As with CVS, Walgreen’s decision to sell hemp-derived in CBD in select states, as opposed to rolling those products out nationally, is likely the result of the still developing federal regulatory framework for hemp, which includes forthcoming regulations and guidance from USDA and FDA, and differences in the laws pertaining to hemp and hemp-derived CBD products from state-to-state.
Notwithstanding the challenging regulatory environment, the mass marketing of hemp-derived CBD, now that hemp is no longer a federal controlled substance, provides a lucrative opportunity for the hemp-derived CBD supply chain – cultivators, processors, and retailers, including the major pharmacy chains. However, the “select state” approach Walgreens and CVS have taken demonstrates that careful is analysis of the federal and state laws and regulations at play is necessary before entering the hemp-derived CBD market.
CVS Pharmacy’s announcement that it will be selling hemp-derived CBD topicals, including creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee, should really come as no surprise, as the mass marketing of CBD has been an eventuality since hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act’s definition of marijuana with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018. CBD’s therapeutic benefits, without the psychoactivity of THC, have made products containing CBD the darling of the cannabis industry.
However, as CVS’s decision to market hemp-derived CBD products in select statesdemonstrates, the 2018 Farm Bill was not a total green light. USDA has yet to establish regulations fully implementing the federal hemp program, which would allow states to establish their own rules for cultivation, processing and sale of hemp, meaning state-by-state differences in the laws concerning cannabis, including hemp, must be assessed before marketing products like hemp-derived CBD. Such federal regulations should be promulgated later in 2019, ahead of the 2020 growing season.
In addition to USDA, FDA has authority over CBD-containing products under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, adding another layer of regulatory complexity that makes the 2018 Farm Bill’s removal of hemp from the CSA more of a yellow light for marketing hemp-derived CBD. Thus, manufacturers and distributors of CBD products must assess how CBD fits in with FDA and state rules concerning drugs and drug approvals, active pharmaceutical ingredients, health claims and labeling, and foods and beverages. FDA has said it is evaluating CBD closely, and should be providing guidance later in 2019.
Because the light is still yellow on the marketing of hemp-derived CBD, manufacturers and distributors should carefully evaluate the federal and state regulatory framework before marketing their CBD products.
Per MJBiz, MedMen, a California-based multistate marijuana operator, will receive an investment of up to $250 million from private equity fund Gotham Green Partners (GGP).
The investment – a convertible credit facility – is believed to be the largest to date by a single investor in a publicly traded cannabis company with U.S. operations.
The money will go toward a number of corporate activities, including potential acquisitions, investment in technology and increased cultivation and production, MedMen said.
“More than having adequate growth capital to fund all of their current operational needs (and eliminating the lingering overhang of future tag on offerings), we believe the GGP investment comes with many lateral strategic benefits, as they are the preeminent investor across the cannabis supply chain,” Paul Penney, managing director at Northland Securities, wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.
After the news, MedMen, which trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange as MMEN, saw its stock rise more than 6% over its price at close the previous day.
Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders reached agreement on key provisions to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, including how to tax and regulate it, and expunging past low-level marijuana offenses for certain users as a step toward social reform per reporting from Dan Munoz.
Per a press release issued by key Assembly Senate and the Governor’s office, we should expect to see the introduction of a cannabis bill within days.
Under the terms of the agreement:
• Adult-use marijuana would be subject to an excise tax of $42 per ounce, which will be imposed when marijuana is cultivated.
• Municipalities that are home to a cultivator or manufacturer would receive the revenue from a 2 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction.
• Municipalities that are home to a wholesaler would receive the revenue from a 1 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction.
• Municipalities that are home to a retailer would receive the revenue from a 3 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction.
To start to address social equity concerns, the revised legislation will likely provide an expedited expungement process for individuals convicted of low-level marijuana offenses, and a separate expungement process that would automatically prevent certain marijuana offenses from being taken into account in particular areas such as education, housing and occupational licensing.
Additionally, there are a number of provisions that aim to ensure broad-based participation for women owned and minority owned businesses, low and middle-income individuals, and disadvantaged communities.
Under the proposed legislation, adult-use marijuana would be governed by a Cannabis Regulatory Commission, composed of 5 members—three appointed directly by the Governor to serve terms of at least 4 years, and 2 appointed by the Governor upon the recommendations of the speaker and Senate president.
The commission would be tasked with promulgating all regulations to govern the industry and overseeing applications for licensing of adult-use marijuana dispensaries.
Earlier this week, Governor Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, reached a tentative agreement on key pieces of adult use marijuana legislation, overcoming one of the key sticking points of how to tax the product sales, reaching a collective consensus of a $42 an ounce tax.
According to a recent Monmouth University Poll, 6 in 10 New Jersey adults support legalizing recreational marijuana. The February poll interviewed 604 New Jersey adults between Feb. 8 and 10, found that 62% of respondents favored legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, compared to 32% of adults who said no to the prospect of legal marijuana in New Jersey.
68% of respondents said it would support the state economy, while 40% of respondents who support legal cannabis said it would boost tax revenue for New Jersey.
From an age perspective, 81% of millennials (i.e., ages 18 to 34), support legalizing marijuana, compared to 74% of adults ages 35 to 54, and 67% of adults 55 and older.
One of the other bones of contention that was overcome involved who will control the oversight commission. The current agreement would create a 5-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission to oversee the state’s marijuana industry, and Governor Murphy would be able to appoint 3 of the members without requiring Senate approval.
A earlier New Jersey marijuana legalization bill that was advanced by Assembly and Senate commitees in the fall of 2018 included a 12% sales tax. Under the Monday compromise, adult use marijuana purchasers will pay the same tax rate no matter what amount they purchased – meaning, $42 for an ounce, $21 for a half-ounce, $10.50 for a quarter-ounce or $5.25 for an eighth-ounce.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee vote was 7-4 in favor, while the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 7-3 to advance the bill. If legislation is moved, the “Marijuana Legalization Act” would allow users 21 years old and up to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
Harborside is not the first United States-based company to use a reverse merger to take advantage of the more advanced Canadian markets, and they won’t be the last. “US-based cannabis companies are increasingly taking advantage of the robust Canadian capital markets,” Nanette Heide, co-chair of the private equity practice at Duane Morris LLP and the attorney who represented Harborside in the deal, told The Marijuana Times. “The transactions are somewhat complex in structure, but executed well can provide ready access to capital for growth and expansion.”
On 1-9-19, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 420, the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.” Blumenauer, the co-sponsor of the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment, better known as the on-going appropriations provision that prohibits the Justice Department from spending federal funds to enforce federal law that is in conflict with state medical cannabis laws.
Proposed Bill 420 is a total overhaul of the federal government’s treatment of marijuana. Among other things, the bill:
1. Decriminalizes marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act;
2. Amends the Federal Alcohol Administration Act to enable the Secretary of the Treasury to issue permits to those who want to to manufacture, distribute, or sell marijuana;
3. Transfers jurisdiction from the DEA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives;
4. Prohibits widespread advertising for marijuana; and
5. Grants to the FDA the same authority for marijuana as it has for alcohol.
Rep. Blumenauer noted: “Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support. It’s time to end this senseless prohibition.” In this vein, per a Pew Research Center study released last fall, nearly 66% of Americans support legalization at the federal level.
The new co-chairs of the 2019 bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Conference are Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK).
With the rapid spread of marijuana legalization in the US, lawyers are discovering that the tangled web of regulations guiding the rapidly growing industry is a boon for business. …
There are several key reasons lawyers are attracted to the marijuana industry. For one, as cannabis companies grow, merge, and start getting the attention of Fortune 500 corporations as acquisition targets, they need more sophisticated advice on financing, tax planning, corporate structure, and M&A. …
That’s an opportunity to a select group of lawyers who have cut a trailblazing path into the industry. Once reluctant, some of the biggest law firms, like Duane Morris, Baker Botts and Dentons, are building out specialized cannabis practice groups as the industry continues to grow in profitability and complexity. …
Business Insider has pulled together a list of the top lawyers who’ve worked on the largest deals in the past year in the growing marijuana industry.
Location: Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco
Duane Morris has staked out big territory: It’s one of the few AmLaw 100 firms marketing its cannabis practice group, said Neeraj Kumar, an associate at the firm who works on cannabis issues.
“This is a very good opportunity for our firm,” said Seth Goldberg, the chair of the firm’s practice in Philadelphia. Cannabis is one of the “few emerging markets that has multibillion-dollar potential.”
Goldberg, a seasoned trial lawyer with decades of experience, said he spearheaded the firm’s involvement in the industry in 2014 after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot shops.
And for Kumar, the opportunity to become an expert in a field where there’s “a new development every week” was something he couldn’t turn down.
Duane Morris represented iAnthus, a US cannabis company, in its $640 million merger with MPX Bioceutical, also the first public-to-public transaction in the US cannabis industry. Further, the firm has advised investors on real-estate acquisitions.
Update: The Senate passed this bill on December 11, 2018; the House of Representatives passed it on December 12, 2018. It was signed into law on December 20, 2018.
Duane Morris will be following further developments and issuing updates.
The 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act;
The 2018 Farm Bill confers on the Department of Agriculture (“DOA”) authority over hemp, including CBD derived from hemp;
States desiring to have primary regulatory authority over hemp must submit a plan to DOA pursuant to which the state will establish hemp regulations to provide for the growth and use of hemp, including CBD derived from hemp;
No laws will be erected to prohibit the interstate transportation of hemp, or CBD derived from hemp;
The Food and Drug Administration may intensify its involvement with CBD as more products for human consumption hit the market;
Banking and insurance for hemp derived CBD products should become increasingly available as those products are no longer “unlawful”; and
CBD derived from unlawful marijuana is still unlawful.
Enter the 2018 Farm Bill, known as the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” set forth in final form in a Conference Report yesterday, and which will be voted on as early as this week and could be signed into law next week. The 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as follows: The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. It goes on to explicitly remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, as follows:
SEC. 12619. CONFORMING CHANGES TO CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT. (a) IN GENERAL.—Section 102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802(16)) is amended— (1) by striking ‘‘(16) The’’ and inserting ‘‘(16)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B), the’’; and (2) by striking ‘‘Such term does not include the’’ and inserting the following: ‘‘(B) The term ‘marihuana’ does not include— ‘‘(i) hemp, as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946; or ‘‘(ii) the’’. (b) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL.—Schedule I, as set forth in section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812(c)), is amended in subsection (c)(17) by inserting after ‘‘Tetrahydrocannabinols’’ the following: ‘‘, except for tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp (as defined under section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946)’’.
The 2018 Farm Bill confers on the DOA the regulation of hemp, and contemplates federal regulations that would allow for states to become the “primary regulator” of hemp. Importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill explicitly provides for the interstate transportation of hemp and prohibits states from restricting the interstate transportation of hemp, stating “nothing in this title or an amendment made by this title prohibits the interstate commerce of hemp (as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (as added by section 10113)) or hemp products…No State or Indian Tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (as added by section 10113) through the State or the territory of the Indian Tribe, as applicable.”
Significantly, the 2018 Farm Bill does not remove CBD derived from THC-containing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, the DEA’s pronouncement as described above is still in effect, CBD derived from unlawful marijuana is still unlawful. However, there is now clarity. CBD derived from “hemp,” as defined in the 2018 Farm Bill, and grown pursuant to state regulations established pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill, is lawful and may not be the subject of federal prosecution.
Banking: It should be underscored that banks and other financial institutions, such as investment firms and insurance companies, that have been cautious or reluctant about CBD products because of their connection to unlawful marijuana may view the 2018 Farm Bill as a green light for banking, investing and insuring hemp derived CBD products as hemp and CBD derived from hemp are no longer “unlawful.”
Most importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill does not eliminate the regulation of hemp or CBD derived from hemp. Rather, it envisions the promulgation of additional federal regulations and state regulations intended to promote its growth and use, and federal agencies like the FDA may increase their involvement with CBD. Those interested in participating in the hemp and hemp derived CBD markets should retain counsel well-versed in the pertinent state and federal regulations to provide guidance that will allow for the achievement of business objectives.
These investments demonstrate the strengthening gravitational pull of the cannabis space on non-cannabis companies. The significant involvement of major companies like Altria and Constellation likely comes as no surprise to those following the burgeoning cannabis space, and should have their competitors considering similar moves. There are innumerable legal hurdles to clear in entering the space, but there are few markets today that offer new ground to plow.