Ohio Governor Signs Sweeping Hemp and CBD Legislation

On July 30, 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law S.B. 57, legislation that overhauls Ohio’s laws concerning hemp. Significantly, the bill also contains an emergency provision, meaning that the bill, some critical aspects of which are discussed below, takes effect immediately.

One of the most important aspects of the emergency bill is its amendment of the definition of the word “marihuana” under the state’s Controlled Substances Act to expressly exclude hemp and hemp products. The bill defines “hemp products” broadly, providing that the term includes “cosmetics, personal care products, dietary supplements or food intended for … human consumption” as well as any other product containing hemp-derived cannabinoids (such as CBD), provided the product contains a THC concentration of no more than 0.3%. Moreover, the bill clarifies that the addition of hemp or a hemp product to any other product does not render the other product “adulterated.”

Further, the bill provides that the state shall issue licenses for the cultivation and processing of hemp in the state. However, because the process of license application and issuance has not yet been established, and further because the regulations implementing the new law have yet to be promulgated, Ohio farmers are unable to start growing hemp for the time being. That said, the Ohio Department of Agriculture stated that its “goal is to have farmers licensed and able to plant the crop by spring of 2020.”

In any event, the delay to be experienced by farmers is not likely to apply to retailers—according to the ODA, “[i]t is now legal to sell properly inspected CBD products in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Agriculture will be testing all CBD products for safety and accurate labeling to protect Ohio consumers.”

David Feldman

Cuomo Signs NY Cannabis Decriminalization Bill

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday signed a cannabis decriminalization and expungement statute, a sort of second prize following the state’s failure to pass legalization of adult use of cannabis in June. The bill takes effect in 30 days and provides just a violation (like a traffic ticket) for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. The new law also sets up a procedure for those convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis to seek expungement of their records. The fine for possession of less than an ounce will be $50, or $200 if you possess between one and two ounces.

Many were disappointed when the Democrat-controlled legislature failed to complete legalization with its Democrat Governor. Key legislators blamed the Governor for his apparent unwillingness to be more hands on in pressuring some Senators to support the bill. Cuomo, for his part, said that if the majority support was not there, it was not for him to push. Much of the disagreement related to how far to take embedding social justice efforts into the law and how to use tax revenues to help communities long impacted negatively by the war on drugs. Many hope there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue when the legislature next convenes in January.

As the fourth largest state with 19 million people, New York legalizing adult use would be a major step for the industry. New Jersey also failed to pass adult use legislation this year and intends to put it up for a voter referendum in 2020. New York law does not permit referendums short of a Constitutional convention. Empire State voters decide on whether to hold a convention every 20 years, and voted down the effort in 2017. The industry was pleased when Illinois, the sixth largest US state with almost 13 million people, passed adult use legalization last month, the 11th state to fully legalize cannabis.

Duane Morris Welcomes Corporate Partner Tracy A. Gallegos in Las Vegas and San Francisco

Tracy A. Gallegos has joined Duane Morris LLP as a partner in the firm’s Corporate Practice Group. She will be resident in the Las Vegas office and also practice in San Francisco. Gallegos further enhances the firm’s corporate, real estate and cannabis law capabilities. Prior to joining Duane Morris, Gallegos was a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP.

“Tracy brings a big-picture understanding of the issues affecting businesses in the real estate, sports, cannabis and entertainment industries,” said Matthew A. Taylor, CEO and Chairman of Duane Morris. “Her collaborative, client-focused approach is a perfect fit with our culture at Duane Morris.”

To read the full press release about Duane Morris partner Tracy A. Gallegos, please visit the Duane Morris website.

Could a Recent Florida Court Ruling Disrupt the State’s Marijuana Industry?

A contested ruling from one of Florida’s appellate courts could mean the end of both (1) required vertical integration and (2) caps on the number of registered medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) in Florida.

To understand the issue, a quick primer on the nature of Florida’s (exclusively medical) marijuana program is in order. First, unlike many states, Florida requires “vertical integration,” meaning that, if registered by the state as a MMTC, the entity must “cultivate, process, transport and dispense” medical marijuana. Fla Stat. § 381.986(8)(e) (emphasis added). Second, Florida also caps the number of registered MMTCs, with the number of allowed MMTCs slated to increase as the number of registered qualified patients grows.

In a lawsuit initiated by a rejected MMTC applicant, the First District Court of Appeal (one of Florida’s five appellate courts) struck a number of significant blows to the existing medical marijuana framework in Florida, delighting prospective applicants and spooking existing license holders

Continue reading Could a Recent Florida Court Ruling Disrupt the State’s Marijuana Industry?

After Legalization: Many Remain Imprisoned For Now-Legal Pot

Neville BilimoriaImagine for a moment that you are arrested for alcohol possession back when alcohol was illegal. Then, imagine you served a sentence in prison for that possession, perhaps an inordinately severe incarceration sentence. Then imagine that you get out of prison and find it almost impossible to find a job, find housing or obtain a loan due to your criminal record. Then imagine, to make things worse, that alcohol is now legal, yet you are still saddled with this criminal history which leaves you no room for social advancement.

Imagine also that in spite of your lack of chances to obtain a job, that the very illegality you were arrested for not only becomes legal through legislation, but also fosters a burgeoning industry in the prohibited substance, primarily by nondiverse corporate entities and persons. Sounds a little bit like a nightmare, but that is exactly the scenario that is developing around cannabis and medical cannabis across the country.

To read the full text of this article written by Duane Morris attorney Neville M. Bilimoria, please visit the Duane Morris website.

FDA Issues Warning Letter to Curaleaf about CBD Products

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

On July 22, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to Curaleaf with regard to Curaleaf’s “CBD Lotion,” “CBD Pain-Relief Patch,” “CBD Tincture,” and “CBD Disposable Vape.”  The Warning Letter explains FDA’s view that Curaleaf’s CBD products are effectively “unapproved new and misbranded human drug products” because the claims Curaleaf has made about them on Curaleaf’s website and social media accounts demonstrate “they are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or intended to affect the structure or any function of the body,” but Curaleaf has not obtained prior approval from the FDA to market them as such.  The Warning Letter also explains the FDA’s view that the subject products are not “dietary supplements” because (i) CBD has already been approved as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (epidiolex), (ii) CBD was not marketed as a dietary supplement or a conventional food prior to such FDA approval of CBD as an API; and (iii) the subject products are not “intended for ingestion,” which is a requirement of a dietary supplement. The FDA also warned about Curaleaf’s products with respect to animals, which I have not summarized.  The FDA provided Curaleaf 15 days to establish a corrective action plan and to report such plan to the FDA.  The Warning Letter demonstrates the FDA is actively monitoring CBD manufacturer websites and social media for over the line claims, and that CBD manufacturers need to follow the FDA’s guidance given the unsettled regulatory structure with respect to CBD.

 

 

David Feldman

Capital Markets Broaden for US Cannabis Companies

The last few months have witnessed a number of dramatic developments for American companies seeking capital in the fast-growing cannabis industry. In total, these changes portend greater access to funding for these companies. Here is more on these notable deals. (Note: none of the companies mentioned is a client of our law firm).

Greenlane. In April, Greenlane Holdings, a vape distributor, completed an IPO onto the Nasdaq with underwriters led by Cowen & Co., raising $102 million. This was the first time the national exchange listed a US company admitting it was in the cannabis industry. It had previously listed Canadian-based companies since they were operating in a federally lawful manner there. This also was the first underwritten IPO for a US cannabis company, and the first entry by an investment bank of Cowen’s tier.

Akerna. In June, a “special purpose acquisition corporation,” or SPAC, completed its merger with MJ Freeway, the purveyor of the widely used seed-to-sale software for which the company is named. That merged company, now known as Akerna, also is trading on Nasdaq. This was the first SPAC merger with a US cannabis company, and the second to be approved for trading by Nasdaq.

cbdMD and India Globalization. Not to be forgotten, the New York Stock Exchange and its lower tier exchange known as NYSE American have agreed to continue the listings of two companies that have announced their entry into the CBD market. In May, cbdMD, formerly Level Brands, best known as supermodel Kathy Ireland’s company, changed its name and symbol to reflect its move into cannabidiol-based products. India Globalization, which shifted its focus to CBD, was initially delisted. When the company appealed, the exchange reversed the decision and relisted the company back in February.

Arcview deal. In a relatively small deal just this month, the investor network Arcview Group (disclaimer: I am a proud member) raised about $8 million from two key investors, one of which was a well-known cannabis based fund. The other, Trivergance, is a traditional private equity firm that has invested over $1 billion, none in the cannabis space until now. As reported by MJBizDaily, while some traditional funds have invested in the space, this deal is notable because Trivergance served as a lead investor. The move of venture and private equity firms from the sidelines and into cannabis now has begun.

Implications? First, these developments likely will lead to fewer US companies feeling the need to go public in Canada, where previously companies believed capital was easier to access. Second, the growers and sellers of cannabis in the US, those that “touch the plant,” have not yet been permitted to list their shares on a national exchange. It will be interesting to see if and when the exchanges relent on their reticence to list these now large and fast-growing entrepreneurial enterprises as the march to US legalization continues. In the meantime, capital as fuel for growth is more and more available to these US businesses.

Paul Josephson Named to Insider 100: Policymakers by Insider NJ

Paul Josephson
Paul Josephson

Duane Morris partner Paul Josephson was named to the 2019 “Insider 100: Policymakers” list by Insider NJ, which described him as “an expert on transportation and casino issues – and cannabis.” Mr. Josephson was also named to the 2017 and 2018 lists.

“The list assembles names listed … because of the rigorous quality of their public policy minds,” according to the publication.

To read the 2019 “Insider 100: Policymakers” publication, please visit the Insider NJ website.

New Illinois Cannabis Law Sets Licensing, Regulation Trends

Neville BilimoriaOn June 25, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, making Illinois the 11th state in the country to legalize cannabis and the first to have a legislature approve commercial sales without a voter referendum.

Legalizing marijuana in Illinois is expected to generate revenue to help restore poverty-and crime-ridden communities and fund substance abuse, mental health, and law enforcement services. Adult-use cannabis sales could net Illinois about $500 million in tax revenue annually, according to some experts. The act takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The Illinois law will end cannabis prohibition and replace it with a comprehensive and highly regulated system to tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and over.

To view the full text of this article written by Duane Morris attorney Neville Bilimoria, please visit the Duane Morris website.