CannaBeat is a curated biweekly selection of top news stories impacting business, research, and culture in the cannabis industry, crafted by Emerge Law Group.
Emerge’s Hot Take
Last week, nearly 30 former U.S. Attorneys signed a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland arguing against the reclassification of marijuana. The group cited their primary reasons for objection as: 1) marijuana’s “high potential for abuse,” 2) lack of “currently accepted medical treatment,” and 3) lack of “accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” This letter comes nearly 4-months after the U.S. Health and Human Service’s recommendation that marijuana be rescheduled to a Schedule III drug.
Proponents of rescheduling strongly dispute this letter’s claims, calling them “reminiscent of Reefer Madness.” In regard to the first claim, the letter states that since Washington State legalized cannabis, the addiction rate in the state was 21%. Proponents counter that the study claiming a 21% addiction rate is inherently flawed, pointing out that of an estimated 2.3 million cannabis consumers in the state, study researchers polled only 1,500 people. Responding to the second and third claim, those in favor of rescheduling point to clinical use of the pediatric epilepsy drug Epidiolex. Epidiolex utilizes cannabis as its main compound and is approved for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy conditions due to Lennox Gastaut and Dravet system. The drug went through the standard U.S. Food and Drug Administration evaluations and was deemed to have “substantial medical use.”
“These claims are not only outdated but stand on circular reasoning: the current scheduling of cannabis has prevented researchers from arriving at founded medical conclusions,” observes Emerge East attorney Stephanie Algarin Santiago. “Furthermore, these claims could be similarly applied to alcohol and tobacco, and therefore do not excuse the grouping of cannabis with substances such as heroin.”
Proponents also question the letter’s claim that criminal enterprises are the only entities profiting from legalized cannabis, pointing to jobs created, improvements to the real estate landscape, and increased tax revenue in states where recreational cannabis is legal as evidence of positive economic impact.
Other Noteworthy News
Biden Pardons More Americans For Marijuana Offenses—And Shortens 11 Non-Violent Drug Sentences
FORBES – “President Joe Biden will pardon more people convicted of marijuana-related offenses and cut the sentences of 11 Americans serving decades-long prison terms for non-violent drug crimes, the White House said Friday, building on the thousands of people pardoned last year for similar marijuana convictions. The new pardons apply to individuals convicted of several different types of federal and D.C. marijuana offenses, including attempted possession of marijuana or simple possession on federal property, according to the White House. It expands the number of convictions eligible for pardons beyond last year’s action by Biden, which focused primarily on simple possession.”
New York Medical Companies Enter Adult-Use Market Amid Mixed Reactions
SYRACUSE.COM – “After New York marijuana regulators greenlit six of the state’s medical cannabis companies to expand into adult-use retail last week, local cultivators are viewing their entry with a mix of trepidation at increased competition and eagerness for possible opportunities. In CCB’s draft regulations, New York’s 11 medical cannabis companies (Registered Organizations [Ros]) would have had to wait until 2025 to open adult-use retail shops, but the final regulations allowed them to expand into adult-use starting Dec. 29, 2023, worrying some farmers about impending competition. [The] regulations, which the CCB finalized in September, also require the ROs to dedicate 50% of their shelf space to non-RO brands. Lack of retail space has long plagued licensed cultivators in New York, and many have clamored for more retail opportunity. But some have expressed fear that ROs might technically meet shelf space requirements, but use tactics to promote their own products while downplaying other companies’ brands.”
California Police Commission Removes Marijuana Questions from Application Forms for Law Enforcement in Response to New Law
MARIJUANA MOMENT – “California law enforcement officials are revising employment policies for police officers to remove questions about job applicants’ prior marijuana use in accordance with a bill the governor signed in October. The law, which builds on previously enacted cannabis employment protections, formally takes effect on January 1. But in advance of the effective date, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training said in a memo last week that it’s proactively amended application forms to adhere to the new policy. In addition to prohibiting discrimination against most workers who use cannabis off-duty, the law ‘makes it unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant relating to their prior use of cannabis,’ the commission said. As such, several forms ‘have been modified to remove inquiries about a candidate’s prior cannabis use,’ the memo says. The forms previously asked candidates whether they’ve used any illicit drugs in the past six months or in their lifetime, but now contain revised language that says there’s no need to answer the question if the only substance was cannabis. Job applicants for peace officer positions in the state must still disclose information about prior convictions, including those that involved cannabis, the commission said.”
Michigan Man who Sued NY Over Cannabis Licensing Goes After Washington State
GREEN MARKET REPORT – “A Michigan cannabis entrepreneur on a quest to remove residency requirements from adult-use cannabis programs continues to stay busy in state courts. Kenneth Gay, the owner of Peridot Tree WA Inc., challenged the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board’s decision to reject his company’s application for a retail license under the state’s social equity program. The program, designed to allocate nearly four dozen cannabis retail licenses, was created to compensate individuals disproportionately affected by the federal drug war. The lawsuit, filed last week, argues that the rejection is unjust, pointing to Gay’s past cannabis conviction as a qualifying factor for the program. However, a hurdle in Gay’s claim is his noncompliance with Washington’s six-month residency requirement, a stipulation he claims is unconstitutional under the dormant commerce clause. In response to his suit, the Washington cannabis board urged the federal court to dismiss Gay’s request for a temporary restraining order that would halt the issuance of all licenses under the equity program. The board’s opposition memorandum cites Gay’s timing of the litigation as a strategic maneuver to exert pressure on the licensing process. The board defended the residency requirement as a vital component of their strategy to prevent market monopolization by ‘a few large businesses.’ The body argued that without such regulations, the state risks inadvertently allowing out-of-state entities and individuals, who already own multiple cannabis businesses, to dominate the local market. ”
LISTEN: Science of Cannabis: #3 – The Weed of the Future
NEWSCIENTIST – “In the final episode of this three-part special series on the science of cannabis, Christie Taylor visits what the future may hold for hemp and how this plant fits into society writ large. From meaningful regulation of driving while stoned to tweaking that distinctive but controversial skunky odor and the high tech promise of making CBD in yeast. The team at New Scientist investigates cannabis and the brain, the environmental cost of growing cannabis and other questions in this special reporting series.” Series parts 1 and 2 are available here.
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