Marijuana legalization is a winning issue in the 2020 presidential election. While Idaho police crack down on hemp, stores continue to sell it. Black market marijuana sellers say their businesses will survive legalization in New Jersey. Also: Facebook considers allowing cannabis sellers to post (but not advertise) on the platform. 🌳
Cannabis in the 2020 race. Former U.S. rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) called for federal marijuana legalization ahead of an expected bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. CNN Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) reiterated his support for marijuana reform, criticizing prohibition for destroying lives. Politico The former governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper is also jumping into the race. Hickenlooper, once opposed to legalization, oversaw the implementation of legal cannabis and eventually came to defend the marijuana program in his state. Reuters “Unless Democrats get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate or win over Republicans, chances are the next president in 2021 is not going to legalize marijuana nationwide. But the candidates’ support for legalization marks a huge shift from previous presidential bids.” Vox
The strange status of hemp. Idaho police are pursuing a case against a shipment of industrial hemp that they argue is actually marijuana. But prosecutors say that — even if the plant material contains less than 0.3 percent THC — the hemp would still violate state drug laws. At the same time, there are tons of stores in the state that sell hemp products and have never run into trouble with the law. “So it’s OK to buy and eat hemp products in Idaho, but you can’t drive it through the state — even after the 2018 farm bill removed it from the list of controlled substances and legalized commercial production?” The conflict between state and federal laws on hemp plus the lack of enforcement shows how — even after the 2018 Farm Bill — the hemp industry still operates with legal uncertainties. Idaho Statesman
A rift in the GOP over marijuana policy. A rift in New Mexico’s Republican Party mirrors a conflict on the national level, too: The state GOP chairman announced that the party does not support bills that legalize adult-use marijuana. But GOP lawmakers are sponsoring marijuana legalization bills currently in the state legislature. Three Republican senators are working across the aisle on a bill that would tax and regulate recreational cannabis. “I think unless you live under a rock, you know legalized marijuana is coming,” said one. The push for legalization came after a Democrat was elected governor. Albuquerque Journal
The marijuana black market is flourishing in N.J. While lawmakers and lobbyists spar over marijuana legalization, business is booming for black market cannabis. At a pop-up event for cannabis sellers, one entrepreneur talked about her dream to open a cannabis bakery, but the costs of entering a legal market were simply too high. She believes she will always have customers on the black market: “The state has no idea what they’re doing. They have no idea what the people want… The underground will always stay in business.” Asbury Park Press Related: Spending on marijuana lobbying in the state reached $1.3 million last year, a 313 percent increase from the year before. The Associated Press The state Senate’s GOP leader says he’s not whipping votes against marijuana legalization. New Jersey Globe
Fighting over medical marijuana leads to delays for patients. The agriculture department of Louisiana is accusing Louisiana State University and its cannabis growing partner GB Sciences for improperly moving marijuana plants and breaking state law. LSU, for its part, says the state agency is overstepping its authority by proposing conditions for moving the plants. “Ongoing disagreements over the regulatory process have delayed medical marijuana from reaching pharmacy shelves, years after lawmakers legalized it for certain treatments. It is still not clear when the product will reach the pharmacy shelves.” The Advocate
🚨 Shameless Promotions 🚨
Word on the Tree is supported by GeekTek, the information technology and security service partner for companies in growth mode throughout US and Canada. Scale with GeekTek
Facebook considers relaxing marijuana rules. During an internal presentation at a moderation policy forum, Facebook considered “whether we can loosen this restriction [on marijuana sales], especially in relation to medical marijuana, legal marijuana and brick and mortar stores.” The proposed changes would only apply to Facebook posts, not advertisements. Cannabis businesses have long been critical of the social network’s approach to enforcing its own policies on cannabis content. “No formal recommendation has been made, but the company has formed an internal working group to determine how the rules could be changed and whether looser rules could realistically be enforced across a patchwork of different laws.” The Telegraph
California and Arizona cannabis businesses head to court over shared name. Two cannabis companies named “Harvest” are heading to court over the name. The California-based company has a state trademark for the name, while the Arizona-based business has the federal trademark for the name. The Arizona company registered the federal trademark before the California company registered its state trademark. While the Arizona company has previously sued the California company over the name, the legal battle is heating up as the Arizona company prepares to enter the California market. “A similar dispute also is unfolding in Northern California, where a hemp clothing maker and cannabis farmer is suing a well-known [marijuana] manufacturer over the name ‘Satori.'” Marijuana Business Daily
Elsewhere in cannabis business news… The legal cannabis industry in the U.S. has created 211,000 full-time jobs so far. Leafly Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. are increasingly accepting of cannabis as a crop. While they tend to be more conservative, the increase in acceptance reflects the nation’s changing attitudes — especially when it comes to CBD and medical marijuana. Marijuana Business Daily Tim Leslie has joined Leafly as its CEO. He was previously the VP of Amazon Prime Video International. GeekWire Maine decided to withdraw its contract with Metrc for its seed-to-sale tracking system. It will release a request for proposals instead. “The state is concerned the deal could draw a challenge that results in a delay of recreational marijuana sales.” Marijuana Business Daily
Cannabis in Canada. The amount of cannabis seized at the Canadian border has increased more than 60 percent year-over-year after the country legalized the drug. “The Canada Border Services Agency is linking the rise to the fact it began asking people last fall whether they were bringing cannabis into the country.” Financial Post Manitoba police raided an alleged unlicensed cannabis dispensary in Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation. CBC News B.C. cannabis producer Ascent was granted creditor protection after its cannabis licenses were suspended by federal regulators. BNN Bloomberg Cannabis producer Cronos sold its 19 percent stake in Whistler Medical Marijuana to Aurora Cannabis. Business Insider
Elsewhere around the world… The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board said that recreational marijuana programs and some medical marijuana programs violate international drug control treaties. The board’s annual report “could be a step back for those expecting meaningful reform at an international level this year.” Marijuana Business Daily Investment bankers have their eyes on the European medical marijuana market. But right now, “the European market is basically uninvestable for managers of institutional equity funds.” Bloomberg South Korea will soon be the first East Asian nation to legalize medical cannabis products. While advocates are critical of the limited offerings of the program, it’s still “a remarkable turn of events in a nation that has a history of holding a fierce line against anything related to cannabis.” Cannabis Wire
Word on the States
- In Oklahoma, medical marijuana sales topped $7.2 million in February. Thousands attended an Oklahoma City marijuana expo.
- In Massachusetts, three cannabis companies will have to amend their host community agreements with Fall River after agreeing to pay fees higher than what state law allows. Another recreational marijuana dispensary will open in Gardner this week.
- In Colorado, a House committee endorsed a bill that would allow outside investors into the state’s marijuana market.
- In Alaska, regulators are waiting for the lieutenant governor’s signature for on-site marijuana consumption. A House committee advanced the nomination of a marijuana regulator nominated by the governor.
- In New Jersey, Newark welcomes its first medical marijuana dispensary.
- In New York, NYC council lawmakers demand answers from the Health Department about its CBD crackdown.
- In Florida, a look at recreational legalization efforts in the state. The House will pass a smokable medical marijuana bill, according to the speaker.
- In Hawaii, most medical marijuana patients are using the drug to treat severe pain.
- In Ohio, potential patients must choose between medical marijuana and guns.
- In Kentucky, a House committee approved a resolution to study medical marijuana, casting doubt on efforts to legalize it. Advocates say the proposal is meant to stall progress on legalization.
- In South Carolina, the governor would probably veto any medical marijuana legalization legislation.
- In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia considers a resolution to call on the state to legalize marijuana.
- In Maryland, Anne Arundel considers lowering restrictions on medical marijuana businesses.
- In Georgia, a bill to allow medical cannabis production hits a roadblock in the House.
- In Minnesota, legalization in Michigan is influencing marijuana reform efforts in the state.
- In Texas, a House committee held a hearing on a marijuana decriminalization bill.
- In Wisconsin, agriculture officials have seen a dramatic increase in hemp license applications.
Word for Word
“US Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently used his official Twitter account to make a startling claim: Contrary to the promises made by criminal-justice and drug-policy reform advocates, he said, the era of legal adult-use cannabis has actually led to more people of color being arrested. The Feb. 23 tweet triggered immediate backlash from academics and researchers as well as cannabis-reform advocates, who pointed out a fundamental problem with what the country’s chief medical officer broadcast to his roughly 584,000 followers: It’s just not true. Not at all.” – Chris Roberts for Leafly
“Many investors see a big opportunity in marijuana. Alas, it is not as simple as buying a handful of marijuana stocks on good news. Often it backfires and investors lose money on the ensuing volatility… The long-term future for marijuana stocks is bright. Then why not back up the truck and buy marijuana stocks as a long-term investment?” – Analyst Nigam Arora for MarketWatch