california cannabis temporary license
Hopefully, more cities are creative with this hard stop.

We recently wrote about an announcement by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (“CDFA”) that temporary license applications need to be submitted by December 1, 2018 in order to be reviewed on time for approval and issuance before December 31, 2018. To date, California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) followed suit, but the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (“BCC”) has not. It’s safe to say that BCC applications submitted after December 1, 2018 have a low chance of being issued this year.

This is significant because after January 1, 2019, these agencies will have no legal authority to issue temporary licenses, and will not do so. After January 1, 2019, only provisional licenses will be issued, and only then to parties who hold or held temporary licenses. Parties that don’t have temporary licenses and thus cannot get provisional licenses will be stuck in the annual license logjam, which everyone knows moves at a snails’ pace. These deadlines cannot be solved with more regulations. They are from MAUCRSA and only the legislature can modify them. We wouldn’t count on that happening.

This time crunch places would-be licensees whose local applications are under review from California cities in a tough spot. As part of the state-level application process, the above-linked MAUCRSA section requires applicants to fork over “[a] copy of a valid license, permit, or other authorization, issued by a local jurisdiction”, and cities are not going to state that an applicant is approved while an application is under review.

Some cities have come up with creative solutions to this problem. The Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation (“DCR”), for example, issued a release stating that it would issue to applicants from the second phase of applications (which closed a few months ago) who have paid their application fees a local letter of authorization that could be taken to the target state agency. The letter would not authorize commercial cannabis activity in Los Angeles. It would authorize an applicant to simply move into the temporary license phase, in order to eventually secure the provisional license that would eventually get them operational faster. At least one state agency, in turn, has expressed that letters from localities may be sufficient. Earlier this year, the CDPH wrote that local authorization may take the form of a “letter of acknowledgement”.

L.A. is a big city, and is swamped in applications. Our L.A. cannabis business and real estate lawyers have seen some other cities issue letters of authorization, but others that have refused. It’s not clear whether many other cities would write a letter of authorization, or what they would be willing to say. But it’s certainly worth reaching out to a city to see if they will.

oregon cannabis marijuana sisters sumpter klamath clatskanie ontario
Oregon is getting greener and greener each cycle.

Cannabis not only won big around the country on Election Day 2018, but also on a local level last week within states that had already legalized adult use marijuana, such as Oregon and California. As to Oregon in particular, a handful of cities voted to lift bans on recreational marijuana on November 6. Nearly all of them succeeded.

As we’ve previously explained, Oregon allowed cities and counties to opt out of the legal sale of recreational cannabis. Many cities and counties–particularly rural areas east of the Cascades–chose to go this route. One of the few ways cities and counties can lift the ban is through local initiatives that are presented to the voters. On November 6, some of those previously opted-out Oregon cities were able to life their bans through this process.

Ontario

Back in 2014, when Oregonians as a whole voted on the legalization of recreational cannabis use and sales, Ontario, Oregon was one of the cities that overwhelming voted against legalization. Ontario’s strong stance against the legalization of recreational marijuana allowed the city to ban the sale and production of marijuana. That all changed on November 6, 2018. According to preliminary results, the city lifted the ban with 1904 citizen voting in favor of the sale and taxation of marijuana within the city and 1450 voting against. The ban will officially lift on January 2, 2018. At that time, marijuana business owners can submit applications to the city for conditional use permits to open retail stores in the City. (Full disclosure: We worked on this initiative process.)

Klamath Falls

Similar to Ontario, Klamath Falls banned marijuana after the November 2014 statewide vote. On election night 2018, the Klamath Falls voters passed an initiative allowing recreational sale of marijuana in the city. Klamath Falls ban on recreational sales will be lifted in February 2019.

Klamath Falls faced strong opposition in an anti-pot PAC that raised more than $23,000 against the petition. Not a small measure for a local election. The surrounding county, unfortunately, is still dry.

Clatskanie

Unlike Ontario and Klamath Falls, Clatskanie citizens voted on what is known as a “referendum.” A referendum is an ordinance passed by the City Council that is put to public vote. Here, the city council of Clatskanie proposed a vote on banning marijuana businesses in the City limits. The voters made their intentions clear and struck down the ordinance—meaning the City must allow marijuana businesses within City limits. Another win.

Sumpter

Sumpter may have squeaked out a victory for recreational marijuana businesses on election night. According to the Baker City Herald, 73 persons voted no to banning marijuana businesses whereas 72 voted yes to the ban. Sumpter may be joining Klamath Falls and Ontario in the new year licensing recreational marijuana businesses. This one is incredibly close.

Sisters

Unfortunately, Sisters was unable to generate enough votes to lift the ban. Nearly 57 percent of voters in Sisters voted to keep its current ban on recreational marijuana businesses banned in the city limits. Perhaps city residents were biased after two Sisters residents were arrested on October 11 related to an illegal operation.


All in all, it was a good night for local cities. Many Oregon cities have tried and failed to lift bans in past elections, however, there seems to be a clear movement towards lifting bans in cities to allow the recreational sale of marijuana (and getting access to that growing stream of state-wide tax revenue). We here at Harris Bricken are hopeful the trend will continue, and are excited to be a part of it along the way.

As we wrote on Tuesday, the midterm elections were monumental for cannabis: Michigan voters approved of a proposal legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use, Utah and Missouri will soon establish medical marijuana regimes, and Texas Representative and marijuana antagonist Pete Sessions lost to a Democrat.

All in all, Tuesday was a good day at the state and national level. But cannabis wasn’t just on the ballot at the state or national level—many cities had measures on that would regulate cannabis in one form or another. This post discusses some of the more impactful ballot measures that won and lost in California.

california elections cannabis marijuana

To start, dozens of cities and counties in California had cannabis taxation measures, which is a good sign for the expanding market. Oakland voters, for example, approved of Measure V, which amends the local code to allow cannabis manufacturers and cultivators to deduct the value of raw materials when calculating gross receipts for tax purposes. Fresno voters approved of Measure A, which adopts a cannabis business license tax. As noted above, numerous cities had tax measures on the ballot—and they are quite literally all over the map.

El Dorado County had a number of cannabis measures on its ballot. Measures P, Q, R, and S each passed, allowing the retail sale, delivery, distribution, and outdoor/indoor cultivation of commercial cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes. Interestingly, El Dorado County’s Measure N (a tax measure), didn’t pass.

Los Angeles County’s well-publicized Measure B, which would have established a municipal bank, failed. This was a closely watched measure in the cannabis industry, as many had hoped for a local bank in which to bank their earnings. Because the California effort to charter a state bank has cooled, local businesses may have limited options until a federal fix occurs.

Elsewhere, the City of Malibu passed Measure G, which will now allow retail sales of commercial cannabis and deliveries. Before, Malibu only allowed medicinal sales. But wait before delivering into Malibu from other cities; you’ll need a regulatory permit from the City of Malibu to do so. No word yet on what that application process will look like.

As noted above, these are just a few of the measures that were adopted (or not) on Tuesday. California, like many other places nationally, is certainly moving toward a more open marijuana landscape.

 2018 marijuana cannabis midterms michigan utah missouri

Today was a stellar day for marijuana advocates around the country. Not only did a handful of states authorize legalization of medical and recreational marijuana at the polls, but the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives, and one very problematic Congressman, Pete Sessions, was sent packing down in Texas.

Below is a summary of the big changes nationwide, with many of these results still firming up at the time of writing. Note that this post does not detail some of the “smaller” local developments, such as decriminalization in certain Ohio cities, enthusiasm for cannabis by Wisconsin voters, or many other positive developments ushered in by this evening’s voting.

Michigan

Congratulations to the Wolverine State, which voted to legalize adult use (recreational) marijuana statewide. Individuals who are at least 21 years of age will be permitted to possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption (that’s quite a bit). Permitted retail sales will be subject to a relatively modest 10% tax. Per state law, ballot initiatives take effect 10 days after results are certified, which can take up to three weeks from yesterday. So, legalization should take effect by the end of the year. Michigan is the tenth most populous state in the nation, and the first Midwestern state to legalize cannabis– which is a big deal. (Yes, Michigan is a part of the Midwest.)

Missouri

Missouri is another Midwestern state to make giant strides on cannabis, legalizing medical marijuana statewide. Missourians reviewed three medical cannabis legalization measures on the ballot: the one that passed is known as Amendment 2. Amendment 2 is an impressive entrée into legalization for a couple of reasons: first, it actually amends the state constitution to allow medical cannabis; and second, it contemplates a licensing program extending far beyond decriminalization, to state licensure for cultivators, manufacturers, testing labs and dispensaries. Under the new regime, qualified patients with physician approval will be allowed to receive cards for any condition the physician sees fit. There will be a 4% tax on retail transactions. Of the three initiatives on Missouri’s ballot, this one was the best.

North Dakota

Alas, North Dakota failed to move beyond the confines of its medical marijuana program. Measure 3 would have allowed people 21 and older to possess, use, grow, buy and sell marijuana for recreational purposes, and it would have expunged previous cannabis convictions from criminal records. Stepping back, Measure 3 was an odd initiative in that it failed to include any language regarding regulation or taxes. Apparently, the idea was to let the legislature figure that part out, but Measure 3 advisers may be kicking themselves for that strategy today.

Utah

Like North Dakota, Utah is a fairly conservative state. In keeping with that ethos, Utah passed a fairly conservative ballot measure last night to legalize medical marijuana – but passed it nonetheless. Proposition 2 allows qualified patients with physician approval to a purchase two ounces of medical marijuana in any two week period, or products containing 10 grams of CBD or THC. Curiously, smoking medical marijuana isn’t allowed. To the good, patients who live more than 100 miles from a dispensary will be able to cultivate 6 plants at home, and there will be a caregiver program. The state will issue licenses for cultivation, processing, testing and dispensaries.

In all, Proposition 2 had a very interesting backstory, such that today’s legalization of medical marijuana in Utah was something of a fait accompli. You can read about that here.

Congress

Democrats took back the House of Representatives last night, which is great news for federal legislation prospects. Although cannabis is not a distinctly partisan issue these days, most progressive cannabis legislation tends to come from the House, and the prospects of moving marijuana legislation are far superior today than yesterday. The fact that the Senate is still solidly Republican is not ideal for federal legalization, but the prospect of compromise legislation on everything from decriminalization to banking to taxes — to say nothing of issues like industrial hemp — is better than ever.

Pete Sessions (“Prohibition Pete”)

This one could probably fall under the “Congress” paragraph above, but it’s a significant enough development to merit special mention. Back in March, I had fun writing about how Pete Sessions was almost single-handedly blocking cannabis reform, including bipartisan proposals, from his perch as Chair of the House Rules Committee. Well, Pete lost yesterday. This means that the undemocratic nonsense of blocking floor votes on issues that both parties want to vote on, is likely over. This development will probably be under-reported given everything else that occurred today, but it’s huge.

All in all, voters across the U.S. once again expressed their desire to do away with prohibition on November 6. This morning, 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. The President may be open to reform, and we expect industrial hemp to be legalized within a couple of months. Interestingly, the U.S. has also found itself in a marijuana sandwich of sorts, between Canada’s recent federal legalization and Mexico’s imminent legalization. But that’s a story for another day.

For now, cannabis reform advocates should rejoice: Voters rejected prohibition in many places, nationwide.

hemp cbd paul ryan farm bill
There’s been quite a bit of it lately on hemp and CBD.

Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced his support to end federal cannabidiol (“CBD”) prohibition and expressed strong support for the uses of industrial hemp. To view the video of Ryan’s comments, go here at the 21:15 mark.

For any newbies out there, CBD is one of the many chemical compounds in a class called “cannabinoids” that naturally occur in cannabis plants. “[CBD] has proven to work,” Ryan said, specifying that it “helps reduce seizures.” Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved Epidiolex back in August, which is G.W. Pharma’s oral CBD solution for the treatment of seizure associated with Lennox-Gastraut and Dravet syndrome. The FDA approval prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule all FDA-approved drugs containing cannabis-derived CBD with no more than 0.1 percent THC under Schedule V of the Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”).

The Speaker, who is not running for reelection and is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, shared that his mother-in-law used a synthetic form of cannabinoids when she was dying from melanoma and ovarian cancer.

Ryan also jumped on the opportunity to speak in favor of industrial hemp when responding to a medical marijuana question from a rally attendee who husband had succumbed to cancer. “And by the way, there’s a lot of industrial uses for hemp that I understand from talking to Mitch McConnell is a big deal to Kentucky agriculture,” he said. “And we’re all in favor of that as well.” Ryan is not going as far as John Boehner, a recent House Speaker who is currently sitting on an advisory board for a for-profit marijuana company, but his take is welcome news to us.

The Speaker’s endorsement of industrial hemp comes at a decisive time. As we previously discussed, Congressional leaders are still attempting to reconcile the House and the Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate version, which was introduced and championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would legalize hemp by removing the crop from the CSA definition of marijuana. The House version, however, is silent on this issue, and thus would afford meager protection for the crop. With Paul Ryan’s public support for ending federal CBD prohibition, however, it seems more likely that the House would approve the hemp language found in the Senate bill.

This is not the first time that Ryan has expressed support for the legalization of CBD and industrial hemp. Back in 2015, the speaker co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) that sought to remove industrial hemp and CBD-infused products containing less than 0.3 percent THC from the definition of marijuana under the CSA.

It is still important to note, however, that the Speaker’s endorsement of CBD does not extend to the full legalization of marijuana, even for medical uses. “There’s no THC in that oil. That is not medical marijuana,” he declared. But of course, Ryan’s statement is inaccurate given that most CBD products contain small amounts of the psychoactive cannabis compound.

Nonetheless, proponents of industrial hemp and CBD should be pleased by this latest and encouraging development. The public support for the legalization of the crop and of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin by one of the most powerful Congressional leaders reveals a shift in the minds of conservatives and suggests the likely passage of the much anticipated 2018 Farm Bill. Stay tuned!

cannabis marijuana RICO litigation
Time for some of these plaintiffs’ lawyers to pack it up.

We’ve been writing about RICO lawsuits on this blog for a while. These lawsuits are typically brought by neighbors of state-licensed cannabis farms, who allege they are bothered by noise and smells associated with cannabis production, and that their property values have been damaged by extension. Generally speaking, these plaintiffs tend to have strong prohibitionist beliefs. Filing RICO lawsuits has also become a cottage industry for certain lawyers, and there are even educational courses for attorneys who want to spend their time on this sort of thing.

As a reminder, RICO is a federal statute that provides for a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization (in addition to criminal penalties). Because RICO complaints sound in federal law and implicate supply chain and vendor defendants, these cases differ from your ordinary nuisance-and-trespass actions, which pursue only the marijuana grower itself, and are also occasionally brought against cannabis farms.

The first RICO lawsuits started popping up a few years ago, and some of them are backed by prohibitionist groups attempting to rattle the industry. One common strategy of RICO plaintiffs, particularly in the early litigations, was to name every vendor doing business with the cannabis farm, including those that never touched the plant itself: e.g., banks, insurance vendors and equipment providers. The RICO plaintiffs would then dismiss these defendants one by one, as each defendant cut ties with the defendant farm— which seems like a racket if there ever was one.

Although pot-neighbor litigation is probably not what Congress had in mind back when it wrote the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO litigants have found some success with their approach, most notably in a 10th Circuit case called Safe Streets v. Hickenlooper, which allowed a RICO lawsuit to proceed in Colorado. More recently, however, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon dismissed a RICO lawsuit brought by a different marijuana farm neighbor for “failure to state a claim.” That case is known as Ainsworth v. Owenby and Judge McShane’s well-reasoned decision tees up a potential circuit split.

Like most leading business law firms who specialize in the cannabis industry, we have had quite a few clients ensnared in RICO lawsuits. These client defendants have included everyone from the property owners themselves, to far-off dispensaries that were unaware the cannabis they sold came from a defendant farm. Fortunately, these lawsuits aren’t really panning out for plaintiffs and we expect to see the RICO trend wind down. Recent case law developments in both Oregon and Colorado show why.

Oregon

Last month, a case known as Rice v. Ambrocio settled relatively quickly, having been filed only five months before. Rice was a waste of time and money, and it’s a good example of why people don’t like lawyers. The 56-page complaint named almost 50 defendants, although not all of them “appeared” in the case and a few were never served. The parties ultimately settled for a $60,000 collective payment to the plaintiffs (a guy who runs an anti-cannabis website, and his partner), which pencils out to a measly $1,200 per defendant on average. Most importantly for defendants, the settlement agreement is non-confidential.

This unimpressive plaintiffs’ outcome should make potential RICO litigants think twice about filing a lawsuit—especially one where it appears that the marijuana activity has all but ended on the defendant property before papers are even filed. Ultimately, if you want to file a complaint in federal court and take on 50 defendants, you are going to burn a LOT of cash just getting the thing filed and served. And, even if you battle your way through months or even years of motion practice, counterclaims, appeals, etc., the likelihood of success may not be great. Which brings us to Colorado.

Colorado

Earlier this week, we had what may have been the first jury verdict in a cannabis RICO case, and it came down in favor of the cannabis grower defendant. The plaintiffs were represented by a Washington, D.C. law firm with ties to Jeff Sessions, and apparently backed by a national anti-cannabis group known as Safe Streets Alliance. For all of that firepower, however, the plaintiffs could not prove their property value had been damaged by the cannabis grow they despised. The jury believed the defendants’ real estate expert, and reached a verdict relatively quickly in favor of the cannabis business. This case had been going for three years or so, and the plaintiffs had previously had the larger portion of their lawsuit—which sought to invalidate Colorado’s marijuana program entirely—thrown out.

The “no damages” finding by this jury is an extraordinary end to a protracted piece of litigation. When my law firm has potential clients come to us who are interested in filing litigation, we always look at a couple of things right away in addition to whether the claims seem viable. One of those is whether the potential plaintiff has been damaged. If the answer is “yes” (and the possibility of collection seems reasonable) we can usually proceed. But if the answer is “no”, bringing a lawsuit is probably a bad idea, regardless of whether the other side has breached a contract, done something “illegal”, etc.

If juries in cannabis RICO cases are going to find that cannabis production does not diminish the value of nearby properties, and that grower activity does not damage neighbor plaintiffs, these wasteful lawsuits may finally disappear altogether.

For more on RICO marijuana litigation, check out the following posts in our series:

CBD alcohol california
Mint is still fine; CBD, not so much.

A few months ago, I spoke to a reporter from Quartz about cannabidiol (CBD). She told me that a local cafe was offering a CBD-infused latte and that it piqued her interest for a story. Her local baristas were not alone as numerous bars, restaurants, and cafes across the country have been experimenting with CBD-infused beverages. However, as with all things CBD, the regulatory framework is rapidly changing. If you’re a business owner looking to add a CBD beverage to the menu, it’s important to carefully consider state and local law.

That brings us to California. California is an excellent case study when it comes to CBD. The Golden State has a long history with cannabis, as it was the first state to create an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana in 1996. In 2016, California voters approved of recreational marijuana. California has also approved of an industrial hemp pilot program under the 2014 Farm Bill, but the program has been mostly dormant because the state’s laws and regulations make it nearly impossible to legally obtain hemp seeds. In addition, and perhaps most importantly when it comes to CBD, California has a propensity to regulate just about everything under the Sun.

Cue the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) infamous FAQs. As we wrote back in July, these FAQs stated that CDPH was banning the inclusion of hemp-derived CBD as a food, food ingredient, food additive, or dietary supplement. California’s Health and Safety Code defines food to include beverages meaning that CBD is not allowed in beverages of any kind. California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) issued its own FAQs which stated that licensees could not serve alcoholic beverages mixed with cannabis, even if the licensee was using CBD. ABC cited to CDPH’s FAQs to prohibit the use of hemp-derived CBD.

The FAQs are examples of CDPH and ABC using policy statements to enact what feels like a new law or regulation. At the state level, laws are passed by both branches of a state legislature and signed into effect by the Governor. Laws establish requirements or prohibitions. In turn, regulations are issued by  agencies to clarify their interpretation of a law and how a law will be implemented. Like laws, regulations also impose requirements or prohibitions. When an agency issues a new regulation, there are procedural requirements such as a public comment period where stakeholders can voice concerns over proposed regulations. Similarly, when the legislature passes a new law, lawmakers hold public hearings. These procedural requirements provide for transparency.

Agencies also can issue guidance or other policy statements to clarify how an agency understands and implements existing laws and regulations. Generally speaking, guidance and other policy statements are not mandates but rather are an expression by the agency of a suggested or recommended action. Agencies are not generally required to provide the public with a notice and comment period before issuing a policy statement because those statements shouldn’t establish requirements or prohibitions.

When it comes to CBD-infused products, the outright prohibition in California is stated in the CDPH’s policy statement. There is no law or regulation that specifically prohibits using industrial hemp derived CBD as a food additive but CDPH interprets its governing rules and regulations to prohibit CBD in food or drinks.

Alternatively, ABC’s guidance prohibiting the use of CBD in alcoholic beverages has been enacted into California law. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2914 (the “Bill”) prohibiting alcoholic beverage licensees, like bars and liquor stores, from providing hemp-derived CBD cocktails. The Bill’s purpose is summed up as follows:

This bill would prohibit an alcoholic beverage licensee from, at its licensed premises, selling, offering, or providing cannabis or cannabis products, including an alcoholic beverage that contains cannabis or cannabis products, and would provide that no alcoholic beverage shall be manufactured, sold, or offered for sale if it contains tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabinoids, regardless of source.”

That last phrase, “regardless of source,” encompasses cannabinoids like CBD even if it was derived from industrial hemp.

California has codified the prohibition of CBD-infused alcoholic beverages. The similar prohibition on CBD in non-alcoholic beverages and other consumable products is not codified in a law or regulation. In that sense, the latter prohibition would be easier to reverse. That said, CDPH’s guidance is powerful as agencies are given broad deference when interpreting their own regulations, so if CDPH changes that guidance, it will likely be because it wants to or because the legislature writes a law to expressly allow CBD in non-alcoholic beverages and other consumables. It will not be the result of a private party lawsuit.

The idea of offering a CBD-infused cocktail in California is a non-starter. If you are hoping to enjoy a CBD cocktail, you’ll have to forgo California and book a flight east. CNBC reports a New York bar is experimenting with CBD cocktails. Perhaps New York regulators will take a different approach from their California counterparts. Time will tell.

marijuana legalize blumenauer
Nice going Earl!

Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer, one of Congress’ most vocal marijuana proponents, is the author of an eight-page document, which consists of a step-by-step plan to enact the end of  federal cannabis prohibition. Blumenauer’s plan, which he submitted to the Democratic Leader last Wednesday, is to legalize marijuana if the Democrats were to take back control over the House.

In his memo, Blumenauer argues that “democrats should lead the way” in ending cannabis prohibition and in making sure that Congress gets on the same page as the American people and the states on this issue.

Indeed, this year alone, House Republican leaders have prevented the passage of dozens of cannabis-related amendments and have barred every marijuana measure from advancing to a vote. Yet, recent legislative and referendum developments reveal the growing popularity of cannabis. In his memo, Blumenauer cites to polling showing that 69 percent of registered voters support legalizing marijuana.

The Oregon congressman explains that his proposed plan, to which he refers as a “Blueprint to Legalize Marijuana,” would enable a Democratic House to put pressure on the Senate, where support for cannabis reform has been slowly growing with now nearly 20 introduced bills.

“If we fail to act swiftly, I fear as the 2020 election approaches, Donald Trump will claim credit for our work in an effort to shore up support—especially with young voters,” Blumenauer wrote. “Democrats must seize the moment.”

The legislator recommends that congressional committees hold hearings on the topics in the first quarter of 2019 to debate potential policy solutions. For example, Blumenauer mentions that the Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on descheduling the plant; that the Energy and Commerce Committee could examine marijuana research; and that the Financial Services cold look at hurdles marijuana growers and entrepreneurs are facing when attempting to access banking services and capital.

By the second quarter, Blumenauer claims that the committees should have the ability to start marking up legislation to narrow the gap between federal and state marijuana laws. The House would then have to pass a marijuana package combining the bills passed by those committees but would need to do so before the annual August recess.

“With the marijuana policy gap diminished, after months of hearings and markups, the House should pass a full descheduling bill and work with Senate allies to guide the bill through Senate passage,” he said. Blumenauer’s hope is for the descheduling to occur by December 2019.

On the same day he released his blueprint to legalize marijuana, Blumenauer also announced that he was introducing a new bill, aimed at fixing Canadian border issues related to marijuana, called the Maintaining Appropriate Protections for Legal Entry (“MAPLE”) Act. The Act would “exempt cannabis-use and/or participation in the cannabis industry as a disqualification for entry into the United States from a country that has ended its marijuana prohibition.” In addition, the Act would protect foreign nationals engaged in cannabis activities in states where it is legal from being deported.

Rep. Blumenauer’s efforts and strong advocacy for cannabis reform are encouraging steps that will hopefully inspire legislators across the aisle, whether or not Democrats take back control over the House, to end federal cannabis prohibition by the end of next year.

california cannabis marijuana
Get your comments in by Nov. 5 and help us fix this.

On Friday, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, California Department of Public Health, and California Department of Food and Agriculture issued 15-day notices of modification to the texts of their respective proposed regulations. The California Cannabis Portal has published links to each notice and the modified texts of the proposed regulations. For each set, the respective Department will accept written comments submitted by November 5, 2018.

And to all parties currently engaging in intellectual property (IP) licensing or manufacturing deals as or with a non-licensee, you should most definitely submit your written comments if you want to be able to keep those deals alive. The modifications to the text of the proposed regulations include the following:

5032. Designated M and A Commercial Cannabis Activity

(a) All commercial cannabis activity shall be conducted between licensees. Retail licensees, licensed retailers and licensed microbusinesses authorized to engage in retail sales may conduct commercial cannabis activity with customers in accordance with Chapter 3 of this division.

(b) Licensees shall not conduct commercial cannabis activities on behalf of, at the request of, or pursuant to a contract with any person that is not licensed under the Act. Such prohibited commercial cannabis activities include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Procuring or purchasing cannabis goods from a licensed cultivator or licensed manufacturer.

(2) Manufacturing cannabis goods according to the specifications of a non-licensee.

(3) Packaging and labeling cannabis goods under a non-licensee’s brand or according to the specifications of a non-licensee.

(4) Distributing cannabis goods for a non-licensee.

These regulations would seemingly prohibit most, if not all, IP licensing agreements where the licensor is not licensed by the state, given that such licensing deals call for the licensee’s use of the licensed IP to manufacture particular goods, often utilizing the licensor’s proprietary techniques, recipes or trade secrets. Section (b)(3) above describes exactly what a licensee does under a trademark licensing agreement where the licensor does not possess its own manufacturing license from the state: “packaging and labeling cannabis goods under a non-licensee’s brand or according to the specifications of a non-licensee.”

Until Friday, there was nothing in the proposed regulations prohibiting a non-licensed third-party from engaging in these types of licensing deals, which we have written about extensively. Under those proposed regulations, a non-licensed entity entering into a licensing or manufacturing deal and taking a royalty from a licensed entity would need to be disclosed to the state as a party with a financial interest in a licensee but would not need to obtain a manufacturing license of their own. These kinds of deals are extremely prevalent throughout the industry, and are allowed to varying degrees in the other states in which my law firm’s cannabis business lawyers work (Washington and Oregon). For California to prohibit licensing deals involving non-licensed entities would be a major departure from what we’ve seen in other jurisdictions and would be incredibly disruptive to the cannabis industry as it currently operates.

This change would have far-reaching and unfortunate implications. Here are some examples of deals and structures that would not be allowed if this modification is ultimately adopted:

  • Licensed operators that have set up separate IP-holding companies to hold and license their intellectual property back to the operator;
  • Out-of-state cannabis companies that wish to license their existing cannabis brand to California manufacturers, but do not wish to directly engage in manufacturing in California;
  • Non-licensed third-parties that have developed technology to manufacture a cannabis product or a brand identity and wish to license that technology or brand identity to a licensed manufacturer.

The list goes on. If you have any type of licensing or manufacturing deal in place that involves both a licensed entity and a non-licensed entity, you should talk to your attorney as soon as possible to determine what the implications of this modification would be. And most importantly, you should provide written feedback immediately to the Bureau of Cannabis Control during the very short 15-day comment period expressing opposition to this modification.

california cannabis regulations
Here we go again!

This morning, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, California Department of Public Health, and California Department of Food and Agriculture issued 15-day notices of modification to the texts of their respective proposed regulations. The California Cannabis Portal has published links to each notice and the modified texts of the proposed regulations. For each set, the respective Department will accept written comments by November 5, 2018.

Stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog for future posts analyzing modified proposed regulations, which are extensive.