A committee advanced a marijuana banking bill to the House, where it’s expected to pass. Massachusetts is investigating whether cannabis companies are skirting a state cap on licenses. The CEO of a cannabis company shelled out $25,000 for a secretive fundraiser for the New York governor. Also: Tech investors raise $40 million for a psychedelic medicine company. 🌳
U.S. House committee advances marijuana banking bill. A congressional panel advanced legislation that would allow banks to serve the cannabis industry. The measure had bipartisan support, though some Republican lawmakers expressed concern over the legislation. The bill now advances to the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to pass. “However, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-led Senate, according to analysts.” Reuters U.S. rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Rules Committee, is confident that the bill will not only pass the House, but also the Senate. “I think that there’s bipartisan support in the Senate on this as well and I would expect something to happen this year,” he said. Boston Herald McGovern also said that the rules committee would take up legislation to protect state marijuana laws “within the next several weeks… If we have a strong bipartisan vote that will increase the pressure on the Senate to do something.” Marijuana Moment
Massachusetts to investigate large cannabis companies. State marijuana regulators are investigating whether large businesses are skirting a state cap on the number of licenses each company is allowed to control. The investigation comes after The Boston Globe reported that Sea Hunter Therapeutics and Acreage Holdings bragged to investors about controlling more than the three dispensary licenses allowed under state rules. The regulatory agency declined to disclose records relating to the allegations, saying it could hinder the ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, a health department memo from last August “indicated the agency had been aware of problems with two companies, Sea Hunter Therapeutics and Acreage Holdings.” The Boston Globe
A ‘hiccup’ for hemp. The hemp industry in the U.S. is booming, driven by the 2018 Farm Bill and popularity of CBD. But despite federal legislation that seemingly allowed for the interstate commerce of hemp, law enforcement agencies have seized state-certified hemp and charged individuals involved with transporting it with felony drug trafficking charges. Currently, police don’t have any tools to distinguish between marijuana and hemp. One Colorado attorney who specializes in such cases says he has at least half a dozen clients in similar situations. “What local law enforcement is doing is they’re stifling an industry that Congress intended to promote to help American farmers and help the American economy — not to make people nervous that they’re going to get tossed in jail over a (THC) discrepancy,” he said. The Associated Press Related: Meanwhile, Walgreens announced it will carry CBD products in 1,500 stores in eight states. CNBC
Los Angeles grapples with unlicensed cannabis businesses. Los Angeles is considering spending tens of millions of dollars to crack down on unlicensed cannabis businesses in the city. “Legal and illegal shops can sometimes operate in the same neighborhoods, with storefronts that look similar. In the unlicensed storefronts, prices can be 50 percent below the legal marketplace.” The Associated Press Related: The Board of Supervisors expanded its smoke-free ordinance to include vaping and smoking cannabis products. “While it’s true that Proposition 64 barred public consumption of cannabis, county officials said they wanted to update the ordinance to make it clear that using cannabis is illegal in places where tobacco smoking has been prohibited.” The Los Angeles Times
U.S. attorney refuses to rule out marijuana prosecutions. Nevada’s new federal prosecutor wouldn’t rule out enforcing federal marijuana prohibition in the state, which legalized marijuana in 2016. “Drug use and crime rates go hand in hand,” said Nicholas Trutanich. “Nevada’s not safer, because marijuana is available on every single street corner. What I will say about federal enforcement of marijuana laws is that we do so consistent with the priorities of the office and the resources of the office.” Trutanich mentioned that opioids were a priority for his office, but that it doesn’t mean marijuana isn’t a priority, too. Las Vegas Review-Journal
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The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists presents The Color of Cannabis — Philly’s first cannabis media event. Join Word on the Tree’s editor on April 6 to learn about what legalization in Pennsylvania could look like and how communities of color could be impacted. Tickets here: Eventbrite / PABJ
A closer look at Paul LePage’s pardons. The former governor of Maine pardoned 112 people while he was in office. “LePage publicly railed against drug dealers, whom he joked should face the guillotine. Records show LePage issued over a half-dozen pardons for trafficking of drugs such as OxyContin, cocaine and marijuana.” Among his pardons was the grandson of his late mentor, who was convicted of “operating under the influence and driving when his license was suspended or revoked.” He also pardoned a former Republican state lawmaker who was convicted of felony drug trafficking. The Associated Press
Buy dinner with the governor for $25,000. A fundraiser for New York governor Andrew Cuomo drew many who were willing to shell out $25,000 to press their issues just weeks before the state budget deadline. The event “provided a vivid example of how things work in Albany’s pay-to-play culture, where political contributions are often viewed by business leaders as a prerequisite for getting their perspective heard in the capital.” Charlie Bachtell, the CEO of Chicago-based marijuana company Cresco Labs, attended the fundraiser after his company hired a lobbyist in New York for the first time earlier this year. The New York Times Related: Medical cannabis businesses in the state are fighting for priority in the adult-use market if the state legalizes it. Marijuana Business Daily
From Air Force to cannabis industry. Air Force veteran Shon Williams only had “one little puff” of marijuana in his life — when he was in high school. So he was surprised that a marijuana company reached out to him for a job. Since then, he has started and sold his own cannabis company. “His military skills have translated well to the cannabis industry, he said, especially his experiences leading, doing organizational tasks, working in the engineering field, and designing and managing programs.” While he used to think that cannabis is “a bad drug that’s akin to heroin,” he now believes in its therapeutic benefits. Military Times / Rebootcamp
Why marijuana legalization in N.J. fell apart. It seemed like a sure thing: marijuana legalization was endorsed by the governor and the Democratic legislative leaders who controlled both chambers. But disagreements over marijuana taxes and social justice measures has put legalization efforts in jeopardy. “The failure in New Jersey revealed the difficulties for legalizing marijuana, especially through legislative efforts, rather than the ballot measures used in nine states where the drug has been legalized.” Similar difficulties face other states like New York and Connecticut, both of which are debating marijuana legalization through the legislatures. The New York Times Some advocates hope that the state can set an example for others with the criminal and social-justice aspects of the bill. Asbury Park Press
Big Pharma invests in psychedelics. A group of European tech investors have banded together to raise $40 million for psychedelic medicine biotech company ATAI. It’s the largest ever private financing round for a for-profit company focused on psychedelics and values ATAI at $240 million. The company is aiming to go public this year. ATAI is also the largest investor in Compass Pathways, which hopes to become the first legal provider of psilocybin. CNBC Related: Last year, nine psilocybin experts who had worked for or advised Compass raised questions about the company’s motives and professionalism. “All 9 of these critics charge that Compass Pathways has relied on conventional pharmaceutical-industry tactics that could help them dominate the field.” Quartz
Word on the States
- In Maine, the governor signed a bill allowing CBD sales.
- In California, another cannabis testing lab is accused of falsifying results.
- In Colorado, a House committee advanced a bill to allow marijuana social use.
- In New Hampshire, a House committee advanced a bill to legalize marijuana.
- In Pennsylvania, 59 percent of voters support marijuana legalization, according to a new poll.
- In Massachusetts, a recreational dispensary in Greenfield will start sales April 2.
- In Washington, the Department of Corrections changed its drug-testing policies.
- In Texas, two major law enforcement groups decried efforts to decriminalize marijuana.
- In Georgia, a Senate committee backed legislation to regulate medical marijuana distribution, but with significant revisions scaling back the number of businesses allowed.
- In West Virginia, the governor signed a marijuana banking bill. He vetoed a bill that would allow vertical integration in the medical cannabis industry.
- In Ohio, Dayton marijuana possession charges plunged after decriminalization reforms took effect.
- In Tennessee, a House committee considers a bill to protect out-of-state medical marijuana patients.
- In Kansas, the House approved a bill to give affirmative defense to those charged with using medical cannabis oil.
- In Guam, the governor supports marijuana legalization but still needs to review the legislature-passed bill.
Word for Word
“Even though I disagreed with the direction and the vote of the people of Colorado, I think my job as governor was to do everything I could to see if we could make that succeed. And I wanted to make sure that if it failed — which I was very worried, that there’d be a spike in teenage consumption, I worried there’d be a spike in people driving while high — no one could come back and say, ‘Oh, well, they were trying to sink it.’ In the end, we haven’t seen any of those things that we feared. We still have a black market. We still have a lot of work to go. We didn’t get out in front of edibles. No one anticipated that edibles would explode. But it took us a year, we got our arms around it.” – Former Colorado governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper, New York
“Robin became one of the thousands of Massachusetts residents who each year ask the courts to force a loved one into addiction treatment under the state law known as Section 35… Sean begged not to go and told his mother that he would no longer be able to take his daily 120-milligram dose of methadone addiction medication. She thought Sean was wrong. ‘I didn’t conceive that he wouldn’t have methadone,’ Robin said. ‘I didn’t understand how different it was for those committed to treatment in a prison run by the Department of Correction.'” – Deborah Becker for WBUR