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Congressional Committee Takes Historic Step Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana

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.

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House Judiciary Committee to Consider De-Scheduling Bill

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.

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Safe Banking Act Passes House, Extends Cannabis Safe Harbor Protections

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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Cannabis and Hemp Update

Cannabis legalization receives widespread popular support. According to opinion polls, more than two-thirds of Americans support full legalization—a steep rise in support considering that as recently as 2005, almost two-thirds of Americans opposed legalization. The country appears on the path to full cannabis legalization, but until that time, citizens and companies should be aware of the legal risks involved in entering the cannabis space.

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Originally published in The New Brewer, July/August 2019.




Courts Are Siding with Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana

Marijuana, a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), is the most commonly detected illicit drug in employment drug testing. According to Quest Diagnostics, in 2018, approximately 3% of urine-based workplace drug screenings tested positive for marijuana. Notwithstanding marijuana’s illegality under federal law, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use. And it is big business. The Colorado Department of Revenue recently revealed that its tax, license and fee revenue from marijuana has reached $1.02 billion. Legal marijuana appears here to stay in the United States. (more…)




If the DEA Does Not Quickly Reexamine Marijuana’s Classification Under the Controlled Substance Act, the Second Circuit Might

“Plaintiffs claim that marijuana has extended their lives, cured seizures and made pain manageable. If true, these are no small things.” So wrote Judge Calabresi on behalf of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Second Circuit) in Washington, et al. v. Barr, et al.

In Washington, a coalition of plaintiffs launched a broad attack on marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The plaintiffs include the parents of infants Alexis Bortell and Jagger Cotte. According to the plaintiffs’ allegations, Alexis Bortell suffers from chronic, intractable seizures, and Jagger Cotte suffers from Leigh’s disease, a progressive neurometabolic disorder characterized by necrotizing (dead or dying tissue) lesions on the brain. After exhausting traditional treatment options, the children found relief with medical marijuana. (more…)




CDC and SAMHSA to Hold Summer Meetings for Public Health and Marijuana

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. (more…)




Congress Can Open Financial Institutions to Legal Cannabis Industry with SAFE Banking Act

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.

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Interstate Hemp Transportation: A Cautionary Tale

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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Alcohol, Cannabis and State Driving Laws

As more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, beer servers will undoubtedly face situations in which a patron is too impaired to drive due to the consumption of both cannabis and alcohol. State laws do not provide a crosswalk of breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) limits and nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a driver’s body fluids. But a few states have established limits on the nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of THC that may be present in a driver’s blood or urine. States will continue to create and modify statutory and regulatory schemes focused on marijuana impairment. In doing so, state legislatures will likely revisit the policy discussions on limits for alcohol consumption.

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Originally published in The New Brewer, July/August 2018.




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