Worldwide: Cannabis Alert

In this week's edition:

  • Congress introduces bills to reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III and to expand cannabis businesses' access to insurance coverage.
  • New York expands the state's cannabis decriminalization law, Missouri approves a cannabis legalization ballot measure for signature gathering, and Ohio legalizes hemp and CBD.
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis announces legislation to legalize cannabis, New Zealand files legislation enabling a 2020 referendum on legalizing cannabis, and Dominica indicates its intent to file legislation that would decriminalize cannabis.

Federal

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate's second highest-ranking Democrat, filed a bill to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III and to expand research on its effects, which would include tasking the National Institutes of Health with creating a cannabis agenda that formalizes top research priorities.

Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) filed a bill to expand cannabis businesses' access to insurance coverage. Unlike similar legislation recently filed in the Senate, this bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to "carry out a study on the barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and the access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses."

More than 100 organizations wrote to urge Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that would deschedule cannabis and fund programs to repair the harms of the war on drugs. Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress, stated that the bill is "the most far-ranging marijuana reform bill introduced in Congress to date."

A new US Coast Guard order bans personnel from visiting cannabis businesses or participating in "any event or with any entity that sells, promotes, celebrates, encourages, or seeks to further the use of marijuana and illegal THC-based products," saying that doing so would be "contrary to our Core Values and our role as a federal law enforcement agency."

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is giving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 30 days to explain its failure to respond to an application submitted by the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) for licenses to grow cannabis for research. SRI claims that despite submitting an application to the DEA to grow cannabis three years ago, the DEA has failed to provide any response or notice regarding the application's status.

The US Department of Justice has been making second requests for information from cannabis companies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976. Though analysts tend to agree that cannabis stocks suffer as a result of such requests, it is unclear how they could affect or undo cannabis transactions.

States

Colorado passed a law allowing doctors to recommend medical cannabis for any condition for which opiates can be prescribed.

A Delaware court granted Amazon's motion to dismiss a lawsuit from a former worker who was fired for using medical cannabis.

Illinois municipalities are considering whether to ban or allow adult-use cannabis businesses.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) suggested that legalizing cannabis is associated with "homelessness" and "disease and things that have spiked up as a result of people who are coming for the fact that they can smoke pot legally."

Louisiana regulators announced that medical cannabis products cleared testing and are available for immediate release to pharmacies. The products constitute the first batch of medical cannabis approved by the state.

Missouri regulators approved more than 4,000 medical cannabis patients in the first month of registrations.

Missouri's Secretary of State cleared a proposed cannabis legalization ballot measure for signature gathering. The measure, which would amend the Missouri Constitution, must be signed by 8 percent of legal voters in any six of the state's eight congressional districts, which is approximately 160,199 signatures. Supporters of the ballot measure have until May 3, 2020, to deliver the signatures to the Secretary of State's Office.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill expanding the state's cannabis decriminalization law and creating a process to expunge prior cannabis possession convictions.

Oklahoma regulators issued an update on the process to apply for medical cannabis waste disposal licenses.

Tennessee's state pension fund has invested in San Diego-based cannabis company Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. The pension fund is said to own 7,009 shares in the company, which amounts to a $720,000 investment.

Utah regulators rejected protests from companies concerning their decision to award only eight of ten medical cannabis cultivation licenses.

West Virginia regulators announced that four companies submitted bids to handle medical cannabis banking issues for the state: Element Federal Credit Union, MVB Bank, DMTLP, and JP Morgan Chase.

Hemp and CBD

Former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Scott Gottlieb wrote an op-ed on CBD. Noting that CBD has some health risks, Gottlieb advocates for the FDA to "approve the sale of some CBD products immediately, while effecting a framework for their safe and proper regulation and a pathway for an enforceable market for these goods" and "make sure commercial interests don't strip away any legitimate value that the compound might have."

Illinois regulators released guidance on banking for hemp businesses.

Iowa regulators have ordered a bar to stop selling CBD-infused beverages noting that CBD is not approved for use in food or drinks in Iowa. In response the owner of the bar stated: "I'm looking forward to seeing how Iowa lawmakers adjust to Illinois passing of socialized marijuana. It's going to be very interesting, how this plays out in Iowa."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a bill legalizing hemp and CBD, while regulators issued guidance on the new law.

A South Carolina attorney general opinion is causing confusion about the legality of smokable hemp.

Charlotte's Web Holdings, Inc. announced that Kroger will carry its CBD products.

Kroger is expanding its distribution of Veritas Farms, Inc. hemp oil products.

Curaleaf Holdings, Inc. said that it is removing statements about its CBD products from its website that were identified by the Food and Drug Administration as non-compliant.

International

Australia is acting to remove red tape from the medical cannabis approvals process.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said his government will introduce legislation to decriminalize cannabis.

New Zealand's government filed legislation to enable a 2020 referendum on legalizing cannabis.

The Saint Kitts and Nevis government announced that it will file a bill to legalize cannabis "for medicinal and scientific, religious and recreational purposes."

Thailand's government plans to distribute about 10,000 bottles of medical cannabis oil for hospital patients; its Public Health minister said that no foreign businesses will be allowed to grow medical cannabis in the country; and its Justice Minister has confirmed that the county's guidelines for use of medical cannabis comply with the international Single Convention on Narcotics, which requires that the medical and scientific uses of the drug must be subject to government regulations.

The United Kingdom imported its first hemp-based commercial product from Colombia. The product is manufactured by the Colombian cannabis company Clever Leaves, which announced the product would soon be available for sale in the UK and other EU countries, with distribution expected this fall.

A survey found that approximately 53 percent of adults in the United Kingdom support legalizing cannabis; Labour's David Lammy, Conservative Jonathan Djanogly and Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamba predict that cannabis will be legalized in the UK within five to ten years; and senior aides of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson support the legalization of cannabis.

Business

Cronos Group Inc. announced that the Canadian cannabis company will pay $300 million to acquire four subsidiary businesses of Redwood Holding Group LLC, a California-based company that sells skin care and consumer products containing CBD.

TerrAscend Corp. agreed to acquire Ilera Healthcare, a Pennsylvania-based cannabis cultivator, processor and dispensary operator for up to $225 million.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.'s stock surged to a record high after boosting its profit forecast and reporting growing sales from its cannabis-focused subsidiary Hawthorne Gardening Co.

Columbia Care Inc. was awarded New York State Schedule I controlled substance manufacturing and export licenses, which the company says is a step toward receiving federal approval to distribute cannabis for research purposes throughout the US and for research and commercial medical purposes internationally.

Cresco Labs Inc. is rebranding its cannabis dispensaries under the name "Sunnyside."

Harvest Health & Recreation, Inc. secured a term loan of up to a $225 million from an investment fund managed by Torian Capital Partners LLC; it is also working to resolve a dispute with Ohio regulators, who concluded its cultivation operation isn't owned and controlled by an African-American as the company claimed on its license application.

Medical and Health

A study found that "[a]dolescent cannabis use is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood."

About Dentons

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries. www.dentons.com.

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