Week in Review: Adult-use MJ sales still strong, fires burning California cannabis, Canada’s import policies scrutinized & more

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Recreational marijuana sales in key markets remained solid two weeks after enhanced federal jobless benefits expired.

MJBizDaily takeaway: That’s good news for the cannabis industry, but it’s still early and experts say that consumer spending patterns often change gradually.

President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that would restore $400 of the $600 a week enhanced jobless enhanced benefit.

But the executive action calls for states, which are hurting financially, to kick in $100 a week. Also, it’s unclear when the benefits will start, and how long the program would run.

Wildfires’ toll on California cannabis

Raging wildfires in Northern California have hit a number of marijuana farmers hard, devastating crops and causing large financial losses.

One grower reported losing 80% of her crop, while another said his losses might put him out of business entirely.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Wildfire risks in California and the western U.S. in general are getting worse with changes in the climate. Sonoma County, for instance, has endured serious wildfires in three of the past four years.

“People are living in flammable places, providing ignition, starting the wildfires against a backdrop of a warming climate that is making wildfires worse,” University of Colorado fire scientist Jennifer Balch told the Associated Press.

Moreover, marijuana farmers cannot secure federal crop insurance due to the U.S. government’s prohibition on the plant, making matters even worse for cannabis farmers in fire-prone areas.

Insurance from some private companies is available, but the cost of coverage is high and cultivators face narrow profit margins.

Growers might need to rethink their cultivation and business strategies.

Canada’s import policies draw ire

The Canadian government is being accused of restricting medical cannabis imports, while exports have soared to record levels.

At least one foreign government plans to make a formal appeal to Canadian government officials, Marijuana Business Daily learned.

MJBizDaily takeaway: There may be good reasons to limit imports, such as for health, safety and quality – not to mention the significant oversupply of product in Canada.

But Canada, which has the most developed and largest federally-regulated MMJ market in the world, also may be setting itself up for charges of unfair trade practices.

That, in the long term, might strain trade relations and cause some countries to go to one of a growing number of other medical cannabis exporters around the world.

If that happens, Canadian cannabis producers would have fewer export destinations.

Hemp farmers face uncertainty

Hemp farmers in many states are heading into the harvest season full of uncertainty about the rules.

A deadlock between state and federal regulators spilled over when New York told its hemp growers that it would no longer try to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture rules scheduled to go into effect Nov. 1.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The situation is a mess and leaves hemp farmers in many states without strong guidance.

The uncertainty also could be costly, such as if hemp farmers have to destroy crops later deemed non-compliant.

So far, just 20 states have had their plans approved by the USDA.

Several others, including Colorado, have been told to resubmit plans with revisions. Oregon’s U.S. senators are asking the USDA to delay its national rules.

Get more insights about the current economic, agricultural and regulatory developments impacting hemp in a brand-new report by Hemp Industry Daily and the Hemp Industries Association.

Legal challenges to marijuana scheduling

Two high-profile suits argue that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional.

Such classification is based on the argument that marijuana is unsafe and has no medical applications, but MJ advocates claim otherwise based on emerging research and medical cannabis use in state-legal programs.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The suits, if successful, could offer a backdoor toward legalization, compelling the federal Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule marijuana.

But the legal challenges may be long shots, and the generally accepted belief is that U.S. Congress rather than the DEA will either reschedule or deschedule marijuana over time.

Jeff Smith can be reached at jeffs@mjbizdaily.com