I. Introduction

On May 23, the Mississippi Supreme Court published its opinion in the case of Rex Distributing Company v. Anheuser-Busch, LLC, et al. The ruling partially reverses the trial court’s decision to dismiss all of Rex’s claims against Anheuser-Busch and rival distributor Mitchell Distributing Company (Mitchell). The ruling will allow Rex Distributing Company (Rex) to proceed with its lawsuit alleging that Anheuser-Busch violated Mississippi’s Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act (BIFDA) by refusing to approve Rex’s attempt to sell its distribution rights to Anheuser-Busch products. In addition, the ruling will allow Rex to proceed with a claim against Mitchell for tortious interference and civil conspiracy.

The ruling clarifies Mississippi beer franchise law by limiting the rights of beer suppliers in the context of distributor transfers, effectively rendering Anheuser-Busch’s “match and redirect” contractual provisions unenforceable under Mississippi’s Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act (BIFDA). Continue Reading Mississippi Supreme Court Ruling Reinstates Claims Against Anheuser-Busch, Mitchell Distributing

On May 28, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a legal opinion to address questions raised by several hemp-related provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill. The USDA opinion clarifies four areas of the 2018 Farm Bill:

  1. the removal of hemp as a controlled substance and schedule I drug became effective upon enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill;
  2. following the publication of implementing regulations, states and Indian tribes cannot prohibit interstate transportation and shipment of hemp and hemp-based products, and the USDA confirmed that this preemption also covers hemp produced under the 2014 Farm Bill;
  3. pending certain exceptions, individuals with certain controlled substance felony convictions will be barred from producing hemp; and
  4. following the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill, states and Indian tribes still retain the ability to regulate hemp production, including the ability to grow or cultivate hemp in that state or territory.

Continue Reading USDA Issues Opinion on Several Hemp-Related Provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill

For those who follow developments in the law and craft brewing with equal passion, every year has its share of substantial issues. This year has been no exception, with a pending Supreme Court case; a substantial upswing in federal trade practice enforcement activity; a massive rewrite of US Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) labeling and advertising regulations; and prospects for extending the biggest cuts in the excise tax on beer since the repeal of Prohibition.

As these developments play out over the next year, we may see changes translate into the marketplace. Find out what you can expect.

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Originally published in The New Brewer, May/June 2019.

The spring edition of the federal government’s semi-annual Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Regulatory Agenda) has been published. Like other federal agencies, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) uses the Regulatory Agenda to report on its current rulemaking projects.

The Regulatory Agenda provides glimpses into TTB’s policy focus and aspirations. But, readers should recognize that TTB rulemaking moves very slowly, and the Agency often does not meet the aspirational dates published in the Regulatory Agenda.  Continue Reading TTB Spring 2019 Updates to Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced meetings to be held this summer related to public health and marijuana. The CDC’s Board of Scientific Counselors will convene for a two-day meeting, July 16–17, 2019, to discuss a wide variety of topics, including the role of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in “addressing public health concerns related to marijuana.” This portion of the meeting will be held on July 17, will be open to the public and will allot 15 minutes for public comments at the end of the session from 3:40–3:55 pm on July 17, 2019. Continue Reading CDC and SAMHSA to Hold Summer Meetings for Public Health and Marijuana

On May 7, 2019, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (VABC) published a decision confirming the enforceability of arbitration clauses in distribution agreements between brewers and beer distributors under Virginia’s Beer Franchise Act (BFA). In Loveland Distributing Co., Inc. and Premium of Virginia, LLC v. Bell’s Brewery, Inc., the VABC panel ruled unanimously in favor of compelling the parties to resolve their dispute through arbitration, as provided for in the parties’ distribution agreement (the Agreement).

The decision is good news overall for beer and wine suppliers hoping to avoid the cost of litigation before the VABC. Continue reading for details of the dispute and further considerations. Continue Reading Arbitration Clause in Beer Distribution Agreement Enforced by the Virginia ABC

On April 25, 2019, TTB published Industry Circular 2019-1. It addresses the hot topic of alcohol beverages (especially beer) infused with hemp-derived ingredients–with cannabidiol (CBD) as the clear focus of industry interest. While hardly surprising, the Industry Circular takes or reiterates the following positions:

  1. TTB will require a formula for any product containing a hemp-derived ingredient
  2. TTB will not approve a formula for any product containing a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act
  3. TTB will not approve a formula for any product containing CBD until FDA changes its current position towards CBD as a food ingredient. FDA currently views interstate commerce in any food containing CBD as a violation of the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act
  4. TTB will continue to approve formulas for alcohol beverages containing ingredients derived from hemp seeds and hemp oil
  5. TTB will not approve a formula for any product containing a hemp ingredient other than those derived from hemp seeds or oil unless it also receives adequate evidence that FDA deems the ingredient generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for food

Federal statutes create risk for banks that want to operate in the cannabis space. Banks face the threat of civil actions, asset forfeiture, reputational risk, and even criminal penalties if they do business with customers in the cannabis industry. Further, because most banks will not touch cannabis money, the growers, processors, and retailers in the industry must often operate on a cash-only basis. The Internal Revenue Service has even had to build “cash rooms” to accommodate taxes paid by legal cannabis companies.

Access the full article.

Unlike hemp, marijuana still is subject to state statutes and the federal Controlled Substances Act. The legal distinction between hemp and marijuana is too subtle for the human eye, or a trained K-9’s impressive nose, and it has created a quandary for interstate hemp shippers. Until federal law clarifies interstate commerce laws pertaining to hemp, producers should reconsider transporting hemp through less-receptive states.

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Last week the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) made public three new warning letters to Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp oil product companies sent by FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). FDA has previously targeted cannabis product companies.

The new warning letters are consistent with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s recent statements that the FDA will go after manufacturers of CBD products that make health and wellness claims that FDA views as egregious. For example, the CBD companies in question allegedly marketed their products for Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, inflammation, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, cancer pain, PTSD and depression, to name a few symptoms. These companies are making food, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products, as well as products for pets (CBD for dogs). Continue Reading FDA Releases Warning Letters to CBD and Hemp Oil Companies