Duane Morris partner Michael Schwamm will present on “Investing in the Cannabis Industry” at the Opal Group Family Office & Private Wealth Management Forum West on October 25, 2018, in Napa, California.
Known for the fastest growing population of newly structured family offices in the world, Northern California is largely dominated by first and second-generation families from the Silicon Valley. Investment strategies such as Private Equity, Venture Capital, and Technology will be familiar themes throughout this conference. Investment managers and families will come together to discuss the foundations in which they built their wealth, and uncork the various investment strategies in which to keep their portfolios growing. For more information, visit the Opal Group website.
Duane Morris partner Jerome Levy will participate in the Strafford webinar, “Municipal Regulation of Marijuana: Guidance on Permitting, Licensing and Zoning for Medical and Recreational Uses,” on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Eastern time).
This CLE webinar will offer guidance to local government lawyers on regulating cannabis consumption for medical and recreational uses. The panel will discuss the patchwork of current regulatory efforts across the country and explore some of the most effective strategies for regulating in municipalities based on current case law and the interplay with state and federal regulation. For more information and to register, visit the Strafford website.
Even though cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under U.S. federal law, the United States Patent Office (USPTO), a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, routinely grants patents covering cannabis-related technologies. The Schedule I classification of cannabis is not relevant to patentability. As with any other invention, to be patentable, a cannabis-related invention must be new, useful, and nonobvious, and teach one of ordinary skill in the art how to make and use the invention. The USPTO has determined that many cannabis-related patent applications have met these requirements. Patents granted to cannabis-related inventions cover an enormous range of technologies, including cannabis plants, growing systems, extracts, methods of making extracts, foodstuffs, veterinary products, and methods of treating various diseases and disorders.
Earlier this month, surprising many in the industry, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it is proposing to significantly increase the amount of cannabis it will permit to be grown for research purposes in 2019. The 2018 limit, about 1000 pounds, will be increased to over 5400 for 2019, an over five-fold increase. The proposal remains open for public comment for the next 30 days, then the DEA will make final decisions on the matter.
Until 2016, only the University of Mississippi was permitted to grow cannabis for federally approved research purposes. But very few licenses were approved, and in most cases researchers learned that the low quality of product from Ole Miss made research essentially worthless. The Obama Administration, in its last months, approved a dramatic increase in research and opened up the right for other institutions to apply to grow cannabis for that purpose. Dozens applied, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions, until now, had not let any licenses be approved. Some believe it is relentless pressure on Sessions from the Senate that has led him not to stand in the way of this new action. In a hearing almost a year ago he had even admitted that adding more grow facilities for research could be “healthy.”
Cannabis medical research has been exploding elsewhere, particularly in Israel. For example, a published, peer-reviewed study earlier this year from there showed that over 95% of thousands of tested cancer patients said their condition improved with the use of cannabis. There is also a state-funded “Center for Medical Cannabis Research” in California that has commenced several studies, including one on the efficacy of CBD on autism spectrum disorder. Another California group is studying whether smoked cannabis can help with post-traumatic stress disorder. Most of these studies, however, are not “double blind” clinical trials given the federal restrictions. Many in the industry hope that the expanded DEA licensing will open the door to more exploration of the potential medical benefits of cannabis.
Banking continues to be a challenge for the cannabis industry. But, Wells Fargo recently erected a new barrier: It closed the campaign bank account of Nikki Fried, candidate for Agriculture Commissioner of Florida. According to a report in the New York Times on August 21, 2018, the bank took notice of the candidate’s advocacy for better access to medical marijuana. It then asked the campaign whether it accepted contributions from lobbyists for the medical marijuana industry. When the campaign replied it accepted contributions from executives and employees in the industry, Wells Fargo closed the account. The campaign now banks at BB&T. Full New York Times Story
As many know, hemp was a critical crop in Colonial times and some states, including Virginia, actually required farmers to grow it. Hemp was used particularly to make rope, thread, canvas and sailing cloth. Washington’s primary crop actually was hemp. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp as well.
The Mount Vernon farmers intend to use the hemp they grow to give fiber-making demonstrations at the site, which is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. They bought the site from Washington’s descendants in 1858 for $200,000 and now about a million visitors each year tour the facility. Many do not realize that Mount Vernon is not owned by the Federal government and is not a national park.
Hemp, while derived from the cannabis plant, contains no THC and has no psychoactive effects. In June, the Senate passed a farm bill that included language effectively legalizing industrial hemp. However, the House version of the bill is silent on hemp, and a conference to deal with the differences is being arranged. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a strong supporter of legalizing hemp, which many believe will help sway some skeptical House Republicans to support those provisions.
The United Kingdom this week approved the legalization of medical cannabis. The decision was made by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who said, “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.” As a result, medical cannabis will become available to children and adults with a prescription. The specifics of how this will be implemented have not yet been determined.
Javid did add, however, that this was “in no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.” This follows a widely watched story involving a 12-year old boy with a rare form of epilepsy who had received a special emergency license to be treated with medical marijuana in Northern Ireland.
Over 30 countries have legalized medical cannabis at this point, including a number of European countries. Press reports on the UK decision included enthusiastic quotes, especially from parents of children facing difficult illnesses. With over 65 million people, the UK represents a big increase in those now able to access medical cannabis worldwide.