On November 8, 2016, Maine voters approved “Question 1 – An Act to Legalize Marijuana” (“Act”), and joined a handful of other states, including California, to have legalized the recreational use, retail sale and taxation of marijuana. As approved, the Act would have allowed persons 21 years of age or older to use or possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana, consume marijuana in nonpublic places (including a private residence), and grow, at the person’s residence, up to 6 flowering marijuana plants (and up to 12 immature plants). The Act also would have legalized the purchase of marijuana or marijuana seedlings or plants from retail marijuana stores and cultivation facilities. Importantly for employers, the Act was the first law of its kind in the nation establishing express anti-discrimination protections for recreational marijuana users.

The Act was to become fully effective on January 30, 2017. However, on January 27, 2017, the legislature approved a moratorium on implementing parts of the law regarding retail sales and taxation until at least February 2018, giving time to resolve issues and promulgate rules.

Continue Reading Maine Legislature Fails to Override Governor’s Veto of Recreational Marijuana Law

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to put the marijuana industry on edge with his recent efforts to clamp down on the “hands off” policies of the Obama-era Department of Justice, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced an ambitious piece of legislation that would change the landscape of how marijuana is addressed at the federal level.

The Marijuana Justice Act proposed by Senator Booker would remove marijuana from its current classification as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  Schedule I drugs are the most serious category of illegal substances – which along with drugs such as heroin, LSD, and MDMA – have the highest potential for abuse and purportedly have no currently accepted medical use.  Meanwhile, drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiods all fall under the Schedule 2 classification and are considered less dangerous under the CSA.

Unlike prior attempts to legalize marijuana and change its classification under the CSA, such as those from Senator Bernie Sanders, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA), the Marijuana Justice Act appears to be rooted in social justice and seeks to “retroactively expunge people who have been convicted of use and possession of marijuana,” “[create] incentive[s] for states to change their laws, which will stop them from enforcing the law in an unjust manner,” and “[give] communities devastated by marijuana laws [the ability] to apply for reinvestment funds, to help pay for community centers, public libraries, youth centers, and other infrastructure and social needs.”

Notably, the law would withhold federal funds for law enforcement and prison construction for states that have a disproportionate percentage of minority and low-income individuals arrested for marijuana-related offenses and would create a reinvestment fund for communities most affected by the war on drugs, with grants in areas such as job training, expenses related to the expungement of convictions, public libraries and health education programs.

Whether rooted in progressivism or simply political ambitions for 2020, Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act (which has yet to have a co-sponsor) will face an uphill battle in Congress, despite public support for legalization being at an all-time high.  Indeed, notwithstanding its populist appeal, this legislation would leave unanswered a whole host of questions, such as whether the U.S. government would play any role in the regulation of marijuana at the federal level or would leave regulation of marijuana entirely up to the states?  What about states which do not yet have their own regulatory framework?   What type of marijuana convictions would qualify for expungement?

It is unlikely that these questions will ultimately be answered with the current legislation, but the Marijuana Justice Act could open up further debate about whether marijuana should be declassified as a Schedule I drug under the CSA, which would potentially open doors to medical marijuana research and banking services for those in the marijuana industry.

A federal judge from the U.S. Northern District of Illinois recently ruled that an Illinois state law banning (i) medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries from making campaign contributions to any political committee established to promote a candidate for public office, and (ii) candidates and political committees from receiving such contributions, violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The court took the position that because the law singles out medical cannabis organizations, it is another way of restricting or discriminating against content of speech or a particular viewpoint.  This ruling is timely in that Illinois lawmakers have recently introduced bills in the both the IL House and Senate to make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of marijuana for medical or recreational use.  The Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, believes that “[b]y regulating adult use, the state can generate much-needed revenue for the state budget, replace the underground market with regulated businesses, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crime.” A potential win-win all around.

Now that Massachusetts has voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, employers that want to maintain drug-free workplaces, the new marijuana law raises a number of questions regarding employer rights and obligations.  In this client alert, we identify a number of issues facing employers in the wake of this new law and offer our initial reactions and insights.

To view the full alert, please click on the link below:

http://www.seyfarth.com/publications/MA111416-LE

Golden State voters trail-blazed the way for the legalized use and sale of marijuana on November 8, 2016. The California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Proposition 64, was welcomed with open arms (and maybe a little cotton mouth) by the nation’s largest economy with a vote of 56% in favor of the law. Continue Reading California High on Proposition 64’s Recreational Marijuana Law

The Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) filed a civil lawsuit against the Broward County Commissioner of Elections, after news reports indicated that some mail-in ballots did not include a question about a state constitutional amendment on allowing medical marijuana.

The plaintiffs’ are seeking “a judicial declaration enjoining the Defendants from distributing any further ballots, and implementing an emergency plan to issue new ones which insure the inclusion of the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot,” the organization said in a statement.

The claim was filed by NORML’s national vice chairman, Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, and his law partner, Russell Cormican, on behalf of Florida NORML and Karen Goldstein, NORML Florida’s chair, a West Park, Broward County voter.

Florida’s Amendment 2 would legalize medical marijuana for treating individuals with specific debilitating diseases or comparable debilitating conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.  Limited medical marijuana use is currently permitted under the state’s 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act; however, the 2016 amendment fully legalizes medical marijuana use and expands protection to a larger category of diseases and conditions.

Politico reported that recent polls show that more than 70 percent of likely Florida voters support the medical marijuana amendment.

 

 

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

Voters OK’d decriminalization and medical marijuana, but the Question 4 campaign is proving tougher.

A cannabis-focused real estate investment trust has filed to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. If approved, it would be the first marijuana-related company to list on the Big Board.

DENVER (AP) — Business owners are replacing idealists in the pot-legalization movement as the nascent marijuana industry creates a broad base of new donors, many of them entrepreneurs willing to spend to change drug policy.

A new Gallup poll shows 60% of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana – the highest level in a 47-year trend.

Something we missed that everyone needs to know?  Give us a shout in the comments.

With only a month to Election Day, The Blunt Truth turns its attention to the ballot measures in nine states that would expand legal access to marijuana.  This week we look at two of the five states— Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada —with ballot measures proposing to legalize recreational marijuana use for anyone 21 and over: Continue Reading RE[e]FERENDUMS: 2016 Marijuana State Ballot Initiatives

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

 

The Justice Department can’t interfere with states’ medical pot laws.

Note: we’re preparing a blog post on this topic – keep watching this space!

 

The Ohio Supreme Court signaled Wednesday it might rewrite its ethics rules to permit lawyers in the state to help medical marijuana businesses, a move that would no doubt be welcomed by MMJ entrepreneurs and attorneys.

 

The state has awarded preliminary licenses to more than 20 companies to grow and process marijuana in Maryland, a major step forward in the effort to make medical cannabis available to patients in Maryland.

 

 

Anything we missed that everyone needs to know?  Tell us in the comments.