David Feldman

Schumer Calls for Cannabis Decriminalization

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has officially joined a rapidly growing number of US legislators calling for the federal decriminalization of cannabis. Last Friday, he tweeted: “THREAD: It’s official. Today, I am formally announcing my plan to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It’s time we allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them.” Then later in the day he tweeted, “The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. My thinking – as well as the general population’s views – on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done.”

To be clear, Schumer is not suggesting full legalization, merely decriminalization. This could mean that while cannabis would still be illegal under federal law, possession would bring only a fine or the like, rather than jail. In a video attached to his tweet, he talked about how people of color have been disproportionately affected by incarceration for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

This follows an apparent historic agreement a week ago between President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to move forward with legislation that would protect states’ rights with regard to cannabis. This could mean a permanent ban on federal enforcement of those complying with state cannabis laws. Many hope such a bill could address the challenges with banking in the industry, as well as IRS Code Section 280E, which prohibits the deductibility of business expenses of those in cannabis.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp. Finally, there are three pending bills in Congress which would fully deschedule and legalize cannabis nationwide, much like Canada appears to be on the verge of doing. It does indeed appear that things are moving rather quickly in the direction of dramatically improved federally legal status of cannabis.

FDA to Consider Approval of Botanical (not synthetic) CBD Drug

Authored by Robert Prince, Ph.D, https://www.duanemorris.com/attorneys/robertwprince.html

On Thursday April 18, 2018, at 8:00AM-12:30PM EST, an FDA advisory panel will consider whether to recommend or not recommend approval of GW Pharmaceutical’s cannabis-based drug Epidiolex ® for use in treating two rare types of epilepsy in children- Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epidiolex is an oral formulation of a purified form of cannabidiol (CBD) a component found in cannabis. CBD does not have any psychoactive effects as compared to another component of cannabis tetrahydocannabinol (THC). Epidiolex has less than 0.1 percent of THC.

If approved, Epidiolex would be the first botanical cannabis product approved in the U.S. for any indication. The FDA has approved Marinol® and Syndros® for uses in the U.S. for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients. Both products contain dronabinol, a synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Another FDA approved drug Cesamet® contains nabilone, which is a synthetic drug with a structure similar to THC that is used to treat nausea and vomiting.

The FDA released briefing documents on April 17, 2018, which did not seem to raise any major issues with Epidiolex, resulting in the share price of GW Pharmaceuticals to rise sharply- up 2.27%. The Center for Drug for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) indicates that it plans to provide a free of charge, live webcast of the April 19, 2018 meeting of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee. Information regarding the webcast, including the web address for the webcast, will be made available at the following website: http://www.fda.gov/AdvisoryCommittees/Calendar/default.htm. At the time of writing this note, the FDA has not provided any login information for the webcast.

David Feldman

Republicans Boehner and Weld Join Cannabis Board

As more and more politicians of all stripes move towards support of federal legalization of cannabis, two senior Republicans have joined the advisory board of a major cannabis company.  According to The Hill, the former Speaker of the House John Boehner and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld became advisers to a New York-based grower and distributor of cannabis.

The article reminds us that Boehner was formerly opposed to legalization, though Weld, a moderate, has been a long-time supporter. They issued a joint statement saying, “we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy.” They focused particularly on the view of a large majority of Americans that cannabis should be legalized on a federal level.

As we know, President Trump said during the campaign that he is “100%” in favor of medical cannabis and that adult use should be decided by the states. Of course he is famous for changing his mind and frankly does not appear focused on the issue. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions remains strongly opposed to legalization and rescinded a series of advisory memos designed to protect those complying with state cannabis laws. But we have not yet seen any increase in federal enforcement efforts, though a number of states recently have been cracking down on unlicensed operators.

While it seems unlikely for the time being that the Trump Administration would unilaterally deschedule cannabis and legalize it (which they could), there is growing belief among DC-watchers that Congress might yet consider some action. For example, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he intends to introduce legislation to legalize hemp. The legislators are paying attention to the massive taxes coming into legal states, reduction in opioid use and deaths in those states, and many new jobs being created.

IP Protection and the Cannabis Industry: Strategies and Trends

Protection of intellectual property is a key element in any company’s efforts to secure a competitive advantage. For companies in the cannabis space, efforts to secure intellectual property protection play out against a background of conflicting federal and state regulations. Cannabis continues to be a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, and possession of cannabis is prohibited by federal law. However, 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, and eight U.S. states have legalized recreational cannabis. This article will address various IP strategies, including trademarks and branding, patents and trade secrets, for protection of cannabis and cannabis-related products and services. The article will also discuss trends in the industry as well as contrasting protections available on the state and federal levels.

To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Gretchen Temeles, Christiane Campbell and Vicki Norton, please visit the Duane Morris website.

Access to Medicinal Marijuana in New Jersey Improves

In response to Executive Order No. 6, issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, the New Jersey Department of Health (the “Department”) reviewed certain elements of New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and the implementation of the Medical Marijuana Program (“MMP”) (Executive Order 6 Report). …

The Department’s analysis resulted in the recommendation and approval of an immediate expansion to the MMP. The first stage of the expansion includes the addition of five conditions to the existing list of diagnoses for which medicinal marijuana can be prescribed. Patients with chronic pain related to Musculoskeletal Disorders, Migraines, Anxiety, chronic pain of Visceral Origin, and Tourette’s Syndrome are now eligible to participate in the MMP.

Read the full story on the Duane Morris Health Law Blog.

 

Interview with Seth Goldberg: Is NJ About To Fire Up The East Coast Regulation Rush? And Hemp vs Cannabis

You may have read a piece by CLR on Duane Morris’ approach to the national cannabis market late last year.

They are running ahead of their competitors and continue to do so.

They are one of the few firms in the Am Law 200 to have taken up the challenge presented by this de-centralized and sometime rather chaotic corner of the American economy.

Seth Goldberg, based in Philadelphia, practices in business and litigation with a particular emphasis in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and Pharma, saw the opportunities in cannabis and hemp early on in the game and has developed a multidisciplinary cannabis practice drawing across a wealth of experience in the firm.

The practice now comprises 48 attorneys, of whom a good 30 or so are partners.

They are taking the sector seriously and here at CLR we’re surprised that more in the top echelons still aren’t doing the same. …

It’s a question we posed to Seth during our hour long conversation and he concurred that he was equally surprised at the lack of cannabis / hemp practice development at the larger firms on the eastern seaboard.

To read the full text of this article, please visit the Cannabis Law Report website.

David Feldman

McConnell Supports Industrial Hemp Legalization

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a plan on Monday to introduce federal legislation to remove industrial hemp as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Citing hemp as important to Kentucky’s farming history, he voiced his most positive support to date for this action. McConnell remains opposed to other legalization of cannabis.

Hemp is used to make clothing, paper and other products, is not ingested and contains virtually no THC, which is the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. In colonial days, hemp was grown throughout the US, and in fact was required to be grown in states like Virginia where it was needed to make rope for boats. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp on their farms. China is now reported to be the largest producer of hemp, having geared up in the 1970s to make more breathable uniforms for their soldiers in steamy Vietnam.

In the 1930s, timber and nylon scions like DuPont and William Randolph Hearst saw hemp as a potential competitor and reportedly worked with the federal government to make all cannabis byproducts illegal in the US. Nixon doubled down in 1970 with the CSA simply continuing the prior prohibition on everything coming from the plant.

While it’s not clear when a bill will actually be presented to Congress, the AP says McConnell said about hemp, “It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop.” Many think the next move could be to legalize CBD (cannabidiol), which contains many of the medical benefits of cannabis with negligible amounts of THC.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to Begin Phase II Permitting

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

On April 5, 2018, Phase 2 of the PA Department of Health’s permitting for commercial medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary operations will begin.

13 Grower/Processor permits will be available, two in each of the six DOH regions, and the 13th going to the highest scorer.  23 Dispensary permits will be available, nine in Region 1, three in Regions 2 and 3, two in Regions 4 and 6, and four in Region 5.  Applications will be available online at www.medicalmarijuana.pa.gov  on April 5, and the submission deadline will be May 17.

In June 2017, 12 Grower/Processor and 27 Dispensary permits were granted.    According to April Hutcheson of DOH:

  • 25,573 patients have registered to participate in the PA program;
  • 9,020 patient certifications have issued;
  • 7,000 of those patients have purchased their ID cards;
  • 6,683 patients have bought medical marijuana in a PA dispensary;
  • 866 physicians have been registered to participate in the program; and
  • 473 of the registered physicians have been approved.

Given the very real possibility that PA will approve the use of dry flower products, i.e., smoking and edibles, this summer, the PA market is positioned for strong performance over the next few years.