign pharmaceutical companies might try to monopolize the market. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s decree orders the director of the Department of Intellectual Property to invalidate all patent applications for medical marijuana products, declaring that for the time being commercial products from marijuana or having the same molecular structure as the plant are not supported under intellectual property laws. The decree says it will remain in effect until legislation on medical marijuana comes into force. madison.com
US-Affiliated Medical Cannabis Firms Led Fundraising on Canadian Securities Exchange in 2018 Raising Nearly $2 Billion Through 50 Equity-Related Deals: As of December 2018, 47% of the 124 cannabis-related companies trading on the CSE were based in the United States or had U.S. assets or interests. Cannabis-related companies in the life sciences sector – which includes most of the marijuana-related companies listed on the stock exchange – accounted for 76% of all raises by CSE issuers for the year, totaling just under $3 billion through 270 deals. Cannabis life sciences companies not based or operating in the U.S., including those operating in Canada and Israel, raised $1 billion through 220 deals. The top eight financing deals – accounting for 35% of 2018 CSE raises – were by U.S.-affiliated cannabis companies. They include Massachusetts-based Curaleaf Holdings (CSE: CURA) and New York-based Acreage Holdings (CSE: ACRG.U), which led the pack with individual deals valued at more than $300 million each. The CSE noted that financing through reverse takeovers (RTO) represented 51% of all financing in 2018 – up from 7% in 2017. Curaleaf, Acreage and other top performers – including Harvest Health & Recreation of Arizona (CSE: HARV) and MedMen Enterprises of California (CSE: MMEN) – are U.S.-based entities that listed on the CSE through RTOs. mjbizdaily.com
Massachusetts Hits $24M in Adult-Use Marijuana Sales as State Issues 100th License: Recreational marijuana shops in Massachusetts have racked up nearly $24 million in sales since the initial ones opened two months ago. That’s according to the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), the state’s marijuana regulatory agency, which also this week issued its 100th recreational marijuana business license and moved three shops closer to opening their doors to customers, The Boston Globe reported. To date, only eight rec MJ retailers have begun full sales, with a ninth upcoming. The CCC anticipates four to eight shops to open each month, the Globe reported. The commission reported aggregate gross sales of $23.8 million through Jan. 20, including $3.4 million in the most recent week. mjbizdaily.com
In a Surprise Move, Pennsylvania is Throwing the door wide open for industrial hemp production: In a surprising turn, Pennsylvania is throwing the door wide open for industrial hemp production — something the state, or the United States, for that matter, has not seen since before World War II. State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said Tuesday that Pennsylvania submitted a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows for the full commercial production of industrial hemp. Pennsylvania joins Kentucky as the only states to submit a program to the USDA, Powers said. 420intel.com
These 10 States are Most Likely to Pass Marijuana Legalization Bills In 2019: Here’s a look at the states that are most likely to send legal cannabis bills to their governors’ desks this year.
- Connecticut– Several House and Senate proposals seek to fully legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older and also establish a commercial market. Importantly, newly sworn-in Gov. Ned Lamont (D) has called legalization one of his “priorities.”
- Hawaii– Senate President Ron Kouchi (D) said that debating marijuana legalization will be a top priority for the state legislature this year. Seven legalization bills have been filed so far, and the chances of passing something in the Democratic-majority chambers are solid.
- Illinois– At the beginning of this month, Sen. Heather Steans (D) filed a placeholder bill establish a tax-and-regulate marijuana system. Separate House legislation to end cannabis prohibition was introduced on Friday and has a focus on social equity, mandating that at least half of cultivation and retail facilities be located in “communities disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”
- Minnesota– Fifteen House members jointly filed a legalization bill last week. Gov. Tim Walz (D) has promised to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.”
- New Hampshire– Lawmakers are moving forward with plans to fully legalize marijuana in the Granite State despite the fact that Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has threatened to veto such legislation. House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D) believes that, with Democrats now in control of both chambers, they have to votes to override a veto. So far, two bills have been introduced to legalize and establish a retail sales system.
- New Jersey– Eight bills have been filed to legalize marijuana, including ones that would involve expungements for past cannabis-related convictions.
- New Mexico– A bill to legalize marijuana and establish a commercial sales system was filed, sponsored by Reps. Moe Maestas (D) and Javier Martinez (D). Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is supportive of legalization and said a legal market will bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.”
- New York– There are four pieces of legalization legislation on the table, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has pledged to enact a commercial cannabis system after previously calling marijuana a “gateway drug.”
- Rhode Island– Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) was initially reluctant to embrace marijuana legalization but, in light of legalization efforts underway in neighboring states, she’s recently proposed ending cannabis prohibition herself.
- Vermont– Half of the Senate, including the chamber’s president, has already signed onto a bill that would allow for commercial marijuana sales. marijuanamoment.net
Britain’s first legal cannabis farm with 7-acre greenhouse coming to ‘secret’ Westcountry location: Britain’s first totally legal cannabis farm will open in the Westcountry after planning permission has been given for an undisclosed site in Wiltshire. London-based firm Sativa Investments is behind the £10m scheme which will see a seven-and-a-half acre greenhouse built in the countryside. The 300,000 sq/ft unit could grow almost eight tonnes of the drug per year based on industry standards, the Mirror reported in October. It follows the announcement by Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, that UK doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products from November. www.somersetlive.co.uk
Israel Gives Green Light to Medical Cannabis Exports. The government approved exports of Israeli-grown medical cannabis to the booming worldwide legal market on Sunday in news that Israel’s pioneering cannabis producers have long awaited. Licenses will be exclusively granted by the Health Ministry and will require police approval. The government’s decision was based on a recommendation from the Interministerial Committee of the Finance and Health ministries in August 2017, to allow the export of cannabis for medical purposes. It estimated that the state could earn between NIS 1b.-NIS 4b. ($1.09b.) per year from such exports. There are currently eight companies cultivating cannabis for medical purposes in Israel, and dozens more have applied for approval to commence work in the field. www.jpost.com
Money Flow into Cannabis Appears to be in a Lull – Here’s Why: Through Jan. 18, 2019, $208 million has been raised by North American cannabis firms, according to data tracked by Viridian Capital Advisors. That’s down nearly 60% from the $499.4 million raised during the same time frame in 2018. What’s causing the capital infusion lull in what’s been touted as the fastest growing industry on the globe? “The main factor in the year-over-year decline thus far has been a reduction in investment activity to Canadian (licensed producers),” noted Harrison Phillips, vice president at Viridian. “In early 2018, licensed producers at all stages – late-stage applicants, new licensees and more-established licensees – were more readily raising capital to prepare for the then-coming adult-use market.” Throughout the new year, Viridian expects cannabis firms to exceed the record $13.8 billion raised by firms in 2018, as more U.S. companies go public and companies raise capital to continue to scale.
Cannabis M&A Spikes in US, Overseas as Firms Look Beyond Canada for Growth: Canadian medical cannabis companies are increasingly looking internationally for acquisitions to tap growth while consolidation in the country’s marijuana sector continues to steam ahead.
- Last year, 140 U.S. cannabis companies were targets of mergers and acquisitions, a substantial increase over 2017’s 86, according to data compiled by Viridian Capital Advisors and shared with Marijuana Business Daily.
- Cannabis firms in Canada raised a record 11.96 billion Canadian dollars ($9 billion) in 2018, helping fuel the recent acquisition binge.
- Last year, Canadian cannabis companies were the buyers in 207 M&A transactions – more than double 2017’s 81, according to Viridian’s data.
- M&A transactions where the target is located outside North America tripled last year to 36. com
Cannabis Impact Minimal on Liquor Sales: Three months ago, legal cannabis changed Canadian society. In the run-up to legalization, the Calgary Herald reported in September 2018 that some liquor retailers were making the jump into cannabis to head off expected declines in sales of their core products. Alcanna, which owns the Nova Cannabis chain as well as Liquor Depot, changed their name from Liquor Stores N.A. and even said it was going to convert a few of its stores from alcohol to cannabis sales. Since then, area stores have found themselves still in the usual status quo. In prior areas where the cannabis industry has been legalized, alcohol has taken a hit. According to recent reports from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking in states like Colorado and Washington has been nearly 10 per cent below the national average in America since legalization. In addition, Molson Coors Brewing cited cannabis as a risk to its business income. “Although the ultimate impact is currently unknown, the emergence of legal cannabis in certain U.S. states and Canada may result in a shift of discretionary income away from our products or a change in consumer preferences away from beer,” it reads in a 2017 year-end report by the company. sprucegroveexaminer.com
Kentucky ‘Rapidly Becoming Epicenter of Hemp Industry’: State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles announced this week that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has approved 1,035 applications to cultivate up to 42,086 acres of industrial hemp in 2019. The KDA also approved 2.9 million square feet of greenhouse space for hemp cultivation. Quarles said.,“The growth in the number of approved acres from 16,000 last year to 42,000 this year shows that Kentucky is rapidly becoming the epicenter of the hemp industry in the United States. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, we believe Kentucky is ready to lead as the nation begins the process of transitioning to commercialization of a crop that connects our past to our future.” www.thegleaner.com
California Marijuana Growers Association Drops Suit Over Loophole for Mega-Farms: The California Growers Association has dropped a lawsuit it filed a year ago against the state over a regulatory loophole that allowed commercial-scale cannabis farms to begin operating in 2018. The case, which never gained much traction in court, focused on a sudden change in course by the CDFA in late 2017 when the agency decided to allow cannabis companies to obtain unlimited numbers of “small” MJ grow permits. Such licenses have a maximum capacity of 10,000 square feet – essentially opening the door to immense cannabis grows. That allowance, the lawsuit argued, was contrary to Proposition 64, approved by California voters in 2016, which prohibited any “large” cultivation licenses from being issued by the state until 2023. “Medium” cultivation permits allow for grows between 10,000 square feet and an acre, but those are still limited to one license per company. Since the loophole went into effect early last year, plenty of growers have obtained scores of “small” grow permits to build out large-capacity marijuana farms. That’s happened most notably in Santa Barbara County, which has emerged as an MJ cultivation epicenter in California. Mjbizdaily.com
Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Debate Grows in CT: Hartford — In the back-and-forth debate the past few years at the General Assembly over legalizing recreational marijuana, opponents have argued there is no standard Breathalyzer test for marijuana as there is for alcohol. In anticipation of state legislators once again debating and possibly voting on legalizing recreational marijuana in Connecticut, Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, has submitted a bill calling for a study of the issue. Efforts to legalize marijuana have stalled in previous sessions of the General Assembly, but proponents are hoping that with large Democratic majorities there is no standard Breathalyzer test for marijuana as there is for alcohol. In anticipation of state legislators once again debating and possibly voting on legalizing recreational marijuana in Connecticut, Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, has submitted a bill calling for a study of the issue. www.ctpost.com
Oklahoma Senator Proposes Bill to Allow Counties to Decide on Medical Marijuana Legalization: In June, over 891,000 voters cast their ballots in regards to State Question 788, which legalizes medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Ultimately, the measure passed by a majority vote. Under State Question 788, a person 18 years or older would need to apply for a medical marijuana license with the Oklahoma State Department of Health after receiving a note from their doctor. If approved, the patient would then have to pay $100 to obtain that license. Since applications became available in August, officials say more than 30,000 patient applications have been approved by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Now, an Oklahoma lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow counties to decide whether they want to follow State Question 788. Senate Bill 325, which was authored by Sen. Casey Murdock, would add restrictions to where medical marijuana can be consumed, sold or possessed. “A county may, by vote of a majority of the registered voters in the county, restrict or prohibit the possession, consumption, transport, sale, cultivation or manufacture of marijuana or marijuana products, or any combination thereof,” the bill states. kfor.com
Louisiana May Have Medical Cannabis Available by Summer 2019: In September 2017, research and biotechnical development company GB Sciences announced its partnership with the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center to produce medical cannabis. Last week, LSU’s Vice President of Agriculture Dr. Richardson said the university and GB Sciences were on track to submitting their final suitability study to state police by Jan. 21. If the crop clears all of its requirements for quality and safety, medical cannabis products could be available in Louisiana dispensaries this summer. hightimes.com
Urban MO Prosecutors End Most Pot Cases: Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Missouri, but for about one-third of the state’s residents, it’s a crime prosecutors won’t pursue. Over the past seven months, prosecutors in St. Louis city, Jackson County and most recently St. Louis County have all announced they will no longer prosecute most low-level marijuana possession cases. Missouri’s urban areas join a growing list of places across the U.S. where similar policies have been adopted. They include the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs in New York City, Philadelphia and smaller places such as Albany, New York, and Norfolk Commonwealth, Virginia. The policy changes have exceptions. Those suspected of selling or distributing marijuana will still be charged, as will motorists accused of driving while impaired by the drug. www.semissourian.com
Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana Passes Second Reading: Manila, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill legalizing and regulating the use of medical marijuana. House Bill 6517, backed by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, hurdled second reading through viva voce voting. The proposed measure, once enacted into law, would provide patients suffering from serious diseases with alternative medicine in the form of cannabis. The bill also provides for the establishment of the Medical Cannabis Compassionate Center licensed by the Department of Health to acquire, possess, manufacture and sell cannabis to registered qualifying patients. There is no counterpart bill in the Senate yet but some senators threw their support behind the legalization of medical marijuana. http://www.philstar.com
US Virgin Islands Enacts Medical Cannabis Law, Opens Tourism Business Avenues: U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has given a new medical marijuana law his stamp of approval, making the territory the latest Caribbean jurisdiction to open its doors to cannabis businesses and potential new tourism opportunities. The Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) will publish rules within four months, and the issuance of licenses will start three months after that. The law will also create a new medical cannabis tourism industry by allowing patients from states and countries with regulated markets to access Virgin Islands medical cannabis for a fee and, according to the statute, “allow non-cannabis patients worldwide to visit the Virgin Islands and receive cannabis therapy as part of an in-patient program.” Patients and caregivers will be permitted to grow a small quantity for personal use, “family farms” will be allowed to cultivate up to 100 plants, and larger commercial grow operations will be allowed to grow up to 1,000 plants. mjbizdaily.com
Read this week’s Cannabis Stock News recap here.
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