We hope your holidays were merry and your tidings full of joy — and now here’s hoping a for a green 2016!
The cannabis scene is in full bloom for Colorado and Oregon, but the industry continues to face challenges in complying with federal banking laws, leaving that extra green in limbo. D.C. lawmakers may let a ban expire on private businesses allowing the use of cannabis onsite, Utah’s medical cannabis bills leave something to be desired, and a fancy new canna-concoction inspired by everyone’s favorite reggae artist is making the rounds in Italy.
We’ve got all the news and more to keep you up to the minute in the cannabis world! Read on for the latest roundup:
U.S. News Updates
Federal banking laws continue to be a headache for Colorado. The case against Fourth Corner Credit Union, a Denver-based bank that catered to cannabis businesses, is headed to federal court Monday. Fourth Corner is one of the first banks to challenge the federal banking law, arguing in a court filing that the public is put at risk when cannabis businesses don’t have access to safe, secure financial institutions to store the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow through the industry.
The credit union found itself in the national spotlight when it opened to assist marijuana businesses specifically, but was ultimately denied a master account from the Federal Reserve. FCCU eventually sued the Fed, and this week's hearing may determine whether the bank will be allowed to operate. Many are watching, as the result could set a precedent for financial institutions in other legal states.
D.C. lawmakers are considering whether or not to revoke a ban on consuming cannabis on private business property. If the ban were lifted, D.C. establishments would be allowed to decide whether they want to allow the use of cannabis on their premises. A judiciary committee considered re-drafting the bill and modeling it after the tobacco ban in the city, where a business faces a fine for violating the law. If the law isn't renewed or replaced by January 15, it will expire and businesses in the District may begin allowing on-site cannabis use.
An unexpected outcome of Illinois’ new medical cannabis boom is a significant number of former law enforcement officials jumping into the game. Many are retired officers, even former undercover narcotics agents, now turning to the legal side of the business to offer compliance and security checks, making sure that cannabis businesses are adhering to the strict regulations required for operation. The high number of officials entering the cannabis industry shows a general shift in attitude, even from former enforcers, that cannabis is no longer seen as a public health concern, but instead a good business opportunity.
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on a challenge to a 2012 amendment to the Grand Rapids city charter that decriminalizes cannabis by making the possession or sharing of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $25 to $100 with no jail time. The amendment also makes cannabis cases a low priority for law enforcement and bans local officials from referring marijuana cases to Kent County prosecutors.
Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth challenged the amendment on the grounds that it violates his power to enforce state drug laws, as possession is still a crime at the state level. After making its way through numerous appeals, the Grand Rapids charter amendment decriminalizing cannabis possession remains valid.
Banking in the legal cannabis industry isn't much easier in Oregon than it is in Colorado, as Oregon banks refuse to deal with the new legal medical and recreational businesses for fear of federal backlash. Many financial institutions worry about the possibility of federal money-laundering charges or the loss of FDIC insurance. A select number of local credit unions, such as Maps Credit Union, do work with marijuana businesses, but the businesses must sign a non-disclosure agreement. The bank itself also takes extra precautions, such as making sure to follow strict anti-money laundering procedures, as directed by a 2014 clarification from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Utah legislators are considering two draft bills during the 2016 legislative session, but local supporters say that neither bill goes far enough to treat patients. Members of Drug Policy Project of Utah spoke at a “Politics vs. Patients” forum about the most important elements to be considered during such legislation. They included:
- Whole plant access
- Program affordability
- Fair program eligibility
- Reasonable geographic access
- State-issued patient ID
- Protection of civil rights and liberties
- No medication tax
- Safe pathway to access
- Quality and safety control
- Safe banking system
The two bills under consideration vary greatly in their patient coverage. State Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, have teamed up on a cannabidiol bill that limits the qualifying conditions and would only allow five dispensaries statewide. The other bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, would allow full plant access. It requires applicants for dispensary, growing, processing, and testing permits to have $500,000 in liquid assets.
Recent polls from Dan Jones & Associates by way of Utah Policy show 61 percent of Utahns favoring the legalization of medical marijuana, which could mean these bills have a fighting chance.
A survey of more than 4,600 residents in Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District found that 74 percent of respondents believe cannabis has real therapeutic value and should be available for medical use. The poll was conducted by Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, and surveyed residents who subscribe to his constituent newsletter.
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law allowing the use of cannabidiol for seizure disorders, but curiously, a little-known and seldom-used 1971 state law allowing the possession of marijuana with a valid doctor's note has long been on the books. The law is part of an exemption to the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Act that stipulates Wisconsin citizens may possess cannabis so long as they carry a note from a licensed physician. Unfortunately, the law is so old that it has nearly no regulation for the 1971 legislation, meaning that any patients with a valid recommendation have no legal options to obtain their medicine. Looks like it's time to revisit and revamp an old policy.
International News Updates
After a Supreme Court ruling in June that Health Canada must allow access to cannabis oils and edibles, Health Canada granted the first commercial medical cannabis producer a license to sell such oils through the federally regulated mail-order system. Peace Naturals Project Inc. will be the first producer approved to sell oils as part of the program. Although many speculated that the ruling could lead to an expansion of products, including various infused edibles and topical lotions, Health Canada clarified that commercial medical marijuana growers may only produce and sell concentrated cannabis oils, with a restriction on other products such as infused cookies or brownies.
An icy new treat popped up in the resort town of Alassio, where a “Bob Marley” flavored ice cream is making a splash with a hemp seed concoction inspired by the reggae singer. Under the slogan, “It tastes good and it does good,” the ice cream was created in collaboration with Canapa Ligura, a local organization aiming to raise awareness for the health benefits and uses of hemp. The ice cream is created using shelled hemp seeds as a base. While the flavor is already being promoted, it isn't expected to be available to the public before the end of the year.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera is the first legislator to propose an initiative to legalize cannabis in the country. Rather than create a system for production, the proposal would alter the national public health law to allow Mexicans with a medical need to procure cannabis and cannabis-derived products from outside the country. Mancera argued that if morphine and opiates are allowed for medicinal use, cannabis should be as well. National debates on the topic are scheduled for next month.
During a news conference, Mexico's Roman Catholic Cardinal Norberto Riveraex also expressed his support for cannabis, proclaiming that the church has no problem with the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons. He stated that it is the church’s official stance not take any issue with the use of “all elements from nature that can be used to help improve health.”