Cannabis attorneysCan your neighbors file a civil RICO suit against you in federal court and allege that your state-legal cannabis business is an organized crime operation? A decision from the Tenth Circuit of Appeals handed down this month suggests they can.

The case, Safe Streets Alliance v. John Hickenlooper, concerned a dispute between neighbors that own adjacent plots of open land in rural Colorado. Though neither party lived on their respective properties, one of the defendants used his to house a state-legal commercial cannabis grow operation on his. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, preferred to use their land to ride horses and recreate with their children. The plaintiffs alleged that the odor of cannabis prevented them from enjoying their land and diminished its value; they also alleged that they were harmed by the indignity of having to see a “criminal operation” from their land.

So far this story sounds like a fairly garden-variety nuisance lawsuit with which many other cannabis growers have had to deal. See California Cannabis NIMBYs and Land Use Disputes and How To Handle A Neighbor Who Wants To Shut Down Your Cannabis Business. But what makes this case so important is that one of plaintiffs’ causes of action was a RICO claim. RICO, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is a law originally intended to thwart conventional organized crime and it brings down the hammer: losing a RICO suit can mean the plaintiff is awarded three times its actual money damages as well as attorney’s fees. By its very design, RICO is intended to be ruinous to organizations caught in its crosshairs.

The Tenth Circuit addressed the RICO claim with the same basic federal supremacy arguments with which all cannabis litigants struggle. The court stated that the organization with the cannabis grow operation was indeed a “criminal organization” as defined under federal law and sided with the plaintiffs’ contention that it is reasonable to infer that property owners do not want their land to be adjacent to a criminal enterprise. Note, however, that as an appellate court the Tenth Circuit decides issues of law and ultimately sent this case back to the trial court for a factual determination. Indeed, the panel speculated that it might be true that the plaintiffs’ land was in fact, more valuable because of its suitability for the cultivation of marijuana. Stay tuned to see how the district court resolves this issue.

The takeaway from this case for the cannabis industry is this that state legality probably will not shield you from civil RICO suits in federal court. Cannabis businesses should consider their business operations and risk exposure in light of this and, if possible, avoid alienating their neighbors. This case does not, however, mean that cannabis businesses are now at increased risk of criminal RICO exposure. Federal criminal RICO enforcement is subject to the same measures and enforcement priorities that have kept the federal government from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act.

As NORML attorney Keith Stroup notes, there is some good news to be found in the decision. The Tenth Circuit rejected a handful of other arguments that the court should void and enjoin the enforcement of Colorado’s Amendment 64 – a ruling that would have dealt a serious blow to state legal cannabis programs.

Cannabis attorneysToday’s Cannabis Case Summary looks at an Arizona case that held against making post-traumatic stress disorders a qualifying medical condition for medical cannabis and the lessons that can be learned from it.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 203 in 2010 to create a medical marijuana program to facilitate access to cannabis for patients afflicted with a “debilitating medical condition” defined by the law. The law as passed included a number of qualifying conditions, but also included a mechanism for adding conditions. A petition receiving the required amount of support triggers consideration for inclusion by the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS).

It was against this legal backdrop that the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association (AZCNA) petitioned DHS to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying debilitating medical conditions eligible for medical cannabis. The petition met all procedural and substantive requirements and it appropriately explained “the availability of conventional medical treatments” and summarized “the evidence that marijuana will provide a therapeutic … or palliative … benefit.” DHS denied the petition following a public hearing and an opportunity for public comment.

AZCNA appealed to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) appointed by the DHS Office of Administrative Hearings to evaluate appeals and recommend a decision to DHS. After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the ALJ found that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, “marijuana use provides a palliative benefit to those suffering from PTSD” and recommended that DHS adopt PTSD as a debilitating medical condition.

DHS largely accepted the ALJ’s recommendation, but with two conditions. First, marijuana could be prescribed for palliative care but not for therapeutic purposes. In other words, marijuana could be recommended for symptom relief, but not to cure or treat any disease. Second, the physician recommending marijuana was required to attest that the patient was also pursuing a “conventional” course of treatment for PTSD.

AZCNA was unsatisfied and challenged the DHS rule in the Superior Court of Maricopa County on the basis that DHS exceeded its statutory authority and that the rule violated PTSD patients’ Constitutional right to equal protection under the law. That court rejected AZCNA’s argument, and they subsequently appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals. The appeals court’s decision is where today’s Cannabis Case Study begins.

AZCNA was not legally “aggrieved.” The Court of Appeals found AZCNA’s DHS authority arguments to be a non-starter. The gist of AZCNA’s position was that DHS erred by distinguishing between a therapeutic or palliative benefit of cannabis because it lacked authority to do so. However, their brief conceded that there is “no significant evidence” that marijuana is “therapeutic” for PTSD. They also stated in a later brief that there is “no cure” for PTSD, which the court read as conceding that cannabis could not be “therapeutic” because it did not actually “treat” the disease itself. Accordingly, they were not aggrieved by the “palliative” condition because there was no basis for any other medical application for cannabis in their own petition.

Neither the physician certification nor “conventional treatment” conditions violated Arizona law. The court quickly dispensed with AZCNA’s argument that the physician requirement violated or exceeded the law. AZCNA argued that the conditions violated Arizona law that limits the ability of the governor or legislature to amend or veto voter initiatives. The court reasoned that this did not preclude reasonable conditions or restrictions on the use of medical marijuana. A parallel challenge that alleged the DHS rule unlawfully forced a “conventional treatment” on a patient similarly failed.

The DHS rule did not violate the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. AZCNA alleged that the conditions violated PTSD patients’ rights to equal protection under the law by “transparently discriminat[ing] against a PTSD patient versus any other patient suffering from another listed debilitating condition.” The court found that AZCNA did not overcome the common law presumption in favor of agency decisions and concluded that because all PTSD patients were treated similarly under the rule it did not violate equal protection rights because “all persons within a class are treated alike.”

The Court of Appeals ruled against AZCNA and upheld the lower court’s decision.

There are a couple of takeaways from this case:

  • Learn your local administrative and legislative procedures. AZCNA may have lost in this case, but they succeeded in availing themselves of the administrative mechanism provided for citizens to influence change in marijuana policy. All cannabis stakeholders should familiarize themselves with the procedures for doing so such that they can effectively work within the system through petitions, initiatives, and lobbying.
  • Equal protection to expand qualifying conditions lists? Here AZCNA failed because the court found that all PTSD patients were treated similarly under the law. However, their argument raises the interesting possibility of using equal protection grounds to challenge laws that permit medical marijuana for patients with some conditions but not for analogous unlisted ones. Such litigation would be a long-shot, unfortunately, underscoring the importance of activism and lobbying.

 

Cannabis attorneysToday’s Cannabis Case Summary looks at a novel example of the intersection between state-legal  cannabis and employment law. The plaintiff, Bobbie Henry, worked at an Outback Steakhouse in Flint, Michigan, from 1997 to 2014 when she was fired along with four other employees because of drug-related activities. Henry, a registered medical marijuana caregiver under Michigan law, sued Outback, alleging her medical marijuana activities were used as a pretext for age discrimination and her termination on that basis was defamatory. Unfortunately for Henry, a federal judge disagreed and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted Outback’s motion for summary judgment.

The meat (pun intended) of this case is in its facts, which involve two different groups of Outback employees involved in two very different kinds of “drug activity.”

One was made up of Henry and a second Outback employee who was a registered medical marijuana cardholder and a patient of Henry’s. Henry transferred cannabis to the co-worker patient in her role as a registered medical marijuana caregiver permitted by state law.

The second was a group of four employees the kitchen manager had observed exchanging a “small black object” he suspected was an illegal substance for cash. The employees claimed it was a “bridge card,” but after an investigation and a conference call with management the four employees were terminated for cause. The four employees did not go quietly, however, and in exit interviews alleged Henry was “selling drugs” and “dealing dope” at the restaurant. When confronted, Henry claimed that though she did sell medical marijuana to her co-worker patient she did not sell medical marijuana to her co-worker patient on company property. She was terminated the same day for behavior “unbecoming” of the company.

Henry sued Outback, first alleging that her medical marijuana-related activities were used as a pretext for age based discrimination. Henry’s claim was based on the fact that she was the longest-tenured member of the team and had been there for fourteen years before being terminated, despite winning service awards for “Top Performing Bar Team.” She also pointed to an unlitigated situation where a second employee had been terminated for what he felt was age-based discrimination.

The court looked at the pretext issue and was unsympathetic towards Henry, pointing out that she admitted to having a medical marijuana card and to selling drugs to a co-worker. Based on these two things, the court concluded there was a legitimate, non-pretextual reason for Outback to terminate Henry. The court secondarily found that Outback, as Henry’s employer, had a qualified privilege to discuss allegations that she sold medical marijuana to co-workers, which she did not dispute.

This case is just another example of how a state’s permissiveness of medical marijuana or adult-use cannabis will usually not impose a duty on an employer to tolerate marijuana use or override other legal doctrines that give power to employers. Even though Henry was apparently correct that she was in compliance with Michigan law, a little discretion could still have gone a long way. We cannot resist noting the foolishness of an employer terminating a good employee for helping a co-worker.

NOTE: The above is part of our plan to summarize all cannabis civil cases with a published court decision. By civil case, we mean any case that involves cannabis or the cannabis industry that is not a strictly criminal law matter. These cannabis case summaries are intended both to keep you up to date on cannabis laws as interpreted by the courts and also to serve as a resource for anyone conducting cannabis law research. We also will seek to provide key unpublished cannabis law decisions as well, when available.

Cannabis attorneysThe owners of a vineyard in Yamhill County, Oregon, filed a lawsuit in April to block a neighboring property owner from using his land to grow and process cannabis. The plaintiffs alleged that the odor and runoff from the cannabis farm will negatively affect their grapes and claim to have already lost one buyer. Another neighbor, who has plans to turn its property into a vineyard as well, has joined the lawsuit.

The case is interesting because it is in response to a novel fact situation that has not been the subject of much real-world study or legal precedent.

The idea that the odor of cannabis plants could materially alter the quality of grapes in an adjacent parcel of land is a significant divergence from more typical odor-related lawsuits that allege a neighbor’s cannabis activities create a nuisance. Those lawsuits have sometimes succeeded, but in this instance the trier of fact will need to determine whether there actually is an impact on the grapes. Though the plaintiffs say they have already lost a buyer, it is unclear whether that was because the buyer speculated there could be an impact on the grapes or whether there was in fact such an impact. The case has not gotten far enough along for discovery to reveal exactly what kind of evidence the plaintiffs actually have.

As for the cannabis farm owner, he states that he can grow cannabis on his property without seeking permission because it is zoned for that kind of agricultural use and because he is following all rules and regulations. He also asserts that he uses cannabis processing techniques to minimize the smell from his property.

Depending on the results of this case, the issue of adjacent cannabis farms and wine vineyards may be an issue for the Oregon state legislature. Both the cannabis and wine industries are important components of Oregon’s economy and there is significant overlap between locations.

The lawsuit was filed in Yamhill County earlier this week so there is a long way to go for it to reach resolution. If it goes to trial, the court’s reasoning when it comes to the interaction between the two crops and the relationship with their owners’ property and economic rights could be instructive for similar conflicts in the future. We will keep an eye on this case and update you as the lawsuit progresses.

Is CBD legalThe DEA announced a new Final Rule late last year regarding “marihuana extracts” that left many in the industrial hemp and CBD industries concerned. The new rule created a separate classification for “marihuana extracts,” which it broadly defined as “any extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis.” This definition facially includes hemp-based goods running the gamut from hemp rope sandals to hemp lotion to therapeutic CBD oils, but critics have countered that such a definition exceeds the prohibition of “marihuana” created by the Controlled Substances Act. Some fear the DEA’s broadening of what constitutes marijuana extracts foreshadows a more aggressive federal enforcement posture that could devastate hemp-related companies the DEA now (and always) regards as criminal enterprises.

The DEA’s rule will soon be put to a court test as The Hemp Industries Association, Centuria Natural Foods, Inc. and RMH Holdings, Inc. last week filed a challenge to the DEA rule in the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Whatever the result, this court’s ruling will likely significantly impact the future of the hemp-related industry and implicate key components of the burgeoning cannabis reform movement as well.

The core of the plaintiffs’ argument is that the DEA rule conflates “marihuana”—the substance prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act—with all cannabinoids and all parts of the cannabis plant, which it lumps into “marihuana extracts.” Plaintiffs point to legislative history that in 1937 Congress chose to use the term “marihuana” because at the time there was no meaningful and scientifically valid way to distinguish between the plant itself and the constituent parts Congress sought to outlaw. Plaintiffs also point to the 2014 Farm Bill, which permitted industrial hemp production so long as the plants remain below a threshold THC level, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which prohibited using federal funds to enforce the Controlled Substances Act against certain cannabis business. Plaintiffs contend that these legislative moves, along with greater scientific understanding of the cannabis plant and the ability to isolate specific components of the cannabis plant, all indicate Congress’s intent to carve out space for these businesses to operate legally. Plaintiffs also contend that the Ninth Circuit itself, in a 2004 case, recognized that not all naturally-occurring cannabinoids are per se prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.

Plaintiffs contend the DEA exceeded its scheduling and enforcement authority under the Controlled Substances Act by undertaking a “de facto scheduling” of substances not contemplated by the Controlled Substances Act and that Congress views as distinct from marijuana as a “drug.” Plaintiffs essentially allege that with this rule the DEA is attempting to enforce a law Congress never enacted. This is a common challenge to expansive administrative rulemakings, but its application to any particular situation can be hard to predict and it usually hinges on the court’s reading of the underlying statute and the level of deference the agency’s action deserves.

We will keep an eye out as this case progresses and pass along any important updates as they come in.

Cannabis lobbyingNot much gets done in American politics, especially in Congress, without the influence of the hundreds of lobbyists that represent industries, labor, and other interest groups before Congress and federal agencies. The overwhelming role of lobbying has so far been seen as a net negative for the cannabis industry. Powerful alcohol, tobacco, private prison and pharmaceutical lobbies have every incentive to block federal cannabis reforms that could displace demand for competing products and certain prescription medication or cut down on prison time. Pessimists for the future of marijuana prohibition point to these groups as a primary impediment to generating the political will necessary to legislate an end to cannabis prohibition under the Controlled Substances Act.

In an effort to level the playing field, a coalition of cannabis industry leaders recently formed the New Federalism Fund (NFF). NFF aims to wield the increasing popular support and financial success of state-level cannabis programs to bring pressure on federal lawmakers to support progressive reform.

Who is NFF? Support for the group comes from a wide variety of cannabis industry stakeholders, both recreational and medical, and it runs the gamut from dispensaries to private equity funds. The most widely recognizable company on its founding board is Scotts Miracle-Gro, which entered the ancillary cannabis market in 2016. Other notables include LivWell EnlightenedHealth, Privateer Holdings, Native Roots, and Medicine Man.

NFF is organized as a 501(c)4 non-partisan lobbying organization.

What are NFF’s specific priorities? NFF’s website outlines the group’s founding initiatives for particular reforms and the following priorities:

State-first cannabis regulation. NFF advocates for a state-first approach to cannabis policy, emphasizing that it is the best framework for enhancing local economic prosperity through tax revenue and job creation, ensuring patient access, and diverting cannabis from the criminal market. NFF emphasizes the success of early cannabis states and their potential to serve as policy laboratories to serve as examples for other states as envisioned by the Tenth Amendment.

Codification of the Cole Memo. The tenuous legal authority of the Cole Memo is probably the most immediate threat to the cannabis industry. To that end, NFF advocates for codifying the memo’s hands-off approach to state marijuana legalization. Though Jeff Sessions recently signaled that the Cole Memo is still good authority, codification would provide the cannabis industry greater certainty.

Equitable taxation. NFF argues for changing IRC 280(e), the infamous tax provision that greatly limits cannabis businesses’ ability to take advantage of the tax advantages afforded other legal businesses.

Will NFF succeed? Who knows, and, for that matter, defining “success” in this context is tricky. So long as the federal government does not crack down on existing state cannabis programs, NFF may be able to claim victory simply for having helped to maintain the status quo. But, if the question is whether NFF will secure federal legalization of cannabis, the prospects for success dim significantly. Nonetheless, having a strong pro-marijuana lobby is in the interest of all cannabis stakeholders and is an important sign that the legalization movement is maturing.

Oregon cannabis lawyersOregon lawmakers are considering legislation to protect Oregon cannabis consumers and patients against potential federal government enforcement actions. Proposed legislation, Senate Bill 863, would require marijuana retailers to purge patients’ personally identifiable information and would prohibit dispensaries from “record[ing] and retain[ing]” such information. This bill seeks to shield individual cannabis patients and consumers from federal authorities by eliminating a potentially damning piece of evidence. Oregon dispensaries currently keep much of this information, in contrast to other states where purges are commonplace by law or custom.

SB 863 defines “information that may be used to identify a consumer” to include information found on a consumer’s passport, driver’s license, or other identification document.” The information is protected whether it is on a physical copy of the identifying document or stored otherwise, such as in a customer database. Though dispensaries may collect aggregate non-identifying information, the bill would make it unlawful for dispensaries to “record or “retain” individual customer data. The legislation would further limit the spread of personally identifiable information by prohibiting dispensaries from requiring customers to produce any other form of identification.

In addition to preventing the recording of personally identifying information, the bill would also prohibit transferring any personally identifying information in the dispensary’s possession. On its face, this would appear to prevent dispensaries from cooperating with federal enforcement against customers, though it remains to be seen whether a state law requiring something like this would hold up in a federal court.

What personally identifying information does the bill not cover? The bill does not cover other forms of record-keeping that could contain personally identifying information. For instance, the bill would not prevent dispensaries from retaining recorded security footage that could include recognizable images of its customers or from capturing license plate numbers of cars coming and going from the parking lot. The bill also would not cover information received incident to credit and debit card-based transactions.

What about data retained for marketing purposes? A dispensary may record and retain the name and contact information of a consumer for the purpose of notifying them of products, services, discounts, etc. if the consumers gives informed consent. Even then, however, the dispensary may not transfer the information to another person — good news for those wary of their personal data being sold to third party marketers.

Will the bill pass? It seems likely some form of the bill will succeed and our Oregon cannabis lawyers are predicting passage. SB 863 enjoys bipartisan support and lawmakers are moving quickly to consider the proposal. Of course, the bill may change significantly as it gets through committee.

The next action on the bill should come this week of March 20, so keep an eye on this fast-moving issue.

Georgia CannabisGeorgia lawmakers agreed to a compromise bill Thursday to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. The deal comes after competing bills in the Georgia State House and Senate clashed over the direction of the program. If passed, the legislation would open the door for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, and Tourette’s syndrome to receive medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

We ranked Georgia at number 34 among the states for cannabis. If this bill passes, Georgia would likely leap up around ten spots in our next state ranking go-round.

Background. The Georgia legislature approved medical marijuana with the passage of HB1 in late 2015. In its original form, Georgia’s medical marijuana law allowed patients with eight specific conditions to possess up to twenty ounces of cannabis oil with a doctor’s recommendation. The law also permitted only low-THC cannabis oils capped at 5% THC concentration. The combination of these factors has contributed to significant access issues for patients in the state. A 2016 bill failed to solve the problem.

Divergent legislative responses. This session, the Georgia House and Senate each took up efforts to reform the state’s medical marijuana program. The House proposed and passed a bill to expand the program to include the diseases found in the compromise bill. In contrast, the Senate put forth a bill that only added one of these conditions (autism) to the list. The Senate bill would also have lowered the maximum allowable THC concentration to 3%.

The compromise bill looks to include nearly all the House provisions with respect to adding additional qualifying conditions. The 5% THC concentration limit also looks to be safe.

What else is in the bill? In addition to augmenting the list of qualifying conditions and maintaining status quo concentration limits, the final bill could also mold the legal framework for Georgia’s medical marijuana program in other ways. The extent to which many of these provisions – all from the House bill – will survive in the final legislation is uncertain but they are illustrative of Georgia lawmakers’ sentiments and the ways in which medical marijuana programs can be iteratively refined.

  • Delineating qualifying conditions
    • The House legislation would strike the requirement that cancer be in its “end stage” to qualify absent particular symptoms like vomiting. The bill would also strike language that would require patients with Parkinson’s or sickle cell to be in the “severe or end stage” of the disease before being eligible to receive medical marijuana treatment.
  • Removing barriers to access
    • The House legislation would also remove the residency requirement that limits access to medical marijuana for patients who are new to the state. The bill would additionally provide reciprocity for medical marijuana patients with proper documentation from other medical marijuana states qualifying them as such.

Next steps? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the bill would reach committee late Thursday. The bill is, of course, tentative until a final version is passed by both houses and signed into law, but indications are that the bill has significant support from both chambers and is likely to be signed by the governor.

 

 

American lawyer in BarcelonaAs we have written previously (See Marijuana in Spain: Our on the Ground Report), the Catalonia region of Spain — particularly its flagship city of Barcelona, home of our Spanish outpost — is a major European cannabis hub. Despite this, the laws in Spain and in Catalonia and in Barcelona are complicated and their enforcement is uneven, and all of this makes for difficulties and risks for cannabis businesses and even ancillary companies there.

The following should give you a quick “lay of the land” regarding cannabis in Spain:

  • Spain has emerged as a prominent center for cannabis culture in Europe
  • Barcelona is home to 200-plus private cannabis clubs
  • The Spanish government is not terribly interested in enforcing its national cannabis laws, especially in Catalonia
  • Cities in Catalonia have already taken steps towards sanctioning cannabis legalization, despite foot-dragging on the regional and national levels

In 2016, the regional Parliament of Catalonia proposed reforms in line with a 2014 initiative advocated by the Rosa La Verda platform in advance of the 2014 elections. The initiative’s aim was to create a framework for national reform of cannabis laws to permit regions like Catalonia and cities like Barcelona to set their own cannabis policies.

Though the 2016 legislative initiative stalled, our Barcelona attorneys report that this issue has recently reemerged and anticipation is building for a revised version of the bill.

So, what are the key points of the earlier legislation as proposed in 2016? The aim of the 2014 effort was to advocate for reforms to allow adults in Spain age 21 and over to safely and legally obtain and consume marijuana. How has the legislative rules proposal manifested in the most recent legislation?

  • The proposal would define what a cannabis association is under the law.
  • The proposal would set standards requiring the business to disclose the chemicals used on cannabis products.
  • The proposal would obligate the supply chain to document the cultivation of cannabis distribution to consumers.

It remains to be seen how – and to what extent – these policy goals will take form in new legislation. It is also uncertain whether such legislation would actually pass, and how its success or failure might interact with other regional and local action on the issue.

Nonetheless, Catalonia, Spain – and Barcelona in particular – are certain to remain at the forefront of cannabis reform and reform-minded culture both in Spain and in the Europe. The success of progressive cannabis policy in the Spanish government would undoubtedly accelerate cannabis reform in Europe and beyond.

Stay tuned as we keep you updated with the latest developments in Spain’s cannabis reform efforts.

Cannabis LawA litany of comments made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and many other Tump administration officials have sent tremors through the cannabis industry in the weeks since Trump’s January inauguration.

Most alarming to many cannabis industry stakeholders was the administration’s uncertain position on state-legal cannabis programs. True to form, Press Secretary Sean Spicer predicted, “greater enforcement” of the Controlled Substances Act in recreational states under the Trump administration during a press conference two weeks ago. More recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly reassured some GOP senators that he will not be moving away from Obama-era deference to state-legal cannabis programs. To many invested in the marijuana industry, however, Sessions’ statement is cold comfort coming from an Attorney General who harbors an irrational hatred of cannabis and intends to enforce existing federal drug laws to the letter.

Nevertheless, a glimmer of silver lining shines from the House of Representatives hopper for Democrats in the form of HR 1227 or the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. The bill, introduced by Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA), is co-sponsored by congressional Democrats Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Peter Welch of Vermont. This law would de-schedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allow for states to self-regulate their own cannabis programs.

If passed, the Act would be an unprecedented win for the cannabis industry as a whole and fundamentally change the landscape of legal cannabis in the United States. Here are the details:

What would HR 1227 do?  Essentially, the Act would remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This is distinct from hints from the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2015 that it might consider re-scheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II of the CSA. Though de-scheduling cannabis would allow state marijuana programs to carry on essentially unfettered, re-scheduling could introduce new obstacles akin to those that other fledgling and experimental drugs must overcome.

What wouldn’t HR 1227 do? HR 1227 will not give blanket permission for transferring cannabis across state lines; states would be free to prohibit shipments of cannabis to and from their own jurisdictions. The bill also would not override state-level regulations that set standards for licensure, labeling, and purity. The status quo of state cannabis laws would therefore persist, but against a far less draconian backdrop of federal criminal law.

What are the bill’s prospects in 2017? Not great, unfortunately, but it is not all its fault. Congress has a lot on its plate this session – including still-pending confirmations of several presidential appointees – and cannabis reform is just not a high priority for lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Prospects for meaningful cannabis reforms on the federal level are dim under a unified Republican government absent an ideological shift. At least in the short term.

Why does this sound so familiar? The bill is identical to the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VA). The 2015 bill was a hit among Sanders’ core supporters at the time but it failed to gain any significant traction in Congress.