Week in Review: New Jersey rec MJ legalization, Indiana hemp chaos & cannabis + wine

New Jersey’s governor-elect appoints a marijuana advocate to a key position, Indiana hemp retailers are ordered to remove CBD products from their shelves, and an Oregon judge allows a vineyard’s lawsuit against a planned cannabis grow to continue.

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

Keeping a promise

Marijuana legalization supporters are understandably confident that New Jersey will soon have a recreational cannabis law after pro-legalization governor-elect Phil Murphy selected the head of the state’s cannabis industry association, Peter Cammarano, as his chief of staff.

And they have reason to be confident, said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University.

“To bring in as a chief of staff someone so prominently identified with the legalization movement would seem to be the first step in fulfilling that campaign promise,” Baker said, referencing Murphy’s vow to legalize adult-use marijuana.

Achieving that goal won’t be effortless.

“This is not a universally popular move in New Jersey,” said Baker, noting that several prominent Democratic senators and assemblymen are “uncomfortable” with legalizing recreational marijuana. “The governor is going to have to do a selling job.”

But if Murphy, a Democrat, needs to spend some political capital to ensure legalization comes to fruition, he earned it by spending his campaign war chest to hire workers from the state’s county “political machines” to assist his overwhelming election victory.

“If the governor-elect wants to call in his chips,” Baker said, “he can do so.”

And many observers believe that adult use may already have enough support in New Jersey to pass.

All things considered, Baker said, “barring some unusual development, I would say the chances of legalization are much better than 50-50.”

Hoosier headaches

Indiana is a hot mess when it comes to cannabidiol, and a statement from the governor this week made it worse.

It’s legal, but you can’t sell it.

Or buy it. Or make your own.

And the Hoosier confusion got even more complicated when the governor told retailers they have 60 days to take CBD off their shelves, then pointed out the two-month window gives legislators time to change Indiana law so hemp-based products can be sold in the state.

Surprisingly, some Indiana hemp supporters say the mixed messages are helpful.

“It’s so chaotic and embarrassing that something has to be done,” said Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, who plans to introduce one bill authorizing CBD sales and a second measure to allow medical marijuana use.

Sadly, Indiana’s weird CBD purgatory isn’t unique.

Several states that allow limited CBD possession simultaneously ban making or selling the product:

  • Nebraska has told retailers they can’t sell hemp-derived CBD, though the product itself may be legal.
  • Kansas authorities waited two years after allowing CBD possession to let anyone produce it.

The CBD confusion will likely continue until either Congress or a federal court finally decides whether CBD is an illegal controlled substance, like marijuana, or a legal nutritional supplement.

Lucas is betting that public opinion will prompt the looser conclusion.

“The public is overwhelmingly in support of CBD,” he said.

Cannabis in wine country

An Oregon wine grower’s lawsuit to prevent a proposed cannabis cultivation operation because of potentially detrimental “foul-smelling particles” could be a sign of things to come.

As the number of regulated cannabis cultivation operations increase, so will the possibility for conflict between mainstream companies and marijuana firms.

Northern California’s wine country is ripe for these types of problems.

When licensed cultivation operations come out of the hills of the Emerald Triangle and operate in the open, Sonoma County, for example, would be an ideal location for a cannabis farm.

It has a great climate for agriculture and a built-in tourism base.

But what to do if your grape-growing neighbors don’t see it that way?

Even if a cultivation operation is properly zoned and licensed by the proper authorities, nearby vineyards might still be unhappy about its presence.

Kristin Nevedal – a Humboldt County-based board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association – recommends that cannabis cultivators practice community outreach.

“Don’t shock and awe them” by just planting cannabis and asking them to accept it, she said.

Instead, it might behoove growers to be proactive about buffering nearby landowners from cannabis odors.

Vineyards are often multigenerational businesses, and the owners are wary of newcomers.

“A lot of these communities are pretty tight-knit,” Nevedal said, pointing to Sonoma County as an example.

To avoid conflicts, she said, marijuana growers are going to have introduce themselves and prove their value to the community.

Omar Sacirbey can be reached at [email protected]

Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected]

Bart Schaneman can be reached at [email protected]

3 comments on “Week in Review: New Jersey rec MJ legalization, Indiana hemp chaos & cannabis + wine
  1. Paul Sorensen on

    It seems that this ‘problem’ is based on conjecture and not on scientific proof. How can a vineyard drive this case forward based on their opinion? If the cannabis has any affect at all, it may be a positive one.

    Reply
  2. Ronald Rader on

    Cannabis cultivators in-doors will almost certainly filter their exhaust air – no odors emitted. I’d presume any actual zoning laws would require this.

    Outdoors growing, yes I’d presume 100s of plants in 1 spot in the sun (or otherwise) could easily put out distinctive odors that some would find offensive.

    But to me, wineries seem even a dirtier, smellier and pollution-prone business. Would you want to be immediately downwind and downstream from a winery?
    Do vineyards (growing grapes) put out grape odors?
    How are the fermentation vessels (for wine making) vented? Are ethanol, grape and stinky yeast fermentation by-product odors fully filtered/removed before environmental release?
    How do vineyards dispose of their spent culture media fluids and glop from the fermenters that are masses of yeast, much of it living? By conventional standards (but probably grandfathered), these should quality as “hazardous waste” and/or perhaps a BSL-2 to 3 biosafety hazard, with all the cleanup requirements that go with these classifications.
    If off-property air samples were tested, would yeast spores of the strain used by the winery be detected?
    Do wineries disclose the fungal strains (now including genetically modified) they are cultivating in mass quantities and surely environmentally releasing (since they operate at very low aseptic/biosafety/release standards, e.g., compared to biopharmaceutical facilities)? Or has this been grandfathered too?

    Reply
  3. Rick Fague on

    Something like this happened in Oregon, I think, and the winery owner was able to satisfy a judge that their concerns were legitimate somehow.

    I don’t think they know whether having a legal grow next to a winery will hurt, help, or make no difference at all to a winery. Maybe they should try partnering, who knows, maybe MJ and wine grapes are complementary crops that actually help each other.

    A friend of mine grows grapes and weed fairly close to each other and his grapes are delicious but he doesn’t make wine with them, which makes me think the plants either work together or don’t affect each other negatively.

    Reply

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