Week in Review: Minnesota MMJ CEO Targets New York, Hemp Flub in Oregon + PA Bill Hits Wall

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By John Schroyer and Tony C. Dreibus

An executive with one of Minnesota’s two licensed medical marijuana businesses seeks a license in another state, hemp farmers in Oregon get some potentially troubling news, and medical cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania hits a wall.

Here’s a closer look at several notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

Crossing State Lines

Talk about hitting the ground running.

Kyle Kingsley – the chief executive officer of Minnesota Medical Solutions (MinnMed) – helped his company win one of just two licenses to grow and dispense MMJ in the North Star State.

Now, he’s filing an application with the New York Health Department for one of only five medical marijuana licenses in that state…even though MinnMed hasn’t even opened in Minnesota yet.

Kingsley told Marijuana Business Daily this week that Vireo Health, another business he founded, is working in conjunction with a New York company called Empire State Health Solutions and will likely file its application late next week, just before the deadline of June 5.

But Kingsley said his team has been working on the application since last summer, before Minnesota even announced which two companies won MMJ licenses.

“The New York and Minnesota laws are almost identical,” Kingsley said. “We’re physicians and scientists, so all we know is regulation, and if it were not regulated, it makes us uncomfortable.”

Indeed, smokeable marijuana is banned in both New York and Minnesota, and both programs are ultra-strict.

Kingsley said he’ll be looking at other opportunities in emerging markets, but only if they’re similar to New York and Minnesota.

“It’s really dictated by the law. If it’s Minnesota or New York-like, we’ll consider building a team and going for a license. If it’s not, if it’s a little bit more loosey-goosey, then we get a little nervous about that,” Kingsley said. “At this point, we’re 100% focused on New York.”

The Vireo and Empire State Health Solutions team has put “thousands and thousands” of hours into the New York application, and has a real estate team of at least 30 staffers, along with multiple physicians, engineers, pharmacists, horticulturalists and other professionals. That, combined with Kingsley’s working knowledge from Minnesota, puts the team in a good position to win a New York license, Kingsley said.

Or at least, he hopes so.

Hemproblems With Cannabusiness

Marijuana and hemp may be cousins, but they’re not the kissing kind in Oregon.

Earlier this week, lawmakers proposed revoking all 13 licenses issued to hemp growers after state agriculture officials admitted they made a mistake during the permitting process.

Officials failed to gather GPS location data and information about the size of farms – key information used to determine whether a hemp field could potentially cross-pollinate with nearby marijuana farm. Shortly after the permits were issued, marijuana farmers voiced their concerns, saying cross pollination would lower THC levels in their cannabis and thus reduce the value of their crop.

If the plan passes, growers who received licenses and already planted hemp would have to plow their fields, and the state may be on the hook to reimburse them for any costs they’ve incurred, according to the Bend Bulletin, a central Oregon newspaper.

The move would without a doubt end hemp production in some counties and irreparably harm the state’s industry, according to growers and lawmakers critical of the idea.

Aside from revoking the 13 licenses, state lawmakers proposed issuing six research permits that would give Oregon State University scientists permission to study possibility of cross-pollination between hemp and marijuana. The proposal also would ban hemp production within five miles of a marijuana cultivation site.

“There is not a single valley or single location in our county that would work” for hemp cultivation under those rules, said Cheryl Walker, a commissioner in Josephine County, which has a large number of marijuana production facilities.

MMJ Stayin’ Alive in Pennsylvania

Although hopes dimmed this week for medical marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, the issue isn’t totally dead.

An MMJ bill that sailed through the state Senate a few weeks ago has hit a wall in the House, as it was assigned to a committee chaired by anti-cannabis Republican lawmaker who has killed medical cannabis bills for the past six years.

How has he done it? Simple: He refuses to bring the measures up for a vote.

But there are a few ways other legislators could get around Baker, according to Chris Goldstein, co-chair of the Philadelphia chapter of NORML.

For example, if 25 legislators petitioned the Speaker of the House, they could get the bill reassigned to a different committee, where it would stand a better chance of getting to a full vote on the floor of the House, Goldstein said. Or another representative could introduce parallel legislation that does essentially the same thing as the current bill, but finagle it so that the new measure doesn’t wind up in Baker’s committee.

Furthermore, because Pennsylvania has two-year legislative cycles, the House has until late 2016 to either pass the current measure or introduce one of its own. (In the latter case, the Senate would then have to re-pass whatever measure the House agreed on.)

Regardless of how the situation plays out, however, Goldstein isn’t really thrilled at the prospect of the current measure passing. A vocal critic of the measure – Senate Bill 3 – Goldstein said the measure is overly strict.

“Pennsylvania has a complex chance of passing a really crappy bill,” Goldstein said.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizmedia.com

Tony C. Dreibus can be reached at tonyd@mjbizmedia.com