Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.
Of course, what’s happening in the cannabis world is what’s happening everywhere else: the coronavirus. We’ve got lots to report on how the pandemic is affecting marijuana, but let’s start with other news first.
We’ve talked quite a bit about South Dakota over the years; most recently, we’ve been watching the progress of their hemp legalization legislation. Well, it’s finally happened. Governor Kristi Noem has overcome her reluctance to allow any form of cannabis in her state, and signed a bill allowing the growth, production and transportation of hemp. So now Idaho stands alone as the only state where no form of cannabis is legal.
In other non-COVID news, the Drug Enforcement Administration released new guidance on expanding marijuana research, as we reported last week. That guidance has prompted some commentary, and it’s been less than laudatory. NORML calls the rules “unduly onerous, expensive and impractical.” Ouch. But that’s not all. Scientists at the Scottsdale Research Institute have filed suit against the agency, claiming that the DEA has changed its interpretation of federal statutes and treaty obligations, without detailing how it arrived at its new view of the law.
Moving on to coronavirus news, the hemp industry was included in the recent stimulus package. Our friends at “Hemp Industry Daily” have a nice roundup of what assistance is available here. The rest of the cannabis industry was not so lucky. The Small Business Administration has confirmed that marijuana business are NOT eligible for disaster relief, as the use of marijuana is illegal under federal law. NORML (which has maintained a robust correspondence with federal entities this week) released a policy memo detailing ways in which the industry could be helped during the pandemic.
Many states have declared cannabis dispensaries and shops to be essential businesses. Massachusetts has carved out a unique policy that allows medical marijuana dispensaries to remain open, but mandates that recreational shops close, although cannabis is legal for recreational use in the state. The governor has declared the idea of designating recreational outlets as essential a “non-starter,” due to the out-of-state customers they would attract. A member of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission has joined industry advocates in opposing this plan.
Meanwhile, in New York, it seems highly unlikely that legalization will pass as part of this year’s budget bill, but supporters hope it may reappear later in the session. Obviously, the state has much bigger problems to deal with right now.
It’s not just New York that has seen legalization take a back seat to the virus. In addition to the states we reported on last week, COVID-19 is making it much harder to gather signatures for a Missouri ballot initiative. In Oklahoma, the state shut down signature gathering as part of a 30-day statewide emergency declaration. All is not lost for legalization supporters, however, as Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R-Okmulgee) has indicated he will introduce a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the state, in an effort to raise revenue. In Arizona, however, advocates of adult-use marijuana indicate they have enough signatures to put their measure on the November ballot.
There’s been a lot of news surrounding distilleries producing hand sanitizer. The cannabis industry is doing so as well. Companies are making their own sanitizer to give away to their own employees and patients. They’re donating supplies to health care workers in need. And in Canada, cannabis labs have offered to assist in COVID-19 testing.
Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!