Over the past several months, 15 notable deals have taken place in the craft beer space, continuing a trend toward consolidation in the industry. While the terms of most transactions remain undisclosed, the deals generally fall into three buckets:

  1. Strategic deals designed to combine leading brands and brewers and leverage distribution capacity;
  2. Targeted asset acquisitions designed primarily to expand brewing capacity; and
  3. Restructuring transactions.

McDermott’s Marc Sorini, Thomas Conaghan and Daniel McGuire walk through notable strategic deals, asset/capacity purchases and restructurings.

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Originally published in The New Brewer, November/December 2019.

Last week FDA issued a public release on CBD titled, “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis derived Compounds, Including CBD.”

The FDA document does not break much new ground, though it emphasizes again FDA’s concern with the safety of CBD, some of which comes from FDA’s review of the CBD-based epilepsy drug Epidiolex. FDA does not believe it has enough information about certain aspects of CBD, such as what happens if someone takes CBD daily for sustained periods. In addition, FDA specifically identifies as a potential harm the use of CBD with alcohol because of the increased risk of sedation and drowsiness, which can lead to injuries. FDA, in addition to issuing this document, sent 15 warning letters to companies marketing CBD products that FDA views as unapproved drugs primarily because of the drug like claims made for such products.

FDA appears to be on a path toward considering a regulation to allow the marketing of CBD in conventional foods or as a dietary supplement. This approach will likely take a long time—perhaps some 2-4 years—absent legislative changes that do not appear likely in an election year. In the meantime, FDA continues to view putting into interstate commerce a food to which CBD has been added or to market CBD as or in a dietary supplement as a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

For the first time in American history, a congressional committee approved a marijuana legalization bill. On November 20, 2019, after more than two hours of debate, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3884) in a 24 to 10 vote. If the MORE Act becomes law, it would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis in the United States.

Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government considers to have no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential. The MORE Act, if passed into law, would remove marijuana from Schedule I.

Continue Reading Congressional Committee Takes Historic Step Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana

This Wednesday, November 20, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). The bill’s sponsors and advocates for cannabis normalization say the legislation is the most comprehensive ever considered by Congress. In fact, due to the bill’s sprawling reforms, it was referred to eight separate committees for consideration according to their discrete jurisdictions. The Judiciary Committee will be the first to consider the bill and the Committee members will have opportunities to amend it.

Continue Reading House Judiciary Committee to Consider De-Scheduling Bill

Yesterday, the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its interim final rule setting forth the proposed rules and regulations regarding the production of hemp under the provisions of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, or the “2018 Farm Bill.” As mandated by the 2018 Farm Bill, the proposed regulations outline provisions for both the approval by the USDA of State or Indian Tribe proposed plans as well as the development of its own federal plan for the production of hemp in the absence of an applicable approved State or Tribal program.

Continue Reading USDA Publishes Long-Awaited Interim Regulations Governing the Production of Legalized Hemp

First introduced in 2013, the SAFE Banking Act just passed the House 321-103. This bill, an exciting and promising development for cannabis advocates, provides safe harbor to banks and financial institutions doing business with state-legal cannabis businesses, and allows cannabis businesses to move away from conducting business exclusively in cash.

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Recent cases offer lessons for brewers navigating the often-tricky obstacles surrounding the selection, use and enforcement of trademarks. Whether a brewery is choosing a logo or naming a new beer, the latest decisions highlighted in this article underscore the importance of doing due diligence when it comes to trademarks.

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Originally published in The New Brewer, September/October 2019.

Sharp disagreements in the Second Circuit over whether a Connecticut liquor law runs afoul of antitrust law, recently exposed in a bitter dissent, highlight a circuit split that some experts predict will be taken up by the US Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel upheld the law in February by batting down a retailer’s challenge to three parts of Connecticut’s liquor sales law, including a controversial “post and hold” provision that lets wholesalers match each other’s prices. The panel rejected the retailers’ claim that the provision forced wholesalers into illegal price-fixing deals.

“There is a split, and it’s an important area,” said Raymond Jacobsen Jr., McDermott partner, backing the retailer’s view that the “post and hold” requirement creates a clear state-sanctioned violation of the Sherman Act. He said he believes it’s a question that will intrigue the justices.

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Originally published on Law360, September 2019.

In August, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued its final decision in Bellion Spirits, LLC v. United States, Civ. No. 17-2538 (JEB). The Bellion case was brought by spirits company Bellion Spirits after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) refused to approve a series of health claims advanced by Bellion in connection with its vodka products. According to Bellion, the infusion of its vodka with a compound called NTX will mitigate the damage alcohol inflicts on human DNA. Continue Reading Court Dismisses Challenge to TTB’s Rejection of Health Claims on Vodka

I. Factual Background

During the 34-day government shutdown occurring between December 2018 and January 2019, producers and importers of beer, wine and distilled spirits needing label approval to bring new products to market were forced to wait until the shutdown was resolved, when TTB could begin again to process COLA applications. The difficulties presented by this situation included the prospect of needing to destroy valuable, perishable inventory.

Unable to obtain a COLA due to the shutdown, Atlas Brew Works (Atlas) filed suit in January in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the constitutionality of the COLA system. Atlas alleged that the requirement to obtain label approval violates the First Amendment, since, in the event of a government shutdown, the COLA requirement amounted to a prior restraint on protected speech. As the court explained in its opinion, Atlas’s argument boiled down to the claim that “a law that prohibits speech without regulatory approval becomes an outright ban on speech when the approval process is shuttered.” Shortly after the case was filed, the shutdown ended and Atlas received its COLA. The government asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that it was now moot. After giving the parties several months in which to brief the issue, the court ruled in favor of the government’s motion, finding Atlas’s case moot. Continue Reading TTB Label Approval System Survives First Amendment Challenge from DC Brewery