President Donald Trump on Friday reiterated his support of states choosing whether to legalize cannabis. When asked on the White House lawn by a Washington Examiner reporter whether cannabis would become legal during his Administration, Trump stated, “We’re going to see what’s going on. It’s a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision. A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.”
While Trump does change positions on issues, he has been consistent on the legalization of cannabis since the 2016 campaign. He has stated he is “100%” in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, and has said a number of times that recreational use should be decided by the states. Of course Republicans tend to favor states’ rights as supporters of federalism.
Trump confirmed back in April 2018 to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) that he would sign a bill that permitted states to decide for themselves on legalization. Gardner and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) subsequently introduced a bill to remove cannabis as a controlled substance within states that have legalized it. Many believe that Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham have been blocking attempts to move that bill forward in the current Congress.
Trump’s comments seem to echo Attorney General William Barr’s recent statements that his department is effectively operating under the 2014 Cole Memorandum which deemphasized prosecution against state legal cannabis enterprises in most cases.
Imagine 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.
On June 17, 2019, the New York Legislative session adjourned without passing a bill that would have legalized adult use cannabis in the state. The sponsor of the leading bill in the assembly and Manhattan Democratic Senator, Liz Krueger, announced that there was not sufficient time to gain the support necessary for passage of a bill. Although there appears to be broad popular support for legalization of marijuana in New York, a number of “safety” issues arose, particularly among suburban constituencies relating to concerns such as operation of motor vehicles under the influence of marijuana. Sentiment in suburban areas caused lawmakers from those districts to withhold the support needed, particularly in the state senate. In addition, many blamed the failure on Governor’s Cuomo’s reluctance to give the measure full support. Although the governor had endorsed adult use legalization earlier in the session, and had attempted to include it within the budget bill passed at the end of March, at the critical time before adjournment he appeared to take a hands‑off approach, becoming oddly passive, a pose this activist governor rarely adopts. Continue reading Effort to Legalize Adult Use of Marijuana Fails in New York State→
Last week, the New York City Council overwhelmingly approved a new local law to prohibit city employers from testing potential employees for marijuana use. This weekend Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated he will sign the bill. There are certain exceptions, permitting marijuana testing for police, construction workers, child care workers and some others. It also does not prohibit testing of current employees or firing someone for cannabis use. The bill, which would not take effect until one year after the Mayor signs it, applies to any employers in the city, even if their headquarters is elsewhere. The few Republicans who did not support the bill argued that employers should have the freedom to decide whom they wish to hire.
It appears no measure like this that has passed elsewhere, even in states that have legalized adult use of cannabis. Some states’ laws do prohibit discrimination against employees solely because they use medical marijuana. New York’s current proposed cannabis legalization bill, for example, would treat possessing a medical cannabis card as a disability, entitling the holder to certain benefits and protections. This bill, however, also prohibits testing of those using cannabis recreationally.
NYC has been readying itself for the expected passage of legal adult use cannabis in the State at some point this year. While previously opposed to legalization, the Mayor now supports it. Following an embarrassing New York Times story, the Mayor also recently banned the NYPD from arresting folks solely for using marijuana in public. Only traffic tickets can be issued now. Will the Big Apple lead the way in supporting the legal use of cannabis? This new law appears to be an important step in that direction.
The first public hearing on New Hampshire House Bill 481, which would legalize the adult use of cannabis in the state, is scheduled for February 5, 2019. The bill outlines how New Hampshire would regulate cannabis products,including recreational “adult use” products, the licensing and regulation of sales establishments, and the taxation scheme.
Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont all have legalized the “adult use” of cannabis, leaving New Hampshire as the only state in northern New England that has yet to do so.New Hampshire’s economy is very integrated into the New England and Metro Boston economies and serves as a valuable new market for the cannabis industry.
The February 5 public hearing will begin at 1:00 p.m. at Representatives Hall in the State House before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The committee will amend the bill the following day, vote on the bill on Thursday, February 7, and send the bill to the floor of the New Hampshire House for its consideration in February.
Although Governor Christopher T. Sununu has said he will veto the bill, the bill is receiving bipartisan support and is expected to easily pass the House and Senate in the coming weeks, setting the stage for a potential veto override. It is also anticipated that the legislative effort will take a couple of months. Duane Morris will continue to follow these developments.
A long standing legal prohibition on federal enforcement against state legal medical cannabis operators expired on December 21, 2018 when the U.S. Government partially shut down. The amendment had been renewed and extended multiple times through that date.
First adopted in 2014, the amendment to annual appropriations bills known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment is expected to be reimplemented when the Government is reopened and the current budget stalemate resolved. In the meantime, however, technically, federal enforcement against state legal medical cannabis companies is possible. That said, most of the government agencies who could pursue such enforcement remain unfunded and shut down.
Most commentators also do not expect to see any change in federal enforcement activity as public sentiment, Congressional activity and state legalization efforts are all moving in the direction of ultimately eliminating prohibition on the medical and adult use of cannabis.
Many believe that cannabis stocks are experiencing a “bubble,” meaning that market valuations are unjustified, unrealistic and based on investor hype as opposed to typical fundamental markers such as revenues, assets and profit. Some, like The Motley Fool, believe this is a bubble ready to burst. The Wall Street Journal includes quotes from new entrants in the space suggesting this is much like the Internet stocks of 1997 or 1998, remembering that in 2000 the Internet stocks crashed mightily, taking years to recover after many companies did not survive the shakeout.
The cannabis data analytics company New Frontier Data reports that, year to date, seven of the top 12 cannabis stocks have posted more than 200% gains. The data company also seems to be recommending that, “As cannabis stocks continue to rally, prudent investors should consider taking profits and exercising caution.” The AP just quoted a stock analyst warning, “[i]f there is a bubble, larger investors will protect themselves and won’t overinvest in single companies, but smaller investors who see a chance to get rich quickly could suffer painful losses.”
It is true that, in particular in Canada, cannabis stocks are trading at extremely high valuations relative to the companies’ financial condition and results. One company, for example, with around $20 million in first half revenues, is trading at the same valuation as Macy’s, which has $25 billion in annual revenue. In the US the valuations are a bit more down to earth, but also considered by most to be high given performance.
Many others, including leaders of companies with these high-flying stocks, strongly believe these valuations are justified based on the tremendous future potential of the cannabis industry as we get closer to federal legalization in the US and global growth proceeds as well. They believe that as long as investors continue to believe in the future of the very rapidly growing industry, the valuations will continue to stay strong and be justified, and performance will grow to further support the bubble pricing. But the thing about bubbles…