Week in Review: US House sets marijuana legalization vote, new Massachusetts rules, MedMen woes & more

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One chamber of the U.S. Congress is poised to take a historic vote on legalizing cannabis at the federal level within the next few weeks.

The MORE Act, which would deschedule cannabis and thereby legalize it federally, is set to be considered by the Democratic-led House of Representatives the week of Sept. 21.

MJBizDaily takeaway: While the bill isn’t expected to make it through the Senate before the Nov. 3 elections, it could breathe new life into reform efforts if Democrats win back control of the Senate – and take control of the White House.

As currently written, the MORE Act would leave states in charge of regulating cannabis and create federal tax changes.

But at a broader level, this could lead to major consolidation, interstate commerce and a host of other changes.

Massachusetts votes on social equity changes

Massachusetts regulators agreed, in a preliminary vote, to allow delivery license holders to buy cannabis directly from wholesale growers and manufacturers.

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission also voted to increase from two years to three years how long those licenses will be exclusive to social equity and economic-empowerment applicants.

MJBizDaily takeaway: If approved during a final vote on Sept. 24, the move could increase the profitability of the delivery sector and benefit social equity and economic-empowerment applicants as well as give those businesses a longer period to become established and succeed.

More MedMen trouble

Multistate marijuana operator MedMen Enterprises was rejected for a conditional-use permit needed to open a planned retail outlet in Pasadena, California.

MJBizDaily takeaway: MedMen has yet to put its difficulties behind.

And this most recent denial by regulators proves that upheaval and instability can have lasting consequences for cannabis businesses.

When nine out of the 10 original owners of a company change after an application is initially filed – as was the case with MedMen – expect regulators to raise their eyebrows.

Investors get first US-focused cannabis ETF

The first U.S.-listed exchange-traded fund (ETF) that focuses solely on U.S. cannabis companies, including multistate operators, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange Arca as MSOS.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The Maryland company behind the fund, AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF, is targeting the U.S. marijuana market because its viewed as “exponentially larger” than the Canadian market.

At a time when investment is uncertain because of the global pandemic and ensuing recession, a fund that spreads out investment risk could help bolster U.S. cannabis companies.

Social equity lawsuit in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is facing another lawsuit over the city’s social equity program.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Three applicants for social equity marijuana retail permits sued the city and its cannabis regulators, claiming favoritism in the permitting process, among other complaints.

The lawsuit threatens to further gum up the works in a major market plagued by delays.

Canadian province to speed pace of new cannabis approvals

Ontario is set to double the number of cannabis stores it licenses per month.

The province – the largest market in Canada – got off to a slow start after the nation legalized marijuana in 2018.

With 164 adult-use cannabis store licenses, Ontario offers roughly 1.1 cannabis stores per 100,000 people. That’s second-lowest among Canada’s 10 provinces.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Canada’s large cannabis producers failed to plan for Ontario’s retail bottleneck, even though it was predicted.

So any increase in the pace of new store openings will help producers’ business prospects – as well as those of store owners.

Retail sales figures show raw store numbers are driving sales of regulated marijuana in Canada.

Smokable-hemp market sizzles

Smokable hemp is on track to be a market worth $300 million-$400 million in the U.S. by 2025, a fivefold increase over its current value, according to marketing analytics giant Nielsen.

Nielsen projects that total sales of hemp-derived CBD consumer products in the U.S. for 2020 will be $1.7 billion-$2 billion. The average of that range, $1.85 billion, would represent a 54% increase in sales from 2019 to 2020.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Marijuana operators should be watching the smokable-hemp market with interest.

That’s because low-THC hemp products appear to have some traction with consumers even in markets where high-THC smokable marijuana is also for sale.

Nielsen projects in a report exclusive to Hemp Industry Daily – sister publication to Marijuana Business Daily – that 75% of adults in the U.S. will have legal access to marijuana products by 2025.

Consumer surveys, meanwhile, indicate that a majority of U.S. adults likely to consume any cannabinoid-containing product are interested in CBD from hemp as well as CBD- and THC-dominant marijuana.

Bart Schaneman can be reached at barts@mjbizdaily.com

International Editor Matt Lamers and Hemp Industry Daily Editor Kristen Nichols contributed to this report.