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
This year is expected to bring significant developments to New Jersey’s legal cannabis industry. There are 4 major predictions for 2024, including (1) better prices; (2) possibility of medical home grows; (3) exponential growth in access; and (4) product expansion.
There is anticipation from the industry surrounding the potential decline in cannabis prices as the market matures and more dispensaries open. Increased competition is likely to drive prices down, making cannabis products more affordable for both medical patients and recreational users. According to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) data from May 2022, the average cost of adult-use cannabis stood at $455.54 per ounce, equivalent to $16.27 per gram. Fast forward 18 months, and the average ounce price has plummeted by 20% to $366 ($12.49 per gram). Despite this downward trend, New Jersey’s legal weed may not hit “cheap” levels witnessed in states like California and Oregon, where oversupply led to significant price drops.
Secondly, there is growing momentum among lawmakers to reconsider regulations prohibiting personal cultivation of cannabis. If these restrictions are revised in 2024, medical patients will have the opportunity to grow their own cannabis plants. The hope is to not only make the plant more available to those that look to it for medical relief, but will foster a deeper connection between the overall consumers and the cannabis plant.
Third, the state will hit 100 dispensaries in the market, likely earlier than later in the year. New Jersey closed out the 2023 year with 90 dispensaries, and all but 10 are licensed to sell to any adult over 21 years old. Just one year ago there were only 25 dispensaries of any kind. The state will likely have over 150 by the end of 2024.
Lastly, 2024 should generate a healthy number of products and brand expansion. Up to the end of 2023, only 11 companies have been licensed to cultivate and manufacture adult use cannabis. This year, it looks like New Jersey will start to see some new products, not only from state-based businesses but also through branding partnerships. Its predicted that consumers will see at least double the amount of choices by the end of 2024. In just the last few months, the CRC has issued another 11 operating permits to suppliers.
Overall, 2024 will likely bring New Jersey residents better prices, the possibility of home cultivation, wider access, and more choices.
Other Noteworthy News
DEA Tells Congress it has “Final Authority” on Marijuana, Regardless of Health Agency’s Schedule III Recommendation
MARIJUANA MOMENT – “The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is telling lawmakers that it reserves “the final authority” to make any scheduling decision on marijuana following an ongoing review, regardless of what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends. In a letter sent to Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), DEA Acting Chief of the Office of Congressional Affairs Michael Miller gave a general overview of the scheduling review process that was initiated under a directive from President Joe Biden in October 2022. That started with a scientific assessment from HHS that reportedly advised DEA to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Once HHS made its recommendation in August, ‘DEA conducts its own review,’ the letter, sent last month and first reported by Punchbowl News, says. ‘DEA has the final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act, after considering the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria and HHS’s scientific and medical evaluation,” it says. ‘DEA is now conducting its review.’ The agency’s statement came in response to an earlier letter from 31 bipartisan lawmakers, led by Blumenauer, that implored DEA to consider the ‘merits’ of legalization as it carried out its review. That initial letter also criticized the limitations of simply placing cannabis in Schedule III, as opposed to fully removing the plant from CSA control. […] In that context, DEA’s response offered little insight, with the agency declining to address the lawmakers’ key arguments and instead simply outlining the procedural details of the scheduling review. It also did not divulge any details about the timeline for the completion of the review, though many observers expect it to wrap up ahead of the November election. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently concluded that it was “likely” that DEA would follow the HHS recommendation based on past precedent, but as DEA reiterated in the letter last month, it has final jurisdiction over the CSA and maintains the right to disregard the health agency’s advice….”
New California Laws for 2024: Employees Get Protection for Using Cannabis
SMPD – “Starting in the new year, California employers will be barred from asking workers about their use of cannabis outside of work, and from discriminating against them because of it. Two bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the past couple of years aim to strengthen the state’s legal cannabis industry by updating outdated laws. Assembly Bill 2188, which Newsom signed in 2022, will prohibit employers from using the results of hair or urine tests for marijuana — which can detect traces of cannabis for days or weeks — in their decisions to hire, fire or penalize workers. When the governor signed AB 2188 along with other cannabis-related bills in 2022, he said in a press release that ‘rigid bureaucracy and federal prohibition continue to pose challenges to the industry and consumers.” SB 700, which Newsom signed this year, clarifies AB 2188 by amending the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to bar employers from asking job applicants about their prior use of cannabis. California NORML, a nonprofit organization that advocates for consumer rights related to cannabis, sponsored AB 2188. In its argument supporting the bill, the organization said hair or urine testing for marijuana does not detect actual impairment, a fact the federal government has acknowledged. ‘Studies indicate that metabolite tests for past use of marijuana are useless in protecting job safety,’ the group said. The exceptions under the AB 2188 would be for workers in the building and construction industry and for job applicants and employees in positions that require a federal background investigation or clearance….”
President Biden Pardons Cannabis Related Convictions, Shortens Sentences of 11 Nonviolent Drug Offenders
CANNABIS INDUSTRY TIMES – “As the federal government continues considering whether to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), President Joe Biden issued expanded pardons Dec. 22 for those who were convicted of simple cannabis possession, attempted simple cannabis possession or cannabis use. The move follows Biden’s October 2022 announcement that he would pardon thousands of federal simple cannabis possession offenses and initiate a review of how cannabis is scheduled. ‘America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law,’ Biden said in a public statement regarding the actions. ‘Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger. That is why today I am announcing additional steps I am taking to make the promise of equal justice a reality.’ In addition to the expanded pardons, Biden announced that he is commuting the sentences of 11 people who are serving what he called ‘disproportionately long sentences’ for nonviolent drug-related offenses, all of whom would be eligible to receive lower sentences if charged with the same offenses today…”
Federal Lawsuit Challenges Mississippi’s Ban on Marijuana Advertising, Citing Free-Speech Rights
MARIJUANA MOMENT – “Mississippi’s medical cannabis advertising ban is preventing a small dispensary from attracting customers, Tru Source owner Clarence Cocroft is arguing in a federal lawsuit that casts the law as a violation of his free-speech rights. Though medical marijuana is now legal for Mississippians with qualifying conditions and a medical cannabis card, state law prohibits dispensary owners and cultivators from advertising cannabis products. ‘It’s a daunting task to stay in the industry when you can’t advertise,’ Cocroft told the Mississippi Free Press on December 8. ‘And it’s legal. If they allow you to get licensed, they should allow you to promote your business.’ Cocroft owns Tru Source, the state’s first Black-owned medical cannabis dispensary, located in the southeast industrial zoning area of Olive Branch, Mississippi. Cocroft and his dispensary filed a lawsuit on November 14 against the officials in charge of the regulations at the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Mississippi Department of Revenue and the Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau. […] The Institute for Justice (IJ), a national libertarian nonprofit law firm, is representing Clarence Cocroft in the lawsuit. One of Cocroft’s attorneys, Katrin Marquez, said IJ looks at ‘commercial speech regulations’ and advertising laws through the lens of the First Amendment and how ‘different regulations on advertising really hamper people’s business.’ ‘What’s really important here is that Mississippi already regulates things like advertising to children and making false medical claims, so we think those regulations make sense,’ she told the Mississippi Free Press on December 8. ‘The State of Mississippi can keep that; what it can’t do is blatantly say, ‘You can’t advertise at all.’…”
KSU Online Programs Prepare Students for Cannabis Industry
BUSINESS JOURNAL DAILY – “Green Flower, an industry leader in cannabis education and training since 2014, is partnering with Kent State University to launch four new cannabis-related certificate programs to prepare students for the emerging industry in the state. The first classes begin this month. Kent State Lifelong Learning’s cannabis certificate programs are open to the public to enroll and offer focuses in four areas: business, health care, compliance and agriculture. With the passage of Issue 2 in November, Ohio became the 24th state to legalize adult use of cannabis products. Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program data shows over 400,000 registered medical cannabis patients in the state since the program began, with more than 179,000 currently active patients as of the most recent data reporting. According to the Vangst 2023 Jobs Report, which tracks cannabis industry trends by state and nationwide, Ohio’s legal cannabis industry grew by 24% in 2023 and created more than 1,300 new jobs in the state. With the industry growing in Ohio, legal cannabis companies are more in need of employees with knowledge about the industry…”
A Timeline of What’s Happened Since Colorado’s First Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales Began
DENVER POST – “It’s been 10 years since Colorado launched the first legal recreational marijuana market in the world and became a pioneer in drug reform. But when it came to the nascent industry, the first sales on Jan. 1, 2014, were more a starting block than a finish line. In the decade since legalization, Colorado has refined laws, catalyzed new ones and served as a litmus test for the rest of the country as states followed its lead. Today, cannabis is recreationally available for sale in 24 states — where more than half of Americans live. Here are some of the notable local moments along the way….”
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