Marijuana advertising lawAs California prepares to vote to legalize recreational cannabis on election day, opponents of Proposition 64 continue to raise concerns that legalization will lead to increased public consumption of marijuana due to Prop 64’s “lax rules on marketing.” These opponents cite to reports, such as the one released by the UCSF Center for Tobacco Research and Education back in February, which claim that marijuana should be regulated in the same way as tobacco due to public health problems associated with marijuana use. On the other hand, proponents of Prop 64 argue that banning marketing of marijuana “would defeat the purpose of legalization, which requires a retail system to defeat the black market.” These parties have been fighting over these issues for a while now, including filing lawsuits against each other’s ballot arguments regarding Prop 64’s true effects on the future of marijuana advertising in California.

To provide some clarity on the matter, “advertising” is defined under Prop 64 to include written or graphic materials, billboards, publications, as well as radio or television broadcasts, while “marketing” is any promotion or selling of marijuana or marijuana products, including sponsoring sporting events and developing products specifically designed to appeal to certain demographics. The potential use of TV ads is a sticking point for Prop 64’s supporters and opponents. In fact, the status of TV ads is also unclear in states such as Colorado, Washington, and Oregon due to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) lack of guidance on the matter. Prop 64 limits ads in broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital mediums to placements where at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be at least 21 based on reliable, up-to-date audience data.

Prop 64 also requires the following of any advertisements or marketing by a state-authorized marijuana licensee:

  1. That they accurately and legibly identify the licensee responsible for its content;
  2. That they use a method to confirm age if involving direct, individual communication by the licensee; and
  3. That they be truthful and appropriately substantiated.

Prop 64 also specifically prohibits licensees from advertising or marketing marijuana in the following ways:

  1. On a billboard located on an Interstate Highway or State Highway that crosses the border of any other state;
  2. In a manner intended to encourage people under 21 to consume marijuana;
  3. With symbols, language, music, gestures, cartoon characters or other content known to appeal primarily to people under 21;
  4. On an advertising sign within 1,000 feet of a day care center, K-12 school, playground, or youth center; and
  5. Through free giveaways of marijuana or marijuana accessories as part of a business promotion.

Assuming Prop 64 passes in November, TV ads for marijuana aren’t expected to air in California any time soon. Marijuana will still be a controlled substance under federal law and there is a longtime federal ban against cigarette smoking ads instituted in the Nixon era. Thus, without clear guidance, state broadcasting stations are choosing to stay away from the issue by avoiding marijuana ads. However, independently owned stations seem less hesitant to run the ads and with other options like billboards and online marketing still available, California cannabis companies should be reviewing their marketing campaigns for legal compliance because those ads may soon be reaching a much larger recreational cannabis market.

DocumentsOur cannabis business lawyers have recently been making the rounds with our many and varied cannabis clients in Oregon, Washington and California, and creating an inventory of which businesses have executed operating agreements (in the case of an LLC), shareholder agreements and bylaws (in the case of a corporation) and the odd partnership agreement (in the case of a limited partnership). Too often, we learn that a business may be operating informally, against advice. Because many cannabis entrepreneurs are used to operating informally, we tend to push this conversation pretty hard.

In all 50 states, companies are subject to statutes that govern their members and shareholders, directors and officers. These laws tend to cover basic provisions like what happens when a company is dissolved administratively or judicially, or what duties an owner may owe her co-owners, and even the company itself. Sometimes, people are surprised to learn about default rules that give all members equal management rights, or require unanimity for certain key actions. The default rules almost never cover issues unique to the company, like ownership percentages or contributions of capital, to name just a few.

Whenever two or more parties own a business, lack of basic documentation is dangerous, and this is especially so for cannabis businesses. People inevitably develop their own ideas as to “what the deal was.” When disputes happen, there may be nothing to fall back on but text and email fragments, or fuzzy recollections of who said what, and when. No one can point to a governing framework; no one can point to a clear way out.

There are several reasons parties ultimately fail to execute company documents, but here are the big three:

  1. It’s an expense. Resources may be limited at the start of a business venture, and the parties feel that company documents can be negotiated at some later date.
  2. It’s confusing. People may not understand basic concepts like capital account protocol, member withdrawal, drag- or tag-along rights, or any number of standard entity considerations.
  3. It’s uncomfortable. People may be averse to negotiating “against” their partners, particularly at the outset of a business venture. Or people may just feel nervous signing a formal agreement, despite the fact that they are running a business.

None of these reasons are good ones, and spending some time and money at the outset of a business venture to get things right will almost always pay off in the end. The compilation of company documents does not necessarily need to be a great expense: many cannabis companies are lightly structured to start, though others opt for complex tiers of ownership and highly nuanced management. Still, parties can often agree to basic documents without each owner hiring her own attorney or becoming mired in intractable negotiation.

A skilled cannabis business attorney will be able to walk the parties through the early steps of entity formation, explain unfamiliar terms, and facilitate conversation about what you should do and what you should not. In cannabis, each state presents unique rules on business ownership and licensing, and it is imperative to address the implications of federal illegality on company structure up front. If you are operating without agreements in your cannabis business, you are courting risk and conflict. And if your ownership or operations have changed since the time you first put ink to paper, it’s time to dust them off and have a look.

Cannabis trademark lawyerWe’ve written extensively on cannabis trademarks and the unique issues posed by the fact that cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Some of the highlights can be found here:

We also like to write about more forward-thinking issues that could affect the cannabis industry, like plain packaging regulations and counterfeit goods, in order to help our clients and business owners prepare for what may be coming down the pipeline. One such issue we’ve been considering is how the cannabis industry will be affected if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moves cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is reserved for drugs that have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical application, and a lack of acceptable safety standards for use under medical supervision, to Schedule II, allowing for more research and potentially making FDA-approved derivatives of cannabis available for prescription (with substantial restriction, natch).

Moving cannabis into the pharmaceutical realm would implicate a whole host of other federal laws and regulations, including rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review, and naming requirements that go beyond merely obtaining a federal trademark for your brand. Without venturing into the quagmire that is FDA review, the purpose of this post will be to give an overview of how the naming of cannabis “drugs” would change in the context of pharmaceuticals.

Marketed drugs have three different names: a chemical name, a generic name, and a brand name. The chemical name is the drug’s scientific name and, being generally unknown to the general population, is not used to identify the drug in clinical or marketing situations. The generic name is assigned by the United States Adopted Names (USAN) Council, and will be commonly used to identify a drug during its clinical lifespan. The brand name, which is always trademarked, is selected by the company that patents the drug and obtains 17 years to exclusively make, sell and use the drug pursuant to patent law.

A five-step process is undertaken in naming a marketable drug:

  1. New Chemical Entity (NCE) and patent application;
  2. Generic naming;
  3. Brand naming;
  4. FDA review; and
  5. Final approval.

Step one consists of submitting data on any newly discovered compound to the FDA for classification as an NCE to obtain authorization to begin animal testing to determine the effects of the compound. This step also includes beginning the patent application process, which can take multiple years to complete. After NCE classification, the USAN Council, which is composed of members of the United States Pharmacopeia, the American Medical Association, the American Pharmaceutical Association, and the FDA, creates and assigns a generic name to the chemical. The generic name is then sent to the World Health Organization for final approval. The USAN has certain criteria for naming, including that the name must be:

  1. Short;
  2. Easy to pronounce;
  3. Euphonic;
  4. Suitable for use in both the U.S. and internationally;
  5. Not misleading nor confusing;
  6. Not implying efficacy; and
  7. Not implying application to particular anatomical parts.

The process and considerations for developing a brand name to trademark are nearly identical to that of any other industry, in that the name cannot be generic or descriptive, and cannot be the same as or confusingly similar to any existing marks. Just as with the generic drug name, brand names to be registered with the USPTO for federal trademark protection cannot be misleading or misdescriptive. Additionally, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) will evaluate, prior to the marketing of a drug, the “potential for a proposed proprietary name (i.e., ‘brand name’) to cause or contribute to medication errors as part of the Center’s focus on the safe use of drug and therapeutic biologic products.” The purpose of this review is to ensure accurate interpretation of the product’s name for product procurement, prescription, preparation, dispensing, and administration to patients. Healthcare practitioners rely on a drug’s name as a critical identifier of a product amongst thousands of other drugs. Confusing names can lead to administering the wrong product to patients or dispensing the product incorrectly.

While this is a very brief, high level overview of the pharmaceutical naming process, the takeaway is that if cannabis moves from Schedule I to Schedule II of the CSA, the complexities of branding and trademarking may change, but they certainly won’t disappear.

hawaiiThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. We have finally hit the top ten. The remaining states all have legalized medical marijuana and the criminal penalties in the remaining states range from bad to good, but many have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Today we head to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to cover Hawaii. 

Our previous rankings are as follows: 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.


Criminal Penalties. Hawaii punishes possession of less than one ounce of cannabis with a maximum of 30 days imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000. Possession of one ounce to one pound earns up to a year in prison and a maximum $2,000 fine. Possession of 1-2 pounds earns up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The possession of larger amounts are classified as possession with intent to distribute, with the following penalties:

  •  2-25 pounds earns up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $25,000 fine.
  • Over 25 pounds earns up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

The sale or distribution of cannabis in Hawaii is punished based on the amount of cannabis, as follows:

  • Less than 1 ounce earns up to 1 year in prison and a maximum $2,000 fine.
  • 1 ounce to 1 pound earns up to 5 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • 1-5 pounds earns up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $25,000 fine.
  • Over 5 pounds earns up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

Hawaii lawmakers may soon pass groundbreaking decriminalization legislation. Extract reports that the State recently approved a proposal to study decriminalizing all drugs for personal use. Several states have decriminalized small amounts of cannabis but none have yet decriminalized all drugs.

Medical Marijuana. Hawaii first implemented medical cannabis in 2000, but overhauled the program in 2015 to allow for and to regulate marijuana dispensaries. To participate in Hawaii’s medical cannabis program, Hawaii patients must obtain a written authorization from a physician after being diagnosed with a qualifying condition, include the following:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • PTSD
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe Pain
  • Severe Nausea
  • Seizures, including Epilepsy
  • Severe and Persistent Muscle Spasms, including Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn’s Disease

Physicians must register the names, addresses, patient identification numbers, and other identifying information of their cannabis patients with the Department of Public Safety. Hawaii recognizes medical marijuana authorizations from other states, but out-of-state cannabis patients must register with the State before purchasing marijuana.

Hawaii cannabis patients may possess up to four ounces of “usable marijuana,” which does not include the seeds, stalks, and roots of the cannabis plant. Hawaii also allows for home-growing of up to seven cannabis plants.

The Honolulu Civil Beat reports that eight companies were selected “to receive licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana: three on Oahu, two in Hawaii County, two in Maui County and one in Kauai County.”  Hawaii medical cannabis dispensaries were permitted to start dispensing cannabis to patients on July 1, 2016, but Hawaii’s medical marijuana program is not yet operational.

Bottomline. Hawaii has relatively light criminal penalties for marijuana possession and it is researching widespread decriminalization of all drugs, not just cannabis. Hawaii’s medical marijuana program shows promise, and recent changes and proposed changes in its cannabis and its drug laws indicate its lawmakers are learning from other states’ models. For these reasons, we rank the Aloha state number ten in our State of Cannabis series.


Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is correct–if you want to consume medical marijuana, you should be able to do so. The word “somewhere” gives a nod to the somewhat common notion that marijuana decisions should be made on the state level. We don’t disagree, and in fact wrote previously on how cannabis in the United States has been a state-by-state experiment.

However, where Governor Perry misses the mark is when he says “go somewhere.” We are past the point where anyone should have to move or travel to obtain cannabis, especially (but not exclusively) if that cannabis will be used as medicine. Yet that is exactly the situation we’re in. Only twenty five states have legalized medicinal marijuana and far fewer have legalized it for recreational use.

There are heavy costs associated with having to travel to another state to obtain cannabis for medicine. Even if one can afford those costs, it isn’t a simple process to obtain medical marijuana in another state or the state in which one resides. Medical cannabis requires a doctor’s authorization, and in many cases, there are certain requirements that go along with a doctor’s ability to even authorize medical marijuana for a patient. There are also heavy costs for those imprisoned for consuming what is illegal in one state yet legal in another.

These inequitable costs and obstacles are just another reason why we need to attain national legalization. It’s high time we legalize everywhere, for everyone.

Home grown cannabis
Colorado and Montana both have beautiful scenery and mediocre home grown cannabis laws

As cannabis reform has spread across the United States, it has given birth to a marketplace increasingly driven by business interests. This is the fourth installment in our series looking at how the changing landscape of cannabis policy affects a key group of often-overlooked stakeholders: medical marijuana patients who choose to cultivate their own supply of medicine. Go here for the home grown laws in Washington and Oregon, here for the home grown laws in California and Alaska, here for the home grown laws in Michigan and Illinois, and here for the laws in New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and here for the laws in Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico. Though there are undeniably many benefits to the expansion and professionalization of the commercial cannabis industry, it is also important to account for these small-scale medical marijuana producers that started it all.

This week we look at the laws governing home cultivation of cannabis in Colorado and Montana. These states’ laws largely track the home grown rules of other states and underscore how home-grown laws can lag behind general cannabis reform.

Colorado. In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which established a medical marijuana program in the state for qualified patients. In 2012, Colorado then became the first state to legalize recreational possession and consumption of cannabis. Colorado’s medical marijuana program permits home cultivation in a way similar to many states that have not authorized recreational legalization, however. Under current state law, a medical marijuana patient or primary caregiver who possesses a Medical Marijuana Registry identification card can possess two ounces of usable marijuana and six cannabis plants (three of which may be flowering at the time). Patients who possess more than the allotted amount available to them have an affirmative defense of medical necessity if arrested for possessing a larger amount prescribed by their physician. Cannabis plants must be enclosed within locked premises that are not visible to the public. The rules vary somewhat for households that do and do not have minor residents, the underlying policy being to protecting minor residents from exposure to outdoor or otherwise accessible cannabis grow operations. Home cultivated marijuana cannot be sold to any other person, patient or not – only licensed producers are permitted to sell cannabis into the recreational market.

Montana. Montana initially approved of medical marijuana by ballot initiative in 2004 and the program survived a 2011 attempt at repeal. Montana currently permits home cultivation of cannabis by patients. In its fairly standard medical marijuana legislation, Montana permits registered cardholders to possess up to four mature, flowering cannabis plants and as many as twelve seedlings. From this, a patient may possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana. In addition, a registered cardholder who assigns a primary caregiver to provide them with their medicine is not allowed to grow their own cannabis as well. Since Montana does not have state-licensed dispensaries the importance of home cultivation is elevated. A Montana cannabis caregiver can provide for only two patients at one time.

California cannabis taxesOn November 8, Californians will have the chance to vote to legalize recreational cannabis use through Proposition 64 (also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA). In addition to legalizing and regulating recreational cannabis across the state, Prop 64 will also add state level taxes for licensed dispensaries and cultivators.

Beginning in 2018, a 15% marijuana excise tax would be assessed on the gross receipts of any retail sales of cannabis. Though the tax is technically owed by the purchaser of the marijuana or marijuana product, the obligation to collect the tax is on the seller (e.g. the dispensary) as with other sales and use taxes applied in California. There is an exception to the excise tax for sales of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products, but only if a qualified patient or caregiver provides a Medical Marijuana Identification Card issued by the state. Though the decision to register as a medical marijuana patient with California has until now been completely voluntary, Proposition 6 will require a card if a patient seeks to avoid paying the 15% state tax.

Also beginning in 2018, a cultivation tax on all harvested marijuana that enters the commercial market will be assessed at a rate of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. The tax will be collected from licensed cultivators but excludes any marijuana cultivated for personal use or by a qualified patient or primary caregiver under California’s Compassionate Use Act.

In addition to the potential state level tax, both the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which regulates medical cannabis businesses in California, and Prop 64 grant authority to California cities and counties to impose local taxes on licensed cannabis businesses. Thus, several municipalities have included local tax measures on the November 8 ballot as well.

In Northern California, proposed tax measures for cultivators in Lake County, Calaveras County, Monterey County, and Humboldt County will be assessed based on total square footage of the grow. Mendocino County has two separate tax measures on the ballot, one from the County’s Board or Supervisors and one from local cannabis advocates, both with a 2.5% tax based on gross sales of medical marijuana but with the latter including a higher 5% tax on recreational sales.

In Southern California, a proposed tax measure in San Diego will tax dispensaries starting at a rate of 5% and rising to 8% in 2019. This falls within the range of local taxes for dispensaries currently in place in major California cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Palm Springs, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Stockton, and Berkeley. Palm Springs and Cathedral City are currently tied for the highest local taxes in California with rates of up to 15%, but a tax measure in Santa Barbara could begin taxing businesses there at a rate of 20%. Stockton and Berkeley are currently tied for the lowest local taxes at a rate of 2.5%, though a November tax measure could raise tax rates in Stockton if passed. Several of the desert towns in the Southern California region have also recently started permitting and taxing cannabis businesses in an effort to raise tax revenue to bolster their local economies. Coachella will vote on a measure to add taxes of up to 6% on gross sales and $15 per square foot of space each quarter.

Any marijuana taxes are assessed on top of California’s usual state and local sales taxes that are determined based on locality. Currently those tax rates range from 7.5% to 10%, which means with everything added together some cannabis businesses could be looking at an effective tax rate of almost 45%. For California cannabis businesses owners, as well as for any California cannabis consumers concerned about the prices they pay, a lot will be at stake during November’s elections.

imagesWe are proud and excited to announce that our lead Oregon attorney, Vince Sliwoski, has been appointed an Adjunct Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. Starting in January, Vince will teach an upper level course on Cannabis Law and Policy to second and third year law students. You can read the law school’s announcement here and view the course description here.

Lewis & Clark describes Vince’s class as follows:

The legal status of cannabis is changing rapidly across the U.S. While cannabis remains a controlled substance federal law, a slight majority of states now have medical and recreational laws permitting some uses. At the same time, cannabinoids (components of cannabis plants that are separate from the psychoactive THC components) have potential for medical and therapeutic uses. There is also a renewed interest in the use of industrial hemp for cheap, resilient materials.

This class covers a wide range of legal issues confronting cannabis, marijuana, and hemp uses. In particular, it surveys the legal aspects of the emerging markets for these substances, using Oregon as its state-level focal point. Topics surveyed in this class include constitutional law, business law, intellectual property, tax, banking, bankruptcy, anti-trust and legal ethics. Expert practitioners in these areas will provide guest lectures to frame the issues for students, who will develop their paper topics under the guidance of the instructor.

With the advent of state level marijuana, the legal community has begun to respond to market demand, including on the critical issue of educating the next generation of industry attorneys. Our firm, Harris Moure has served the industry since 2010 through our Canna Law Group and we are honored that Oregon’s best private law school has recognized our industry leadership by selecting Vince to teach this class.

We also cannot help but use this as an opportunity to reflect on how far the legal cannabis industry has come in the Northwest. When we first started practicing cannabis law six years ago, there were serious doubts regarding the legal ethics of our providing advice to cannabis businesses. We were of the strong view that if cannabis were to be state legal, state legal businesses deserved legal representation and that providing such representation would be — had to be — legal. But it took a formal ethics opinion from our state bar to confirm that. For more on the ethics of being cannabis lawyers, check out the following:

For us, this teaching position is further vindication of what we and other cannabis business attorneys do. On our Canna Law Blog Facebook Page, we often post articles that show how the legalization of cannabis is leading to the normalization of cannabis. We see Lewis & Clark’s appointing Vince to its faculty as another giant step forward towards normalization of cannabis, specifically in the legal arena. And we look forward to the day when such a class will be commonplace at law schools nationwide.

Though we are fine with taking the lead in this practice, we will admit that confirmation by our peers and the academy is very meaningful to us. We have always viewed it as part of our mission to help educate the next generation of cannabis lawyers. For that reason, all of our cannabis lawyers speak often in front of law students, lawyers and industry groups. In addition to Vince’s frequent presentation at law schools and legal events:

  • Robert McVay and Hilary Bricken have been guest lecturers at the University of Washington’s Cannabis Law and Policy Project and spoken at other law schools.
  • Alison Malsbury speaks often to lawyer groups and to law schools on cannabis intellectual property.
  • Tiffany Wu, who heads up our California cannabis practice, speaks and writes regularly on California’s new and evolving cannabis laws.
  • Nadja Vietz, who runs our Barcelona office (and is licensed to practice law in Spain, Germany and the United States), is a leader in the legalization movement in Spain and in Germany.
  • Daniel Shortt, our newest cannabis attorney in Seattle, has already presented before industry groups and in front of law school classes, and works closely with cannabis policy groups.

This ongoing education and outreach connects us to OUR community and helps spread the good word about the cannabis industry and how much better legalization is for everyone. Our first job is practicing law, but our second job is to help educate via this blog, our Facebook page, and by getting out, speaking and teaching.

As to the early word on enrollment for Vince’s Lewis & Clark class, we were not surprised to hear that the class filled in less than 30 minutes, with a long waiting list to boot. Good luck to Vince in teaching this class, and stay tuned for more coverage on educational opportunities provided by our attorneys in Oregon, Washington, California and elsewhere.

Organic cannabis lawsThe Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is getting involved in cannabis regulation, and that could mean a new program for state-licensed producers to certify their cannabis as organically grown. Branding is critical for cannabis business owners, not only to differentiate themselves from other companies, but to assure consumers of the quality of their products. We’ve seen many in the industry grow frustrated by the lack of accountability for pesticides and contaminants in products, and by the inability of business owners to tout their cannabis as organic.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (the “Board”) has already contracted with the WSDA to regulate and test for pesticides and potency, and the WSDA’s budget proposal, submitted to Governor Jay Inslee, includes seeking legislative approval for a state-level, self-supporting organic cannabis certification program. The certification would not use the term “organic,” and would need an “alternative marketing term” due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) monopoly on setting organic labeling rules.

Labeling a product as “organic” requires a certification, and that certification is granted and regulated by the USDA. Congress set forth general organic principles in the Organic Foods Production Act, and the USDA defines specific organic standards. Although alternative certifications do exist for cannabis and cannabis products, none are approved by or affiliated with the USDA, and they therefore are not your typical “organic” certification. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, the USDA will not undertake to certify cannabis and cannabis products as organic. And stating that a product (cannabis or otherwise) is “organic” without this certification amounts to illegal false and misleading advertising. See Organic Marijuana: Not Exactly.

Washington would not be the first state to consider tackling the organic certification issue. In February, Colorado lawmakers introduced House Bill 16-1079, which would create a certification program for Colorado cannabis that is pesticide-free. The summary of the bill states that “Because marijuana and hemp are illegal under federal law and federal law governs whether a product can be labeled or advertised as ‘organic’, marijuana or hemp that is cultivated, processed, and sold in accordance with state law currently cannot be labeled or advertised as ‘organic.’” The bill “directs the commissioner of agriculture to promulgate rules governing a program to enable consumers to easily identify medical and retail marijuana and industrial hemp that have been cultivated and processed without the use of pesticides. The department of agriculture will certify third parties who can certify whether the marijuana or hemp cultivated or processed at a particular cannabis facility is free of pesticides, [and the bill would] allow marijuana product labels to include a standardized notification that the marijuana has been certified as being pesticide-free.”

The WSDA already certifies approximately 1,100 agricultural operations in the state of Washington as organic. According to the report, the fee to cannabis business owners for certification would be approximately $1,800, and would provide a “guarantee of integrity,” something that has become increasingly important to consumers with the integration of Washington State’s medical marijuana system into the I-502 recreational marijuana system.

Cannabis consumers are demanding assurance that the cannabis products they purchase and consume are safe and business owners should be able to give that assurance and market their products as organic if they truly are pesticide-free. We see this as a step in the right direction toward a safe and transparent cannabis industry in Washington State, and we will be following the WSDA’s new role in the industry closely and reporting back to you as things (hopefully) change.

For more on organic cannabis and pesticides and cannabis, check out the following:


Top TenThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. This week we take a break from the actual rankings to recap what we have seen so far, and to look forward to the remaining ten states.

So far we have covered 40 states, ranked as follows: 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

These rankings are a snapshot of how states treat cannabis in 2016 but if we were to start it all over today, it would look a bit different. Marijuana policies and laws can and do change rapidly. See Ten Things to Avoid To Succeed with Your Marijuana Business. Some of the states we covered in this series have drastically changed their policies on marijuana since we wrote about them. Illinois decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis shortly after we ranked it at number 22. Had Illinois decriminalized just a bit sooner, we no doubt would have ranked it at least a few slots higher. Tennessee (especially Nashville) has made moves to decriminalize and it appears more such moves are on the horizon. Ohio voted to legalize medical cannabis, though actual legalization is probably still years away. Just recently, New Jersey expanded its medical program. Florida has unworkable medical marijuana, but on November 8, its voters are likely to approve new medical marijuana laws, and if and when that happens, its ranking at 39 will be far too harsh. The same could be said of Arkansas and North Dakota, who will also vote on medical marijuana on Election Day, though the odds of their cannabis legalization measures passing are not as high as Florida’s.

This series illustrates both the dramatic differences in how states treat cannabis and how cannabis laws on a state and even local level within states can change quickly and dramatically. We have already covered 40 states and no two states are the same when it comes to cannabis. Differences between states can be drastic, even among states that share a border. Idaho shares its borders with two states with legalized recreational cannabis (Washington and Oregon), but it has some of the harshest, most backward marijuana laws in the country. A person can legally get high in Washington or Oregon, walk over the border into Idaho, and end up facing up to six months in an Idaho prison for being high in public. Chew on that for just a moment.

With 40 states down, we still have ten to go. Listed alphabetically below are the states we have not yet ranked:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Washington

The remaining states all have legalized medical cannabis and none have criminal penalties nearly as bad as our worst-ranked states. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State have all legalized recreational marijuana as well. And they may soon have company as California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will be voting on legalizing recreational marijuana on November 8, 2016. Arizona voters are also set to vote on recreational cannabis, but we ranked it at 26 due to its harsh criminal penalties. Obviously, if Arizona does fully legalize, its ranking at 26 will instantly be too harsh.

We will continue to rank states based on their criminal laws and medical programs. Now that we are in the top ten we will also need to incorporate into our rankings how the various recreational marijuana regimes compare.

Which is the best state for cannabis? Who should be number 1 when all is said and done? We welcome your comments.