Three decisions staying CBD class actions in two months may signal a trend, especially considering that the Courts in these cases refer to the other’s decisions. Such a trend may keep the plaintiffs’ bar at bay, as it would cast doubt on the viability of consumer class actions asserting CBD violations, or at least it could make the cases less appealing to the plaintiffs’ bar because a stay makes the timing of a settlement or resolution even more uncertain.
Earlier this week, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) issued permits allowing Zen Leaf Elizabeth (Verano NJ) in Elizabeth and Columbia Care in Vineland to begin dispensing medical marijuana.
These 2 new operations bring the total number of operating dispensaries in the state to 11. Zen Leaf Elizabeth is scheduled to open Friday, May 29 and Columbia Care will likely open in early June.
The 9 other ATCs currently dispensing medical marijuana include Greenleaf Compassion Center of Montclair, The Botanist (Compassionate Care Foundation) of Egg Harbor and Atlantic City, Garden State Dispensary of Woodbridge and Union Township, Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center of Cranbury, Curaleaf NJ, Inc. in Bellmawr, Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus and Rise in Paterson.
In March, the DOH issued several waivers to improve ATC operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. These included waivers that allowed for curbside pick-up, telephonic consultations (instead of in-person), volume-based discounts and reduced caregiver fees.
Participation in the medical program continues to grow. According to the DOH, there are currently over 77,000 patients, 3,000 caregivers and 1,100 physicians enrolled. Patients and caregivers can visit the Division of Medicinal Marijuana’s website if they choose to change their preferred ATC. http://www.nj.gov/health/medicalmarijuana/
The change can also be made by calling the Customer Service Unit of the Division at 844-419-9712 and does not require changing ID cards.
Duane Morris has a robust Cannabis Practice Group to assist clients in all facets of the cannabis arena including formation, licensing, fund raising, regulatory, real estate, and intellectual property. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.
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If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Paul Josephson or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on nearly every industry in the global economy. The nascent and volatile cannabis industry was not exempt and, in some jurisdictions, has been impacted significantly due to local or state shelter or stay-at home orders. In most states where adult-use cannabis is legal, local and state governments have deemed cannabis businesses as essential and, thus, are permitted to continue operating notwithstanding local or state shelter orders. However, despite their characterization as essential businesses, many limitations imposed by local or state shelter orders have greatly affected the way cannabis businesses operate. As a result, cannabis businesses have experienced steep declines in their revenues and, in some instances, have left cannabis businesses unable to perform contractual obligations that they entered into pre-pandemic.
Seth Goldberg, partner and team lead of Duane Morris’ Cannabis Industry Group, discusses with Law360 how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the industry and shares how he and his family have been adapting.
Below are highlights from the article:
What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?
From a pure business standpoint, the pandemic has been bittersweet for the cannabis industry. Many of our clients have fared well because state-licensed medical marijuana businesses have been deemed “essential” in all states that have legalized medical marijuana. However, as in every industry, the pandemic has created workforce issues and has also impacted performance. […]
How are you and your family adapting at home?
It’s fun, especially if you like practicing law while teaching fourth-grade math, negotiating screen time for two 13-year-olds, and keeping a college-bound senior interested in completing high school remotely. A breakthrough was convincing the four kids that the internet on their laptops would be faster if they turned the wifi on their cellphones off!
What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you’ve witnessed so far?
My daughters insisting that buying three “fancy mice” would be a good substitute for friends and classmates.
Duane Morris has developed a tremendously responsive and informative COVID-19 task force that is, on a daily basis, providing incredibly insightful information about all aspects of the legal issues and implications of the pandemic, including contractual, employment, insurance and health care issues. […]
Seth Goldberg, partner and team lead of the Cannabis Industry Group, is also ranked as a national leading attorney in Cannabis Law.
What the team is known for Utilizes cannabis expertise on a nationwide basis and across a broad spectrum of practice areas, with practitioners specializing in IP, corporate transactions and regulatory advice within the sector. Offers expanded capabilities in the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill for clients trading in hemp and hemp-derived CBD products. Also boasts litigators able to handle contentious issues for producers and distributors across the industry.
Strengths“Outstanding is the first word I’d choose to describe their service,” says one client, who notes that the team is “creative and always very informative in an industry changing on an almost daily basis.“
Another client says: “The group is very polished, professional and experienced.”
Work highlights Represented iAnthus Capital Holdings as US counsel in connection with its all-stock merger with MPX Bioceutical.
Notable practitioners Seth Goldberg boasts high-level experience advising cannabis businesses throughout their life-cycle. Clients say: “Seth is a great businessman – not only does he understand the law, but also the business realities of things, which makes him a great adviser from that perspective.”
In an April 28th letter authored by the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) and the Policy Center for Public Health and Safety, 24 state-level cannabis trade associations from across the country called on Congress to end the Small Business Administration’s exclusion of cannabis businesses from COVID-19 federal funding relief.
Although a number of states have deemed medical marijuana companies- and in some cases adult use marijuana companies- “essential” businesses, the SBA has excluded them from the Economic Injury Disaster Loans because marijuana is still a prohibited Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. Even worse for the industry, SBA has included ancillary cannabis companies in its prohibition. The cannabis industry is also ineligible for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Employee Retention Credit.
This issue was first flagged by industry groups in early April when they wrote to governors asking them to fill the gap. The industry’s allies in Congress then took up the cause. Almost three dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter to congressional leaders urging that cannabis companies be included in future federal relief packages aimed at stimulating the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak. A group of 10 U.S. senators followed on April 22nd with their own letter urging congressional leaders to include small, state-legal marijuana businesses and ancillary companies in any future coronavirus relief packages. On April 23rd, Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Ed Perlmutter introduced the Emergency Small Business Health and Safety Act which would make cannabis businesses eligible for the SBA programs.
The ATACH letter urges Congress to amend the CARES Act to make cannabis businesses eligible for all available loans tax credits and other pandemic-related assistance. The letter also suggests Congress authorize fixed block grants to each state for non-specific pandemic relief. This would leave it up to the stated to tailor relief efforts and a individual state could make funds available to cannabis businesses.
As a commercial litigator who has handled a broad range of claims in highly regulated industries over the past 20 years — particularly in complex matters such as class actions involving claims brought by consumers and shareholders — and given my experience spearheading the development of Duane Morris’ cannabis industry group, which has included providing regulatory and business advice to a number of businesses and individuals with cannabis-related interests, I have been expecting the maturing cannabis industry to eventually mirror other industries when it comes to using commercial litigation to resolve disputes between businesses and to address claims of injury allegedly experienced by aggreived consumers and shareholders. It appears the time has come. Now, as opposed to even just a few months ago, not a day goes by when the daily legal news outlets that report on litigation matters filed in federal and state courts around the country do not include matters pertaining to adult use marijuana, medical marijuana, and/or hemp.
Today alone, legal news outlets are reporting about a shareholder deriviative action being filed against the manufacturer of cannabinoid-containing transdermal patches, a maker of mobile hemp dryers suing a distributor for alledgedly stealing trade secrets, a publicly-traded company that owns cannabis brands being sued for breach of contract by an MSO arising out of a failed merger agreement. Claims like these are among the many product liability, stock-drop and securities fraud, tradmark infringement, FLSA, and employment litigation matters to be filed in 2020 relating to cannabis; not to mention the federal and state regulatory cannabis-related enforcement actions also commenced. Just as in other industries, COVID-19 is likely to spur litigation in the space because of strains on resources and performance caused by business disruptions and the slower economy. To be sure, the plaintiffs’ bar has cannabis on its radar.
Thus, now more than ever, it is critically important for cannabis businesses to implement the necessary compliance measures, including making sure appropriate insurance coverage, e.g. premises, products, and D&O, has been obtained, that could protect their businesses from the cost and disruption of commercial litigation. Likewise, cannabis-specific nuances, such as the enforceability of contracts and jurisdictional questions, require careful evaluation by experienced counsel advising plaintiffs and defendants who are considering filing, or who have been brought into, a commercial litigation.
On April 20, the FDA issued warning letters to two CBD companies – BIOTA Biosciences and Homero Corp., dba Natures CBD Oil Distribution – directing them to remove statements from their labeling and advertising on websites and social media claiming that CBD can cure opioid addiction among other illnesses. I am attaching the FDA’s warning letter, as it provides very useful information to the market as to the FDA’s current views of CBD products. As set forth in the warning letter, the FDA continues to view CBD as (1) an unsafe food additive; (2) not satisfying the definition of a “dietary supplement,” and (3) as unapproved new drugs if marketed as “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.” In the case of Homero, the CBD products were advertised with the following claims, among others:
“Natures Pure CBD Oil has been effective in the treatment and eradication of opiate use.”
“CBD Oil Inhibits the reward-facilitating effect of morphine”
“Vaping CBD Oil to Treat Asthma . . . Your best best [sic] to combat Asthma is by vaping CBD Oil.”
“Natures Pure CBD is a strong anti-oxidant that can alleviate lower epileptic seizures, psychotic disorders, and has neuroprotective qualities.”
Cannabis operators, like all other businesses, are searching for new ways to reach their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cannabis businesses have been generally treated as “essential” under the various state orders that have otherwise closed businesses and ordered people to stay at home. Even though they have been permitted to operate, it is not business-as-usual for these operators as they grapple with CDC workplace restrictions and guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19.
As a result of these restrictions, state regulators and cannabis business have begun implementing new policies and procedures such as curbside pick-up, expanded delivery zones and increased use of contactless payment methods. While these changes are viewed as temporary, if properly implemented, cannabis businesses may be able to show regulators that these expanded policies should continue after the crisis has passed. This difficult time presents an opportunity for cannabis retailers to expand their reach and help bolster support for more online ordering, home delivery and other delivery methods.
For consumers, the widespread availability of products containing cannabidiol (CBD) is old news. But for those in the cannabis industry—and in particular, those monitoring applicable regulatory developments—the state of CBD remains largely in flux and continues to be marred by uncertainty.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) retained its regulatory authority over products derived from hemp, including CBD incorporated into products it traditionally regulates, such as food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. Unfortunately for the industry, FDA has yet to propose or issue formal regulations concerning the manufacture, distribution, or sale of such products. At the same time, FDA has issued numerous warning letters to producers and retailers incorporating CBD into products operating in the complex gray area between state and federal law. Nevertheless, recent events occurring across all three federal branches of government may reflect an impetus for change in FDA’s approach to CBD products.