Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.
No surprise, coronavirus continues to dominate the news in cannabis, just as it does in every other realm. It has put state legalization campaigns on hold, delayed sales roll-outs, and the problems in Massachusetts could fill this blog post all by themselves. And there is endless news about the (lack of) relief for marijuana businesses. But let’s start with what would have been the big headline this week, if we weren’t all social distancing.
Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed a bill decriminalizing cannabis possession earlier this week. The law also seals criminal records for simple possession. The penalty for possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana is now $25; the penalty previously was up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
OTHER STATE NEWS
We’ve reported before on the problems facing Missouri’s legalization campaign, due to COVID-19. Now the efforts have formally ceased. Gathering electronic signatures was not an option, and the virus has made traditional methods impossible. The state does hope to have medical marijuana available in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the virus is wreaking havoc, even in states where cannabis is legal. Maine voted to legalize marijuana in 2016, with sales scheduled to start in June. This week, the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy postponed sales indefinitely due to the pandemic.
Our friends at Marijuana Business Daily have a status report on legalization efforts nation wide available here.
Regular readers will doubtless recall that Massachusetts has classified medical marijuana dispensaries as essential businesses, but has mandated that recreational shops close. This has led to unhappiness and litigation. Now, a member of the Cannabis Control Commission, Kay Doyle, is stepping down, as of May 8. The cost to marijuana business owners as a result of the shutdown is estimated to be $2 million per day.
FEDERAL RELIEF EFFORTS
As we all know, the cannabis industry was shut out of the federal stimulus packages passed to date. The International Cannabis Bar Association is concerned about the damage to those businesses serving the industry. The Small Business Administration has mandated that even “indirect marijuana businesses” are ineligible for aid under the CARES Act. In a letter sent to Congressional leaders on April 13, the group urged them to direct the SBA to repeal any active guidance that references the term “Indirect Marijuana Businesses.”
Letter writing was not confined to industry groups, however. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) made their case in a letter (subscription required) to the SBA late last week. The union urged Congress to allow the agency to make funds available to cannabis businesses in states where they are legal.
Governors received some correspondence on this issue as well. Realizing that federal assistance is unlikely to appear, business leaders sent two letters asking for state-based loans for the industry and for continuing access to medical marijuana for patients.
And we also have politicians writing letters to each other on this matter. Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote a letter to Representative Jason Crow (D), a member of the Small Business Committee, asking for his assistance.
And in case you thought hemp farmers were in the clear on funding, thanks to the Farm Bill, think again. They’re having problems getting money too.
If you’re looking for something to watch while social distancing, check out the new Netflix show, “Cooked with Cannabis.” It’s a competition program where the secret ingredient is always weed. It debuts on April 20, obviously.
Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!