A House hearing on cannabis banking delves into issues of legalization. A federal judge ruled in favor of a Walmart employee who got fired for using medical marijuana. New York lawmakers raise concerns about Cuomo’s plan to legalize marijuana. Also: A review found an association between teen cannabis use and adulthood depression. 🌳
A House hearing goes beyond cannabis banking. The U.S. House held its first hearing on a cannabis-related bill on Wednesday as lawmakers considered legislation to allow access to banks for the cannabis industry. Banking, industry, and government officials all urged lawmakers to pass the measure. The Associated Press “Anyone who hoped that a narrow cannabis banking fix might skirt past a broader debate over cannabis legalization was quickly realigned Wednesday during” the hearing. Cannabis Wire While the hearing is a significant development, there is still a long way to go for any cannabis-related measure to pass in the House (not to mention the GOP-dominated Senate). Marijuana Business Daily Related: There was only one person at the hearing who opposed the measure — Johnathan Talcott, a lawyer for the lobbying firm Nelson Mullins who was there representing the anti-legalization group SAM. Advocates are calling out Talcott for hypocrisy as his lobbying group has previously been retained by a cannabis company to lobby for things like banking reform. Circa
Federal judge ruled in favor of employee fired for medical marijuana use. A federal judge in Arizona ruled that Walmart was not justified in firing an employee who was a medical marijuana patient. The patient had failed a drug test. But the judge said that the failed drug test couldn’t prove that the employee had been impaired at work. The employee had worked at Walmart for eight years and has been using medical marijuana for five years. “No court has officially decided whether a private right-of-action exists under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, so that was a big part of the decision,” said the patient’s attorney. “The drug test is mentioned in the statute. You can’t fire somebody just because they test positive for metabolites.” Phoenix New Times
Elsewhere in Congress… Lawmakers filed legislation in the U.S. House and Senate to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans. The legislation would allow VA doctors to recommend the drug and would also allocate $15 million a year to research medical marijuana and veterans. The Senate bill is sponsored by senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), while the House version is sponsored by rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). Marijuana Moment Meanwhile, U.S. rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) says it shouldn’t matter if a president smokes weed. TMZ
Battle over legalization heats up in N.Y. New York lawmakers held a hearing to discuss governor Andrew Cuomo’s marijuana legalization proposal in the budget. Among lawmakers’ top concerns: How to prevent out-of-state interests from swooping in and taking over the market, and what would happen to the state’s medical marijuana program if adult-use is legalized. One Assemblymember raised concerns about MedMen, which is seeking to acquire another New York license holder PharmaCann. MedMen is also the subject of a lawsuit in California that alleged financial misconduct and racism and sexism within its top brass. Cuomo’s counsel said the state is “reviewing those allegations to determine what impact, if any, it would have on their continued ability to function in the state.” Cannabis Wire Related: Medical cannabis companies in the state say they should get first dibs on the adult-use market. WABC While lawmakers have largely moved the marijuana debate towards figuring out the right framework for legalization, law enforcement, education, and public health groups are banding together to fight legalization. The Journal News
Meanwhile, in the Big Apple… The New York City Council proposed legislation to ban pre-employment marijuana testing. “As we’re jettisoning toward legalization, it doesn’t make sense that this would be something that would prevent someone from getting gainful employment,” said councilman Jumaane Williams, who sponsored the bill. “If you ingest weed in whatever manner a month ago, I’m not sure how that prevents you from doing your job now.” The bill would contain exceptions for certain jobs like life guards or those who operate heavy machinery. New York Daily News The City Council speaker said he’s considering legislation that would undo the Health Department’s ban on edible CBD products. “I think this was an overreaction,” said Corey Johnson. The agency said it would start fining restaurants in July for adding CBD to food and beverages. New York Post
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A fight over marijuana decriminalization. Norfolk, Va. chief prosecutor Greg Underwood wants to drop or dismiss minor marijuana charges as “prosecuting people for having marijuana disproportionately hurts black people and does little to protect public safety, he’s said.” But the top judges in the city have united against his plan, refusing to allow him to implement the policy change. Underwood is considering taking the issue to the state Supreme Court. The Virginian-Pilot
Don’t legalize it for the tax revenue, says Kentucky gov. Kentucky governor Matt Bevin spoke about his support for medical marijuana legalization at a community forum, becoming emotional as he talked about his 14-year-old nephew who died from cancer in 2016. He said he would be happy to sign a medical marijuana legalization bill, but warned lawmakers not to look at it as a potential means of raising revenue. “We should not be trying to financially capitalize on the medical needs of anyone in our population. If we’re going to do this, it should be treated the same as every other drug — taxed no more or no less. To say that we’re going to do this as a way to raise money is wrong.” Meanwhile, he remains opposed to any sort of recreational legalization measure. The Associated Press
The studies say… A new review of 11 studies that covered about 24,000 teens found that using marijuana as a teen is associated with depression as an adult. Researchers “found that using marijuana at least weekly before 18 is associated with a 37 percent increased risk of depression in adulthood (up to age 32), even when taking into account someone’s existing mental health issues.” The Verge The study doesn’t show a causal relationship between teen marijuana use and depression, and had numerous other limitations, including relying on self-reporting. The Guardian As the cannabis industry grows, so do the research gaps. While the science on marijuana use during pregnancy is slim, anecdotal evidence abounds online. The Philadelphia Inquirer
Today in cannabis business news… How cannabis businesses can deal with the uncertainties of regulations. Bangor Daily News “While some craft producers and smaller dispensary chains, often those owned by LGBTQ people, are actively working to build a queer customer base, broader outreach by the cannabis industry has been minimal.” Leafly California cannabis company Flow Kana raised $125 million — reportedly “the largest private funding round of a cannabis company executed in the United States to date.” Forbes
Weed podcasts. Word on the Tree is happy to be the official news source of cannabis podcast Weed + Grub, which is one of Uproxx’s best weed-related podcast to listen to right now. “Mike Glazer and Mary Jane Gibson discuss cannabis and food, but that’s not all. They pretty much discuss every topic that comes to mind,” including offering their hot takes on news stories from this very newsletter. Uproxx
Word on the States
- In Colorado, a bill to change marijuana DUI laws was postponed indefinitely.
- In Vermont, a Senate bill to tax and regulate marijuana flounders in committee over the issue of giving MMJ businesses a head start on rec sales.
- In Maine, medical marijuana sales dropped for the second straight year. Augusta city councilors consider banning recreational marijuana businesses.
- In Michigan, the newly regulated medical marijuana program is expected to bring in $18.2 million in tax revenue this year. Niles will allow recreational marijuana businesses.
- In Connecticut, Hartford council members approved a plan for a working group to study equity in the cannabis industry.
- In New York, a Rikers correctional officer is charged with smuggling drugs into the jail.
- In Georgia, a new bill would allow medical marijuana businesses in the state.
- In Utah, the state’s largest health care network will allow its doctors to recommend medical marijuana.
- In Arkansas, a House committee killed legislation to expand the list of MMJ-qualifying conditions. The health department issued a public health advisory about the dangers of marijuana. A company sues government officials for failing to investigate marijuana dispensary complaints.
- In Texas, state lawmakers filed a record number of marijuana-related bills this session.
- In Oklahoma, a working group finalized a medical marijuana regulation bill to submit to legislative leaders.
- In North Carolina, a lawmaker reintroduced a bill to make marijuana possession legal.
- In West Virginia, Salem residents will vote on cannabis decriminalization during the June municipal elections.
- In Wyoming, lawmakers are wary of medical marijuana.
Word for Word
“The twin Massachusetts drug lab scandals are unprecedented in the sheer number of cases thrown out because of forensic misconduct. Between the two women, 47,000 drug convictions and guilty pleas have been dismissed in the last two years, many for misdemeanor possession. Many more are likely to follow, with the total expected to exceed 50,000. Both scandals undercut confidence in the criminal justice system and the validity of forensic analysis. And both pose the obvious question about how chemists could behave so badly for years without detection… Looking back, it seems that Massachusetts law enforcement officials, reeling from the Dookhan case, simply felt they couldn’t weather another full-fledged forensics scandal. Maybe fatigue made them sloppy, or perhaps they actively chose to look the other way as evidence piled up about the enormity of Farak’s crimes. But why were a small handful of prosecutors allowed total control over evidence about one of the worst criminal justice failures in recent memory?” – Shawn Musgrave for Reason
“‘Sooner or later, somebody is going to make a joke about you getting high,’ says Brennan Gilkison, a 42-year-old hemp farmer in central Kentucky who has no interest in getting high. For centuries, American farmers grew hemp for fiber, oil and many other uses. George Washington cultivated it at Mount Vernon to mend fishing nets. Gilkison’s crop goes into products containing cannabidiol, or CBD. People still titter. Practice your explainer, which should go something like this: Marijuana and hemp are varieties of the same species of cannabis plant, but hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of the mind-altering tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, and will not get you high. ‘You become an educator,’ he says. (Third graders visit his farm on field trips.)” – Malia Wollan for The New York Times Magazine