Cannabis Industry Daily News

Washington state eyes marijuana enforcement changes after study

Washington cannabis regulators are recommending changes in their enforcement policies after industry officials complained the state has been “heavy-handed” in its oversight.

The proposed changes come in response to a study conducted by a third-party consulting firm. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) commissioned the study.

In a conference call Thursday, LCB Director Rick Garza said based on the report’s findings the agency will recommend:

  • Creating a separate policy and legal department to make decisionmaking more efficient when interpreting laws.
  • Changing clothing policies with a “softer approach” in mind to make law enforcement personnel appear less intimidating to marijuana business owners.
  • Creating an education and outreach unit to communicate with cannabis companies about how decisions are made.

“We’ve always had a carrot-and-stick approach,” Garza said.

But the cannabis industry, he added, has long felt that law enforcement was too heavy on the stick and too light on the carrot.

The LCB commissioned the study by Chicago-based consultancy Hillard Heintze after the 2019 passage of Senate Bill 5318.

The new law is intended to reform the compliance and enforcement provisions for marijuana businesses.

The report found that, among the cannabis companies responding to the survey, primary concerns focused on how the LCB makes decisions, a lack of education and training for licensees as well as law enforcement’s approach to the industry.

The report stated that survey respondents from the cannabis industry tended to be more critical of the enforcement division than the respondents from the liquor industry.

The cannabis industry respondents were also more likely to believe regulators’ enforcement philosophy is “heavy-handed.”

– Bart Schaneman

Vermont lawmakers push for adult-use cannabis sales, taxation

Some Vermont lawmakers and other officials urged the full Legislature to pass a law to regulate and tax marijuana sales in the state, a renewed attempt to approve a full-fledged recreational market.

Though it became legal in July 2018 to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, the law contains no provision for the sale or regulation of the substance. Users must grow it themselves or buy it from illicit dealers.

Last February, however, the Vermont Senate passed a bill that would establish such a system, but the measure has not yet been acted upon by the House.

“It is past time to enact a bill creating safe, legal access to cannabis,” Democratic state Sen. Richard Sears, a longtime proponent of taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana in the state, said during a news conference at the statehouse.

“I am here to say that the Senate is ready to work with the House counterparts to move this bill.”

House leaders said last year they didn’t have time to take up the proposal.

Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he’s concerned about highway safety, and he’d like to see some effective way to measure impairment of drivers who use marijuana.

– Associated Press 

Illinois opens applications for additional marijuana license classes

Illinois regulators have opened the application process for cannabis entrepreneurs seeking craft grower, transporter and infuser licenses, paving the way for additional business opportunities in the state’s newly launched recreational market.

In a news release, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) said it will begin accepting completed applications on Friday, Feb. 14. The deadline is 5 p.m. CT on Monday, March 16.

The nonrefundable application fee for all licenses is $5,000.

Social equity applicants might be eligible for a fee waiver if they meet certain income and ownership limits, in which case the application fee would be $2,500.

Winning bidders would pay the following annual licensing fees:

  • $40,000 for craft growers.
  • $10,000 for transporters.
  • $5,000 for infusers.

The IDOA said that for 2020 it might issue up to 40 craft grower and infuser licenses each and an unlimited number of transporter licenses.

Licenses are scheduled to be awarded by July 1, 2020.

Those who qualify as social equity applicants will receive additional points on their application and are eligible to receive technical assistance, grants, low-interest loans and fee reductions and waivers.

More information can be found here. The applications are available on the department’s website.

NH House OKs bills expanding medical cannabis conditions

The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved two bills to make medical marijuana available to more patients by expanding the state’s list of treatable conditions, but a more expansive measure died in the Senate.

The House on Wednesday voted to add insomnia and opioid-use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions, though the latter would carry significant restrictions, including a requirement that certifying providers have specialized knowledge in addiction treatment.

That limitation could curb any potential sales boost.

An earlier version of one of the bills also sought to add anxiety and Lyme disease to the list, but those provisions were removed.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted Wednesday against making medical marijuana available for any condition for which treatment is determined to be necessary by a provider.

The Senate also voted to further study a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, and there are several new bills on that topic coming up later this session.

– Associated Press

Medical marijuana makes ballot in Mississippi

A business-friendly medical cannabis initiative has qualified for the November ballot in Mississippi.

The constitutional amendment, put forth by Mississippians for Compassionate Care, would prohibit the state from limiting the number of business licenses or setting prices for medical marijuana.

The Mississippi Department of Health would regulate the industry.

However, the Mississippi Board of Health already is balking, saying it opposes the initiative and that the state health department doesn’t have the capacity to oversee such a program.

– Jeff Smith

Rhode Island lawmakers seek to change medical cannabis rules

Rhode Island legislative leaders said Wednesday they’re seeking to undo a change to how medical marijuana stores are regulated.

The action comes in response to a lawsuit by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo.

A provision in the state budget approved in 2019 gave lawmakers the right to veto regulations imposed on the cannabis industry.

Raimondo sued, arguing the new law violates the state constitution’s separation of powers clause because it gives lawmakers “unchecked control” over executive rulemaking authority.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said they’re filing legislation to repeal the language that required lawmakers to approve rules and regulations relating to the expansion of licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.

They also took issue with how the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation proposed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, with Mattiello calling it “blatant overreach by the executive branch.”

– Associated Press

New York governor pledges to legalize adult-use marijuana

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday promised to legalize recreational cannabis in the state as part of his 2020 agenda.

The governor made his promise to legalize adult-use marijuana during his annual State of the State address.

The state is facing a multibillion-dollar budget gap and legalized recreational marijuana “could pour much-needed revenue into state coffers,” according to The New York Times.

Cuomo and state legislators failed to legalize recreational marijuana last year.

Last October, Cuomo met with four other Northeast governors to try hammer out uniform standards for adult-use cannabis in the region on items such as licensing, taxation, social equity, small-business participation and THC potency.

Cannabis giant Harvest Health seeks to terminate acquisition

Harvest Health & Recreation, an Arizona-based multistate marijuana operator, on Wednesday said it has filed a federal lawsuit against Falcon International seeking to terminate its merger agreement with the California-based company.

As part of the suit, Harvest also is seeking a return of $50 million it paid to Falcon under the merger agreement.

Harvest’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, alleges that Falcon failed to meet its legal obligations, including failing to provide auditable financial records to Harvest.

In a statement, Harvest said it remains committed to the “long-term potential of legal cannabis sales in California,” but, in the current market, it is “difficult to operate profitably there today.”

Earlier this week, Harvest said it plans to pay $87.5 million for Interurban Capital Group in Seattle.

Interurban is the owner and operator of Seattle-based Have a Heart, which has a total of 11 dispensaries in California, Washington state and Iowa. The company also has licenses for seven marijuana retail sites in California.

Massachusetts vaping death linked to marijuana

A man in his 70s who had reported vaping THC died from a vaping-related illness.

The unidentified man is the fourth person in the state whose death has been linked to vaping, The Boston Globe reported.

Many of the confirmed and probable vaping illness cases in Massachusetts have involved vaping THC in some form.

As of Wednesday, of 109 confirmed and probable cases, 40% vaped only THC, 35% vaped only nicotine, and 27% vaped both, according to the Globe.

Nationwide, most illnesses and deaths involving vaping cannabis products have been tied to the vitamin E acetate additive.

Last September, Massachusetts became the first state to temporarily ban all marijuana and tobacco products. The ban has since been lifted.

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis, click here.

Vireo’s Maryland medical marijuana workers ratify union pact

Multistate cannabis operator Vireo Health on Tuesday announced that employees at its wholly owned subsidiary in Maryland, MaryMed, overwhelmingly voted to ratify a collective-bargaining agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27.

The three-year agreement marks the first medical cannabis union contract ratified in Maryland, according to Vireo.

In October, the Minnesota-based company also signed the first cannabis labor pact in Pennsylvania.

The Maryland agreement will cover employees working in Vireo’s 20,000-square-foot Hurlock, Maryland, manufacturing facility, which supplies medical cannabis products to third-party dispensaries throughout the state.

Provisions of the contract, according to Vireo, include:

  • Competitive starting wages.
  • Access to health care.
  • Guaranteed annual wage increases.
  • Paid time off.

New Mexico medical cannabis firm wins $69,000 in lawsuit settlement

Officials of events company Expo New Mexico agreed to drop a pending appeal and pay $69,600 to medical marijuana company Ultra Health as part of a lawsuit settlement.

The settlement comes almost a year after a judge ruled that Expo New Mexico had violated Ultra Health’s First Amendment rights by restricting its free speech.

The legal dispute began after Expo New Mexico told Ultra Health it could not display marijuana or any paraphernalia related to cannabis use or cultivation in its proposed educational booth at the 2017 State Fair.

Ultra Health executives told the Albuquerque Journal they sued to preserve its free-speech rights to display marijuana and advocate for its use.

The company encountered problems at the 2016 New Mexico fair when State Police officers told company employees to leave the event after displaying a live cannabis plant.

– Associated Press

South Dakota to vote on adult use, medical marijuana

Voters in South Dakota will decide this year whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

Voters also will decide in November the fate of a measure to allow medical marijuana for patients with serious health conditions

South Dakota will become the first state to vote on both medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot, according to Matthew Schweich, deputy director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

In 2018, supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in the state failed to get enough signatures on a petition to get the measure in front of voters.

South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett said his office validated a petition for a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana for adults.

The measure also requires the state Legislature to enact a hemp cultivation law.

South Dakota lawmakers passed a bill in 2019 to legalize industrial hemp, but Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who strongly opposes cannabis legalization, vetoed the measure.

– Associated Press