Cannabis Industry Daily News

Cannabis legalization plaintiffs make case, await judge’s ruling

After a roughly three-hour-long hearing in New York on Valentine’s Day, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit attempting to legalize marijuana on a national scale in the United States will have to be patient as they wait to hear if their case will move forward.

U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to grant a motion by the U.S. government to dismiss the case.

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The suit argues that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is unconstitutional and asks that marijuana be removed from the schedule of controlled narcotics.

The lawsuit was filed in July by a collection of plaintiffs who range from a retired NFL player to a young epileptic girl.

The judge “said on the record that he has a difficult decision to make, but we’re optimistic,” noted Lauren Rudick, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Rudick attributed her optimism, in part, to the fact the judge “made a finding of fact that there really can be no legitimate debate with respect to the medical efficacy of cannabis” when it comes to several of the plaintiffs.

“This is a judge that recognizes that cannabis is medicine, and that was really important,” Rudick said.

“I’m not sure if that’s ever happened in a federal court.”

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily

Liquor titan’s CEO: Alcohol companies eyeing cannabis industry

The CEO of one of the world’s largest liquor companies says the alcohol industry is keeping close tabs on the marijuana market – with one eye on the future.

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“We look at it closely. The whole sector is watching it closely,” said Alexandre Ricard, the CEO of Pernod Ricard, The Telegraph reported.

Pernod Ricard is a France-based spirits company that distributes brands such as Absolut Vodka, Chivas Regal Scotch whisky and Beefeater gin.

The admission from Ricard comes on the heels of two separate industry heavyweights investing heavily in the global future of cannabis: Liquor giant Constellation Brands entered the market last year and tobacco company Alliance One International did so last week.

Pennsylvania to launch medical marijuana sales this week

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania have been given the go-ahead by Gov. Tom Wolf to begin sales.

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According to Pennlive.com, the Cresco Yeltrah dispensary will begin sales Thursday, and five other facilities will open their doors by the end of the week.

Cresco Yeltrah is located in Butler, north of Pittsburgh.

Other dispensaries set to open this week:

  • Organic Remedies, Enola, Friday
  • Keystone Canna Remedies, Bethlehem, Friday
  • Solevo, Pittsburgh, Friday
  • Terra Vida Holistic Center, Sellersville, Saturday
  • Keystone Shops, Devon, Saturday

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in the spring of 2016 to treat 17 qualifying medical conditions.

Since then, the state’s regulators have developed the program ahead of schedule, something not commonly seen in the cannabis industry.

With more than 10,000 patients already registered, Pennsylvania’s MMJ program is poised to become one of the largest in the country,

Detroit issues moratorium on medical cannabis business permits

(This story has been updated from an earlier version.)

The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved another delay on the issuance of new medical marijuana business permits, a situation that has been contentious in the Motor City for years and which threatens the stability of the longstanding local MMJ industry.

The new 180-day moratorium on MMJ licenses comes about a month after the city decided to delay handing out permits due to a lawsuit, and according to the Detroit Free Press, City Councilman James Tate is drafting a new zoning and regulatory ordinance for cannabis companies.

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This all comes in the wake of the 2017 municipal elections in which voters approved a pair of initiatives to roll back restrictive MMJ business zoning ordinances that had been approved by the city council, and which resulted in the closure of at least 186 dispensaries in Detroit.

The new moratorium also throws into doubt the business future of the roughly 60 dispensaries that are legally operating in Detroit, since the state is requiring all MMJ companies to apply for business permits by Feb. 15, the Free Press reported.

If those dispensaries don’t get their local paperwork in order, the state could force them to close, at least temporarily.

Also, at least 14 lawsuits have been filed against the city by MMJ businesses that are trying to force the city to grant them business permits under the new ordinances approved by voters last year, the Free Press reported.

Marijuana analyzer company raises $2.25 million

An Israeli company that has been working on a commercial-scale cannabis analyzer has completed a $2.25 million Series A-1 round of funding.

GemmaCert, based in Tel Aviv, will launch its cannabis potency analyzer by the same name this week in San Diego at the Emerald Conference, a gathering focused on science and cannabis.

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The GemmaCert analyzer is about the size of a kitchen appliance and can be used by both commercial and home growers, the company said in a news release.

The $2.25 million will be used to launch the product, accelerate execution of business development plans, recruit new personnel “and drive us to generate first revenues in 2018,” CEO Dr. Guy Setton said in the release.

GemmaCert, founded in 2015, has raised more than $3 million to date.

The funding round was led by Arba Finance in Tel Aviv; NEO Ventures in Bern, Switzerland; and Stony Hill Corp., Damian Marley’s company based in Beverly Hill, California.

‘Critical flaw’ found in Ohio’s medical cannabis grow license scoring process

Ohio’s state auditor has found a “critical flaw” in the process used by the Ohio Department of Commerce to score business applications for a limited number of medical marijuana cultivation licenses.

According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Auditor Dave Yost said at least two Commerce Department employees had essentially unlimited access to the applications.

That means the employees could have altered scores in the highly competitive bidding process for the 24 MMJ cultivation permits the state issued in November.

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Specifically, the concern is that the two employees could have logged in as one of the 20 formal application reviewers.

“Because of this critical flaw in the procedure’s design, neither this office, nor the public, can rely upon the cultivator application results,” Yost wrote in a letter obtained by The Plain Dealer.

The Commerce Department told the newspaper it had updated its procedures to secure online usernames and passwords.

Regardless, the incident is just the latest fuel for ongoing criticism of Ohio’s licensing process.

In December, the Commerce Department came under fire for potential conflicts with at least two of the application scorers, which is part of what triggered Yost’s audit, The Plain Dealer reported.

So far, 69 of the losing cultivation permit applicants have appealed their scores, according to the newspaper.

Bipartisan coalition of US senators back medical marijuana protections

A group of 18 U.S. senators – including 15 Democrats and three Republicans – have sent a formal request to the heads of the Senate Appropriations Committee to reiterate their support for states’ rights when it comes to regulating marijuana.

The letter, which was announced by Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet’s office, comes in advance of what are expected to be heated budget negotiations before a March 23 deadline for a wide-ranging federal spending bill.

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A key federal protection for MMJ companies – the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – could expire if the new budget deal doesn’t include the amendment, which must be renewed annually to prohibit the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-licensed MMJ businesses.

The senators’ letter was also spurred in part by the Jan. 4 Sessions Memo, which threw the U.S. cannabis industry into turmoil and drew Colorado’s other senator – Republican Cory Gardner – into a political standoff with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over judicial nominees and cannabis policy.

The letter is mostly symbolic, since the Senate Appropriations Committee already adopted language from the amendment during budget talks last year.

The main questions now are whether the House will follow suit, and if not, how can the amendment’s provisions make it into the budget bill before the March deadline.

Tennessee raids shutter 23 stores for selling CBD products

Local authorities raided and padlocked 23 stores in the Nashville suburbs Monday because they sold CBD products.

Indictments were levied against 21 people who were selling “a candy that resembled Gummie Bears with CBD,” Nashville TV station WSMV reported.

In explaining the raid, Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said that cannabidiol is “an illegal drug” and CBD is “a derivative of marijuana,” according to WSMV.

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Tennessee allows hemp production for CBD extraction and has 23 state-licensed CBD producers.

But according to WSMV, Rutherford County District Attorney Jennings Jones said, “If you are selling (CBD) without a prescription or you’re not a pharmacy selling it to someone with a prescription for it, you’ve broken the law.”

The stores, mostly tobacco shops, were raided by local authorities after undercover officers purchased the products.

Authorities did not immediately identify the people facing criminal charges or what they are charged with.

Joe Kirkpatrick, president of the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, said the businesses will be cleared of wrongdoing.

“The law is very clear that an ingestible or topical industrial hemp derived products are legal as long as the product contains less than 0.3% THC,” Kirkpatrick said in a statement provided to WSMV.

Confusion over CBD’s legality has resulted in sporadic store raids and arrests from Indiana to North Dakota.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has said that CBD is an illegal drug; Congress has seemingly contradicted that claim by legalizing hemp products in 2014.

A lawsuit to settle the matter will be argued Thursday in federal appeals court.

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Cannabis legalization lawsuit gets key hearing Wednesday

By John Schroyer , Senior Reporter

A lawsuit that seeks marijuana legalization nationwide through the courts will face one of its first major hurdles Wednesday, when attorneys present oral arguments to halt the U.S. Department of Justice’s bid to dismiss the case.

The suit, filed in July by a collection of plaintiffs that range from a retired NFL player to a young epileptic girl, argues that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is unconstitutional and asks that cannabis be removed from the schedule of controlled narcotics.

If a New York state U.S. district court judge rules that the case can move forward, the suit could go to trial within another six months, said attorney Lauren Rudick, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

Rudick indicated, however, that her team could be in for a lengthy fight.

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“Shortest, we go to trial within the next three to six months,” Rudick told Marijuana Business Daily.

She added that the presiding judge has indicated “he believes this case will be decided on appeal.”

That means the case could drag on well into 2019 if not 2020 or beyond.

If the plaintiffs were to ultimately win, it would result in a de facto national legalization of cannabis by removing the drug from the list of federally controlled substances.

The most likely results in that scenario, according to Rudick, are:

  • Regulation of the MJ industry would still be left to the states, unless Congress acts in the wake of a court ruling to further change national cannabis laws.
  • Interstate shipping would probably still be banned unless specific states begin changing their laws to allow such moves.

But first comes the hearing Wednesday.

Rudick feels confident the suit will get the green light and noted that the judge has already granted the case “expedited status.”

“We think that the court is gearing up to hear this action,” she added.

US attorney general reiterates commitment to federal marijuana ban

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t wavering in his opposition to marijuana, even if it’s not a top priority for President Trump and the rest of his administration.

Sessions told a meeting of the National Sheriffs’ Association on Monday that it’s “frustrating” that he’s at loggerheads with others in Congress over marijuana policy, Forbes reported.

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The attorney general was almost certainly referring to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, who’s been delaying votes on Department of Justice nominees in response to Sessions’ decision to rescind several Obama-era cannabis policies in early January.

In a prepared version of his remarks, Sessions said:

“I cannot and will not pretend that a duly enacted law of this country – like the federal ban on marijuana – does not exist.

“Marijuana is illegal in the United States – even in Colorado, California and everywhere else in America.”

The president has not made cannabis policy a top priority or mentioned the topic specifically since taking office, with the exception of one ambiguous signing statement last May.

Sessions has also not taken any direct action – such as raiding state-licensed recreational marijuana businesses, something that would be entirely within his power – other than issuing his own DOJ policy memo on Jan. 4.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment prevents him from taking action against state-legal medical marijuana companies.

Colorado marijuana sales break another record, hit $1.5 billion in 2017

Despite falling marijuana prices, annual sales in one of America’s oldest regulated recreational cannabis markets have yet to plateau and instead continue to break records.

Colorado’s marijuana stores rang up a record $1.5 billion in sales of medical and recreational cannabis, edibles and concentrate products in 2017, according to data released by the state’s Department of Revenue.

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That’s up 15% from 2016, when retailers sold $1.3 billion, which was the previous record. In 2015, the state registered $996 million in sales.

Early in 2017, the state set some monthly records for sales even though wholesale cannabis prices were down 33%.

Adult-use sales topped $1.09 billion during the year, with the remaining $416.5 million coming from medical marijuana, according to the Denver Post.

It took Colorado just eight months to reach $1 billion in retail cannabis sales in 2017 – a record clip for the state.

In 2016, by contrast, it took Colorado 10 months to hit the $1 billion sales mark.

Colorado’s MMJ sales got a boost in June, when the state added post-traumatic stress disorder to its list of treatable conditions.

– Associated Press

Wisconsin tribe sues state for delaying CBD production

By Kristen Nichols , Hemp Editor

A Wisconsin tribe planning to produce hemp-derived CBD is suing the state because enforcement authorities say a new hemp law doesn’t necessarily clear the St. Croix Chippewa to start making cannabidiol.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Madison, comes weeks after Wisconsin expanded its limited CBD law by allowing hemp production.

The Chippewa have been planning to start growing and processing hemp in a former fish hatchery on their lands in northwestern Wisconsin.

The tribe wrote to Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel in December seeking assurances the tribe could start CBD production.

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But according to the lawsuit provided to Marijuana Business Daily, Schimel replied that he was “not in a position to make any promises” that the tribe could do so.

Wisconsin’s new hemp law allows hemp production and states that “cannabidiol and hemp seed oil have the ability to provide relief for more maladies than medical marijuana.”

But the law does not clarify the conditions under which CBD can be produced.

The tribe wants the federal court to state that Wisconsin’s CBD law has “no applicability on St. Croix tribal lands” and that delays to the Chippewa plans “will have a substantial detrimental impact” on the tribe.

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