Lawmakers have reached a tentative deal on the Farm Bill that would legalize hemp. A bipartisan criminal justice reform bill faces pushback from some Republicans. The USPTO is issuing more cannabis-related patents than ever. Also: Medical marijuana companies sue Pennsylvania regulators, alleging pay-to-play in the state’s research program. 🌳
Lawmakers reach tentative deal on Farm Bill. A tentative deal on the Farm Bill has been reached after a months-long impasse, mostly due to food stamp work requirements. Senators didn’t offer details about the compromise and cautioned that it could still change. The Washington Post One of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s biggest priorities before the end of the year is to pass legislation to legalize industrial hemp, which is included in the Farm Bill. The Associated Press But another major sticking point for the legislation is a ban on those with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry. It’s unclear if this provision will make it into the final version of the bill, as those who disagree with the ban are willing to support the bill anyways. Quartz Related: How hemp could help ailing U.S. famers. Bloomberg
“Bipartisan,” but… A criminal justice reform bill making its way through Congress has been touted for its bipartisan support. But Senate Republicans are split on the plan, despite the measure having support from president Trump. While many conservatives support prison and sentencing reform, there are still ones who take a ’90s-style, tough-on-crime approach to criminal justice, including Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) The Daily Beast If Congress manages to pass the bill, an estimated 800 inmates who are serving life sentences for drug crimes could see their sentences reduced. Reason Related: Elsewhere in Congress, the anti-marijuana U.S. rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) blocked an amendment that would reform 280E, a part of the tax code that taxes cannabis businesses at higher rates. Marijuana Moment
Companies are rushing to snag pot patents. This year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 39 cannabis-related patents, up from 29 in 2017. “How well the patents hold up in court remains to be seen. If they do, a handful of companies could be in position to demand licensing fees from the rest of the industry.” The first case of its kind will look at whether a hemp company is infringing on a patent for a liquid CBD product. One patent lawyer explains that the patent in question “could potentially apply to most of the CBD products now on the market,” though the company insists that the formulation is “novel and inventive.” The long history of marijuana prohibition could help patent holders thanks to the lack of documented research. Reuters
SCOTUS poised to rule in asset forfeiture case. The Supreme Court looks poised to rule in favor of an Indiana man who had his car seized through asset forfeiture. Tyson Timbs had his $42,000 Land Rover seized for selling a couple hundred dollar’s worth of heroin. He was sentenced to one year of home detention and probation. One Indiana judge found that seizing the car was “grossly disproportionate to the gravity” of the crime, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000. “But the Indiana Supreme Court held that the excessive-fines clause did not apply to the states.” The justices appear ready to rule otherwise. “Here we are in 2018 still litigating incorporation of the Bill of Rights,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch. “Really? C’mon, general.” The Washington Post
Pay to play in Pennsylvania’s marijuana research program. A group of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators have filed another lawsuit against the state Department of Health over its medical marijuana research program. “The research program’s opponents claim the state health department has unlawfully delegated authority to the medical schools to ‘secretly anoint’ their own partners. The chosen partners do not have to go through the same rigorous scoring and selection process as commercial operators to win what is called a clinical research permit.” One example is Curaleaf, a U.S. cannabis company with ties to Russia. The company ranked 105 out of 177 applications for medical marijuana licenses. It then told investors of plans to open six dispensaries and an indoor grow, before it even submitted an application to the state. Curaleaf is partnering with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Inquirer
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The argument against legalization in Illinois. As Illinois moves towards legalizing marijuana, opponents to the policy are arguing that it would “allow white corporate exploitation of minority customers.” The state’s medical marijuana program is dominated by wealthy white men and the program initially banned those with felony drug convictions from entering the industry. But supporters of legalization say it’s a chance to “right the wrongs” of the racial disparities in drug enforcement. A former federal prosecutor “suggested that requiring licenses for minority and women-owned businesses, and allowing partnerships or joint ventures, could help ensure that revenue from the industry goes back to communities of color, while regulation could easily prevent the concentration of businesses in any one area.” The Chicago Tribune
In cannabis business news… Young people have long flocked to California during harvest season to work as cannabis trimmers. But the gig is not as profitable as it used to be with states legalizing the drug and falling wholesale prices. The New York Times But marijuana delivery jobs are drawing gig workers thanks to its steady pay. Now, cannabis businesses are luring drivers away from Uber. San Francisco Chronicle Eaze is closing a $65 million VC round that would value the marijuana delivery service at $300 million. Axios Weedmaps is teaming up with Vice’s creative agency to create a Museum of Weed in Los Angeles. Adweek Cannabis industry analytics company Headset is teaming up with financial services firm Cowen & Co to offer its data to the investment world. Barron’s
Cannabis in Canada. Estimates of the marijuana market in Canada have varied widely. Here’s a look at why it’s so hard to come up with reasonable estimates of a long-illicit market. Jstor The senior leadership of Canadian cannabis producer Ascent Industries abruptly resigned after Health Canada said it would revoke its licenses. It’s the first time that regulators have moved to revoke a license in the industry, which it said was due to “unauthorized activities with cannabis.” Marijuana Business Daily Aurora Cannabis said it completed its first shipment of medical cannabis to the Czech Republic. MarketWatch An Aurora subsidiary opened a production plant in Montevideo, Uruguay. MercoPress
A rare dispatch on cannabis from Turkey. Public marijuana activism is rare in Turkey thanks to its strict drug laws and censorship surrounding cannabis. But one rapper used his music to navigate censorship and celebrate marijuana. While hiding political messages in his music worked for a while, Ezhel was eventually arrested for “promoting drug use” and faced up to 10 years in prison. “The charges against him were based not on his spoken advocacy, but on his songs and Instagram posts, probably due to his profile picture with a cannabis leaf.” The arrest ultimately didn’t hold up in the midst of public outrage. But then, he was charged again. “But is Ezhel too early? Another activist… who has for years focused on LGBT issues, says that when it comes to cannabis she prefers to keep a low profile.” Cannabis Wire
Elsewhere around the world… As South Korea moves to legalize medical marijuana, the government said it would start importing the drug early next year. Korea Herald A bill to legalize medical marijuana in New Zealand expanded access to the drug and passed a second reading in Parliament. New Zealand Herald A Brazilian Senate committee advanced legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Marijuana Moment A Welsh assembly member faces backlash after he criticized a police commissioner for visiting a cannabis club. UKCSC Three Philippine police officers have been found guilty of murder in the extrajudicial killing of a 17-year-old in the drugs crackdown. The teen was the first extrajudicial killing in the country that sparked public outrage after CCTV footage emerged that contradicted the police report. BBC
Word on the States
- In Colorado, the state issued a recall of pesticide-tainted medical marijuana. Some residents are upset about the prospect of a marijuana dispensary moving to their Denver neighborhood.
- In Ohio, patients may have to wait until next year to access medical marijuana. A proposed ordinance would prohibit employees of Summit County from having medical marijuana while on the job.
- In Michigan, state regulators propose allowing medical marijuana businesses to buy product from caregivers to meet a supply shortage. Two new bills were introduced to the legislature that would help those convicted of marijuana offenses. Jackson approved a medical marijuana ordinance.
- In Nevada, the newly elected state treasurer proposes a blockchain system to remedy the cash problem of the marijuana industry.
- In Massachusetts, the governor is satisfied with the rollout of legal marijuana.
- In Iowa, a look at where medical marijuana will be available on Saturday.
- In Wisconsin, state regulators have extended the deadline for hemp applications again.
- In Vermont, the public is weighing in on marijuana legalization during the commission’s listening tour.
- In Pennsylvania, the state is requesting applications for hemp research projects.
- In Arkansas, medical marijuana won’t be ready until at least April of next year.
- In Illinois, the legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that required state troopers to be fired if they tested positive for marijuana.
- In Connecticut, federal investigators allege that a doctor wrote medical marijuana and opioid prescriptions in exchange for cash.
- In Utah, the group that sponsored the medical marijuana ballot initiative will transition from a non-profit to a PAC to lobby medical marijuana issues.
- In Nevada, the state collected $7.49 million in marijuana taxes in September.
- In Maryland, medical marijuana sales are expected to hit $100 million, exceeding forecasts.
- In New York, counties are pushing to be involved with legalization discussions.
- In Washington, a marijuana store in Lacey could lose its license over offering free samples.
- In Oklahoma, high demand for medical marijuana is increasing prices to the dismay of patients.
Word for Word
“‘Good morning, we’re from the Philly area,’ Don introduces himself. ‘We’re just taking a vacation, visiting some relatives in Berkeley, going to Wine Country and Lake Tahoe.’ They don’t want me to use their real names. When I ask why, Mel looks at me like I have no human decency. She tells me she has small kids! I get it. Marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania, and the stigma is real. She and her husband could get in big trouble at work. And we’re awkwardly introducing ourselves like it’s the first day of summer camp.” – Holly McDede for KALW