Texas is joining the states weighing whether to expand legalized uses of marijuana, with state legislators filing almost a dozen bills related to marijuana use in advance of the legislative session, which began on January 8.  (In Texas, the state legislature meets biannually for a 140-day session.)  Texas first established a limited compassionate use program for medical marijuana in 2015, and three dispensaries are currently in operation under that program.  However, due to limitations in the conditions for which medical cannabis can be prescribed, less than 1,000 people have been able to avail themselves of the program. (Under the Texas compassionate use program, in order to receive a legal prescription for low-THC CBD oil, a patient must (i) have intractable epilepsy, (ii) have already failed at least two other legally prescribed therapies and (iii) have approval from two state-recognized specialized neurologists.)

Certain bills would expand the list of conditions for which medical cannabis can be prescribed, including glaucoma, cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, Crohn’s disease and PTSD.  Another bill, which would institute more sweeping changes, decriminalizes possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.  The Harris County (which contains the City of Houston) District Attorney’s office, has, for the past year, experimented with a diversion program for individuals who possess less than four ounces of marijuana.  Individuals who participate in the program, which was created by the county because of expenditures on enforcement efforts with a limited public safety benefit, can avoid arrest, court dates or criminal records if they agree to participate in an education program.  The prospects for these bills remain uncertain given the lack of support from key state leaders, particularly Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate.

Additional uncertainty remains given that cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.  The Obama administration Department of Justice (DOJ) had shown some flexibility on state efforts to legalize uses of cannabis; however, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that guidance.  With Sessions’ resignation in November 2018, and the AG position currently vacant, it is unclear what the future will hold, although a return to the more flexible Obama-era policy is unlikely.

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

Welcome also to a new year of Week in Weed; after the many cannabis-related events of 2018, one can only imagine what will be occupying our attention in 2019…

This week, saw the release of a disappointing report on the possibility of cannabis banks in California.  Not feasible, as they would face insurmountable hurdles.  Read the full report for yourself here.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the procedure for licensing medical marijuana businesses has come under question.  In addition to the constitutional issues, the dispute between the Department of Health and a circuit court judge centers around how many licenses can be issued and whether vertical integration should be required.  Stay tuned for more on this issue, as the case has been appealed.

And in Massachusetts, a state Senator has plans to introduce legislation that would prevent employers from firing workers for off-duty cannabis use.  We’ll be keeping our eyes on this as well.

After Michigan legalized marijuana, we speculated that Illinois or Wisconsin might be next.  A state that seems unlikely to follow their neighbor’s lead is Indiana, where the governor is not a fan.

One big state that hasn’t made a move on cannabis is Texas.  Could that change in the new year?  Only time will tell.

In international news, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has decriminalized marijuana.  And what about Ireland?  They’ve made noises about legalizing medical marijuana before; could 2019 be the year?

We’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2019 – see you next Friday!

Welcome to our end of the year wrap-up post for The Week in Weed; it’s hard to believe another year has come and (almost) gone, but the calendar doesn’t lie.  In what we are calling an homage to Dave Barry and his always hilarious Year in Review, we’ll organize these stories by month.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the stories that grabbed our attention in 2018. Continue Reading The Week, No Make that the Year, in Weed: 2018

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

In what may become another continuing feature, another “red” state appears poised to being the marijuana legalization process.  Member of the Nebraska legislature are looking to put medical cannabis on the 2020 ballot.

Meanwhile, if there were an award for best name of a marijuana store, the Gas N’ Grass in Portland, ME would win, hands down.

The fact that Michigan has legalized cannabis, but not the sale of cannabis is not problem for one entrepreneur, who has embraced a “gifting” model.

Although New Jersey is on our “states to watch” list, adult use legalization is not going to happen this year.  We’ll see what 2019 brings.

We reported last week that Minnesota was considering marijuana legalization.  For more info and some great analysis, see this blog post from the Minneapolis Criminal Law News.

Andrew Cuomo has appeared before in our “politicians coming around on marijuana” segment.  He’s now fully in support of full legalization.

In international news, New Zealand will have a binding referendum on cannabis legalization in 2020.  We promise to follow this news and report back in a future Week in Weed.

Sometimes it seems as if everyone is in favor of legal cannabis.  This is not true.  Take New Hampshire’s governor.

See you next Friday!

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

The big news this week is that hemp legalization is on its way to the President’s desk.  Noted hemp supporter Sen. Mitch McConnell even signed the bill with a hemp pen.

In other federal news, the Surgeon General has come out in favor of rescheduling cannabis.  He believes the current placement of marijuana in Schedule I has prevented research into the drug.

In California, the Bureau of Cannabis Control has finalized its regulations.  They will now make their way to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review.  Marijuana Business Daily has a nice summary of the provisions and what they will mean for businesses in the state.

But the action on the state level is not just on the West Coast.  The inter-state rivalry between Michigan (which just legalized adult-use cannabis) and Illinois continues, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks out in favor of legalizing marijuana.  In other Midwestern news, Minnesota might also consider legalization, but, don’t hold your breath, votes may not be taken until 2020.

And for the latest on the Utah situation, see Jinouth Vasquez’s post which describes the state of play there, at least as of yesterday afternoon!

See you next Friday!

What a year it’s been in legalizing cannabis—from conservative states legalizing medical marijuana—to city ordinances imposing cannabis requirements. Changes in Cannabis laws are definitely creating a buzz for SF and Utah employers.

Background Checks SF. San Francisco, known for its forward progress in the cannabis space, has done it again. Effective October 1, 2018, employers are prohibited from “inquiring about, requiring disclosure of, or basing employment decisions on convictions for decriminalized behavior, including the non-commercial use and cultivation of cannabis.” The ordinance restricts employers from asking questions about pot convictions and, instead, authorizes the City to impose penalties on employers who violate the ordinance. Some of the penalties include a private right of action for the victim and monetary payment.

Notably, in conformance with California’s Fair Chance Employment Act, the ordinance does allow employers to ask about convictions after a conditional offer of employment has been made. Under the Act, employers can deny an applicant a position of employment because of the conviction, but the employer must make an individualized assessment of whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job which justify denying the applicant the position. In making the assessment, the employer must consider the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct; the time since the offense; and the nature of the job held or sought.  For more information on what else an employer is required to do when contemplating denying employment to an applicant, contact your favorite Seyfarth cannabis attorney.

Could Utah’s cannabis legalization be up in smoke? As previously reported, Utah legalized medical marijuana this midterm through Proposition 2. Proposition 2 failed to include important provisions in its initiative, including what rights employers would have.

However, Utah’s House of Representatives held a special legislative session whereby lawmakers changed Proposition 2 and adopted more restrictive provisions in what is being called the medical cannabis compromise. These restrictive provisions include employer protections. For example, a draft of the medical cannabis compromise states that an employee may not “be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol during work hours” nor can the employee “refuse to submit to a drug or alcohol test.” (Section 67-19-33).

The compromise also states that employees cannot manufacture, dispense, possess, use, or distribute a controlled substance if: (1) the activity prevents state agencies from receiving federal grants or performing under federal contracts of $25,000 or more; or (2) the activity prevents the employee from performing his “services or work for state government effectively as regulated by the rules of the executive director.”

Although Utah lawmakers tried to clear the haze left by Proposition 2, a pair of advocacy groups have since filed a lawsuit to block the medical cannabis compromise. The groups argue that the compromise is unconstitutional and interferes with what the voters enacted. The group asked the Utah Supreme Court to allow a referendum on the legislature’s action and allow them to go before voters to challenge the medical cannabis compromise. Alternatively, they seek to overturn the compromise and instead, keep Proposition 2 as the law.

While this lawsuit may be a long shot because the legislature has the legal authority to modify or replace ballot initiatives, you’ll want to stay tuned for further updates as this story develops.

And if you’d like to get a preview of what 2019 may have in store for California and cannabis, check out “Pot-Protective Employment Laws Loom in 2019” in the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine.

 

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

First, recreational marijuana is now legal in the state of Michigan.  Of course, as we have discussed before, making marijuana legal is only the first step in setting up stores to purchase marijuana.  In fact, the Chicago Tribune wonders if Illinois could legalize marijuana and set up commercial outlets more quickly.

Meanwhile, in Utah, another state that voted on marijuana in the recent election, the legislature has crafted a compromise law.  Not everyone is happy about it, but with the approval of the governor, it’s now the law of the land.

Speaking of the delay between legalization and availability, Arkansas voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016.  Growers are hoping to have product available this spring.

In foreign news, Mexico has approved over the counter cannabis products, while Luxembourg has released a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

A major tobacco company is looking to invest in Canadian marijuana.  The stock of Cronos Group, the company that could be acquired, rose on the news.

Finally, not everyone in Canada is happy about legalization.   Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

See you next Friday!

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

The big news this week, at least on the federal level, is that hemp legalization appears to be coming sooner rather than later.  Nothing like having an important Senator on your side to smooth the way.

In state news, marijuana stores in Massachusetts opened last week (after WIW went to press) with many customers eager to purchase their wares.  Remember, Massachusetts voters opted to legalize cannabis in 2016.  Voters in Michigan may want to keep that timeframe for stores to open in mind, as legalization takes effect there December 6.  Possession and home cultivation will be legal next week, but it will probably be a while before shops open.

Remember when it seemed as if New Jersey was the last place you thought would legalize cannabis?  Times have changed!  Granted, this newest proposal may not go anywhere, but these bills are no longer dead on arrival.

And add North Carolina to the list of states considering legalization.  Theirs is an interesting idea, that I’ve not seen before, where each county would be able to decide to legalize or not.  Like wet and dry counties, but with cannabis rather than alcohol.

And in our continuing series on politicians who have changed their mind on marijuana, Joe Kennedy III has now joined this club.

In international news,  South Korea has legalized medical marijuana, the first country in East Asia to do so.

And finally, for our Chicagoland readers, please join us at our Chicago Willis Tower office on Thursday, December 6th, for breakfast along with a Seyfarth Legal Forum and Continuing Legal Education (CLE): 2018 Highlights and a Look Ahead to 2019.  Among the topics under discussion is cannabis in Illinois.

While there is no cost to attend, registration is required and space is limited.  If you have any questions, please contact Fiona Carlon at fcarlon@seyfarth.com and reference this event.

See you next week!

Georgia workers want to know if they can get fired for legally using cannabis oil.

In Georgia, employees risk being penalized by their employers for their legal use of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil while performing their jobs.  Employers wishing to maintain a drug-free workplace are concerned about employees performing their duties impaired if they use CBD oil, even when CBD oil contains low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and has proven to be safer and more effective than opioids.

The lack of clear guidelines is frustrating workers. State law allows employees to use CBD oil, while other laws allow employers to fire workers for using it. Georgia lawmakers are looking to move the ball forward on harmonizing the employer’s goal of prohibiting working under the influence on the one hand with the patient’s goal of legally treating health conditions on the other.

Legislators will have to categorize CBD oil.

Did the CBD oil come from marijuana or hemp?

Both marijuana and hemp are plants that come from the “cannabis” family. The primary difference between the two plants is the level of THC present. Marijuana plants can have THC levels of up to 30%, whereas there is usually less than .3% of THC in hemp (you can’t get high from .3%).

After the Agricultural Act and Farm Bill in 2014 drew some attention to hemp, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 removed hemp from the controlled substance schedule so long as there was no more than .3% THC. Therefore, hemp derived CBD oil is legal; but under federal law, CBD oil derived from marijuana is illegal.  The legality of marijuana derived CBD oil at the state level depends on how individual states treat marijuana.

But what if we remove the THC from marijuana derived CBD oil?

18 states, including Georgia, are in the process of passing legislation to specifically address this issue and resolve the relationship between THC threshold and CBD oil categorization.

Georgia should have clearer answers after the 2019 legislative session.

Currently, Georgia allows for the use of low-THC CBD oil, but the lack of clarity requires forward-thinking legislation to satisfy employers concerned about impaired workers while protecting patients who are following state law while performing their jobs.

Back in March, 2016, House Bill 722 was introduced to allow Georgia manufacturers to grow and cultivate medical marijuana in-state under strict controls. While this early legislation left pro-cannabis legislators wanting more, it allowed for the limited use of CBD oil to treat severe illnesses. By the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session, SB 16 and HB 65 broadened the conditions eligible for treatment from low THC CBD oil (including PTSD, intractable pain, and Alzheimer’s).

Earlier this year, a resolution was passed to study industrial hemp production.  This optimistically signals that much needed clarity should result from the upcoming legislative session in 2019.

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

Most of the international news lately has focused on Canada, and with good reason.  But it’s not only our neighbors to the north who are making news in the cannabis space.

Israel is looking to export medical marijuana while Germany is facing a lawsuit over its medical cannabis plan.  And in New Zealand, the people of Ruatoria are hoping medical marijuana can save the town.

We talked last week about the prospects for Illinois following Michigan’s lead to legalize recreational marijuana.  Now, it seems that, following Missouri and Oklahoma, Kansas might venture into the medical cannabis industry.

Several of us who bring you The Blunt Truth call the DC area home, so we follow the developments in our nation’s capital with particular interest.  Last Friday, the D.C. Department of Health published proposed rules allowing the sale of chocolate medical marijuana-infused products.  Unlike statutes, the District’s regulations are not subject to Congressional oversight, so most likely, in 30 days, these items will be available.  So soon, you’ll be able to get your cannabis, and the munchies you’ll need afterwards, all in one package.

A Word version of the new rule is available here:  Health Department of 22C DCMR Ch. 56 Ingestible Items

See you next week!