Cannabis Industry Daily News

Could Maryland medical cannabis sales begin soon?

The four-year wait in Maryland might be coming to a close.

Industry insiders in the state are predicting medical marijuana businesses could start selling product as soon as this month.

Wendy Bronfein, the marketing director for Curio Wellness in Lutherville, Maryland, said she expects to see sales begin this month, then steadily progress into the next year.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Businesses will sell cannabis in forms such as lotion, pills and transdermal patches.
  • Brian Lopez, chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said he hopes to see 20-30 MMJ dispensaries open by the end of the year.
  • The commission still needs to iron out issues such as “how to regulate how dispensaries will serve out-of-state patients.”
  • The question of racial diversity in Maryland’s MMJ industry hasn’t yet been resolved. Lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation next session to award cannabis licenses to African-American business owners.

– Associated Press

US hemp production doubled in ’17, report says

The U.S. hemp crop doubled this year, according to new survey data from a prominent hemp-advocacy group.

Vote Hemp counted a total of 23,346 acres growing hemp in 18 states.

That’s more than twice as much as hemp land as 2016, when the group counted 9,649 acres growing in 15 states.

State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 1,456 farmers this year, according to Vote Hemp, and a total of 34 states have hemp laws on the books, though not all have started their pilot programs yet.

The report also noted a slight increase in universities conducting hemp research, from 30 in 2016 to 32 this year.

Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra used the report to urge Congress to make hemp farming legal nationwide.

Steenstra pointed out that hemp farmers face obstacles that include seed access that could be alleviated by federal expansion of hemp.

A hemp bill has been introduced in the U.S. House, but it hasn’t been heard yet, making passage unlikely by the end of 2017.

Steenstra urged Congress to “grant farmers full federally legal rights to commercially cultivate hemp to supply the growing global market for hemp products.”

In neighboring Canada, where hemp production was legalized in 1998, an estimated 120,000 acres were devoted to hemp in 2017.

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Columbia Care delays its MMJ dispensary in Delaware

Delaware’s oft-delayed medical marijuana program is experiencing another holdup.

Columbia Care, a multistate MMJ company headquartered in New York, has postponed by at least six months the opening of its facility in The First State.

Columbia Care’s facility was to be the third operating dispensary in Delaware, The News Journal reported.

Because of zoning, permitting and construction delays, however, Columbia Care now isn’t expected to begin sales in Delaware until spring 2018, a spokeswoman for the state’s health and social services department told the newspaper.

Besides its Delaware business, Columbia Care has operations in California, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

The MMJ program in Delaware has been beset by delays since its inception, according to The News Journal:

  • The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act was enacted in 2011, but its implementation was hampered for several years by the governor.
  • The state finally awarded its first MMJ license in 2014, to First State Compassion Center, but the launch was delayed a year because of legal and construction hurdles.
  • First State was then granted a second license in 2016, but more delays prevented that dispensary from opening until May 2017.

Besides the licenses belonging to First State Compassion Center’s two operating dispensaries and Columbia Care’s stalled business, a fourth permit was granted in August to New Jersey-based Compassionate Care Research Institute.

The dispensary plans to open next spring, according to The News Journal.

Wisconsin hemp law advances to governor’s desk

A bill authorizing hemp cultivation in Wisconsin awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Scott Walker after both chambers of the state legislature unanimously approved the measure.

But Walker isn’t saying whether he’ll sign it into law.

A spokesman told The Associated Press the governor would review the bill but did not commit to signing it.

The bill would make Wisconsin the 35th state to allow limited hemp production.

The measure:

  • Directs the University of Wisconsin to administer voluntary seed certification.
  • Allows the university to work on seed containing up to 1 percent THC, though it stipulates that growers and processors can use only plants that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, the general standard for nonintoxicating hemp.
  • Mandates that the state work on creating a “Wisconsin heritage seed” for hemp.
  • Requires Native American tribes to acquire licenses from the state Department of Agriculture before growing hemp. Earlier this year, the St. Croix Chippewa tribe in northern Wisconsin voted to start growing hemp in an old fish hatchery, though production has not begun.

A decision by Walker is expected by mid-December.

If he does not veto the bill, it would become law without his signature.

Oregon congressman starts pro-marijuana PAC

There’s a new political action committee dedicated to defeating members of Congress who cast votes against marijuana, a development that could aid MJ businesses through the passage of pro-cannabis legislation.

The new PAC is dubbed the Cannabis Fund, and it was founded by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the Statesman Journal reported.

The Democrat already has a “first target” in mind, according to the Salem, Oregon, newspaper: Texas Republican Pete Sessions, who helped put up roadblocks earlier this year when it came time to renew the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment.

Even though the Cannabis Fund had raised only $2,000 through June – a pittance in terms of political spending – Blumenauer told a cannabis business conference last month he intends to pay for billboards in Sessions’ district.

The signs will attack Sessions for anti-medical cannabis moves, including the Texan’s opposition to an amendment that would have allowed military vets to obtain MMJ through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I want to see even more pro-cannabis candidates elected to Congress and continue the wave of reforms happening at the state level,” Blumenauer told the Statesman Journal.

“And we want to make clear that there are consequences for those elected officials opposing what a majority of the public supports,”

Maryland medical cannabis commission looking for new chief

The executive director of Maryland’s medical marijuana commission is stepping down for undisclosed reasons.

Patrick Jameson, who had been at the helm of the commission since April 2016, is resigning effective Nov. 30, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

His resignation comes only four months after the governor appointed 10 new members to the highly criticized commission.

The Medical Cannabis Commission has been in the spotlight for a variety of reasons, following the slow start of the state’s MMJ program.

A recent lawsuit, for example, alleges that the Medical Cannabis Commission broke program rules when it awarded cultivation business licenses earlier this year.

Here’s what you need to know about Jameson’s departure:

  • Brian Lopez, chairman of the commission, told the Business Journal he didn’t know why Jameson decided to quit.
  • The commission is already looking for a replacement, and Jameson will help with the transition.
  • The commission is in the middle of trying to approve licensees for cultivation, processing and dispensing.
  • Jameson’s resignation won’t cause a disruption to the program, Lopez said, because the commission has a compliance director and someone to oversee testing labs on staff.

Massachusetts cannabis commission asking for $7.5 million budget

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission expects to eventually pay for the state’s MMJ program through licensing and taxes, but it needs $7.5 million from the state to help fund the current fiscal year.

The state granted the oversight body $2.3 million earlier this year, and the additional $5.2 million would be used to pay for staff, operations and technology, MassLive.com reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Total operating costs for the commission are budgeted at $3.5 million.
  • Salaries for five commissioners account for $534,100.
  • The commission has budgeted $470,800 to pay senior agency staff.
  • Office space and license application processing and enforcement are expected to cost at least $600,000 each.
  • The commission’s budget also includes $750,000 for a seed-to-sale system, $700,000 to track licenses and $2.5 million for a revenue tracking and collection system.

Medical marijuana website awarded federal trademark

Budtrader.com, an ancillary medical cannabis industry website that acts as an advertising platform for marijuana businesses, has won a federal trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The victory could be a significant landmark for the industry, given marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance and the resulting legal complications for cannabis-related businesses.

Budtrader.com was awarded a trademark after 15 months of “legal wrangling,” CEO Brad McLaughlin said in a news release.

“This decision by the feds to grant Budtrader its trademark sets a precedent, and this will hopefully make it easier for others in the cannabis space to do the same in the future,” McLaughlin said. “This decision means we have turned a corner as an industry.”

Over 1 million MMJ patients utilize the website, according to Budtrader.com.

CA treasurer pushes state-run bank for cannabis businesses

California’s state treasurer isn’t waiting on the federal government to solve marijuana businesses’ banking problem.

Treasurer John Chiang and members of a working group he formed are calling on California officials to create a state-government-run bank to serve marijuana companies, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The recommendation by Chiang’s group bolsters a growing movement that wants cities and states to create public banks for marijuana businesses.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Over the course of the year, Chiang’s group heard from cannabis business owners about their banking challenges and difficulties paying taxes.
  • In addition to a California-run bank, the group recommended that state and local bodies that regulate marijuana businesses make information about the companies available to banks. Such a move would help financial institutions feel more at ease handling cannabis funds, the group concluded.
  • The group called for the formation of a multistate group to lobby Congress to relax federal regulations on marijuana.
  • It also recommended that California hire armored car services to pick up tax payments from cannabis companies so they don’t have to drop off bags of cash at the tax office.

Hemp wins unanimous approval in Wisconsin Senate

Hemp is cruising through the Wisconsin state legislature, where the Senate voted 33-0 to approve cultivation of the new crop.

The Wisconsin bill hemp bill now heads to the Assembly, which scheduled a hemp hearing Wednesday.

The final Assembly vote on hemp could come Thursday, according to WHBL-TV, possibly sending the bill to Republican Gov. Scott Walker for final approval.

But it’s not clear if Walker would support the hemp bill, which is similar to hemp laws in other states in that it defines hemp as cannabis below 0.3 percent THC and requiring background checks of potential growers.

Last month, Walker told WEAU-TV that he’ll consider hemp, though he has “a concern in anything that would lead to (marijuana) legalization.”

Walker did approve a law earlier this year to allow the possession of marijuana-derived CBD oil and to expand the medical conditions for which it can be used beyond “seizure disorders.”

Walker’s approval would make Wisconsin the 35th state to put a hemp law on the books since production was legalized in 2014. However, some states have hemp laws but no hemp production because rules are still being worked out.

The Chippewa tribe in northern Wisconsin voted last summer to authorize hemp production.

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CBD products are usually mislabeled, study finds

Most CBD products sold online don’t contain the promised amount of CBD, a potential red flag for regulators deciding whether to crack down on a product commonly used for medical reasons.

A study published Tuesday in a leading medical publication, the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that less than a third of CBD products bought by researchers were correctly labeled.

The researchers bought 84 CBD products online and had them tested in Colorado labs. The findings:

  • About 43% contained more CBD than the label claimed.
  • About 26% contained less CBD than promised.
  • About 31% were within 10 percentage points of the promise.

Also alarming to researchers was that about one in five of the CBD products contained THC, even though CBD products commonly tout their lack of the psychoactive ingredient.

The study drops just as international drug regulators are considering how to regulate CBD.

The World Health Organization, a United Nations health agency, heard testimony this week about whether CBD should come under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings last week to four CBD manufacturers about making health claims. The FDA believes that CBD has not undergone adequate scientific review for use as a drug therapy, though CBD sales are booming amid ongoing legal uncertainty about the product’s legal status.

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California cities may tax destroyed cannabis crops

Municipal governments across California are moving to tax marijuana cultivation facilities based on square footage, not on actual crop production.

Such an approach could mean cultivators will potentially have to pay taxes on crops that fail to generate revenue because they were destroyed by weather or other causes, like the recent wildfires, The Union reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cannabis growers in Northern California are still reeling from wildfires that destroyed more than 30 cultivation facilities in October.
  • Officials in Nevada City, California, have proposed annual taxes on cultivators of $4 a year per square foot of canopy if the grow uses artificial lights; $3 per square foot if a cultivator uses both natural and artificial lighting; and $1 per square foot for all natural grows. Voters still must approve the proposal.
  • The city said it followed the lead of other municipalities across the state when it drafted its tax structure.
  • A member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance’s executive committee attempted to convince Nevada City to base marijuana cultivation taxes on sales. But the city council said there was too little time to finalize the rules and get them on a ballot.