Paul Josephson, partner and team lead of the Duane Morris Cannabis Industry Group, moderated a fireside chat with U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference on September 27, 2023.
“A governor who really gets economic development,” as Josephson said, Bryan said the region is on the cusp of an unprecedented economic surge. “We have a $4-billion economy right now. And we have $15 billion in sales over the next 10 or so years.”
Earlier today, on August 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officially recommended that cannabis be moved from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) – a landmark recommendation from HHS which indicates that HHS no longer considers cannabis to be a drug with high abuse potential and no medical value.
After completing a scientific review into cannabis per a requested review from the Biden Administration, HHS advised the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that it believes marijuana should be placed in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.
Note, HHS’s recommendation is NOT binding on the DEA but given the report’s findings and growing public sentiment is likely that the DEA agrees with the recommendation and shifts its policy.
Historically, cannabis has been federally prohibited as a Schedule I controlled substance. As noted by many pundits, the rescheduling to Schedule III would have major implications for researchers who have long criticized the Schedule I classification that creates significant barriers to access for studies.
For researchers, this change would likely mean that they would no longer need to go through the onerous registration process with the DEA in order to access cannabis for studies as a Schedule III drug. The shift to Schedule III would also enable various federal tax deductions to become applicable to the cannabis industry and unlock value for them that is currently stuck in an onerous tax structure under the Internal Revenue Code. Schedule III drugs are not subject to the same onerous structure under federal rules.
The cannabis ball is now firmly in the DEA’s court as the DEA has the final authority to schedule a drug as Schedule III rather than Schedule I under the CSA (or transfer a controlled substance between schedules or remove such a drug from scheduling altogether).
Parting Hits – With Congress due to reconvene after Labor Day, and the Biden Administration looking for a win on moving this issue along, look for pressure to continue to mount for some type of Congressional action in the Banking arena under a SAFE legislation bill and for the DEA to move through their rule making process in a swift and firm manner.
Duane Morris has a full service cannabis group that helps clients and investors in a wide array of cannabis-related issues including, but not limited to, licensing, fundraising, intellectual property protection and real estate. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Brad Molotsky or the attorney with whom you regularly communicate at Duane Morris.
Effective July 1, 2023, adults 21 and older will be able to possess, consume, and purchase adult-use cannabis throughout Maryland. Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed House Bill 556 on May 3, 2023, after the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate passed the legislation. Upon the governor’s approval, the law replaced the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, a board made up of 13 commissioners that regulated medical cannabis, with the Maryland Cannabis Administration (“MCA”), an autonomous agency. MCA is now working to issue medical cannabis licensees processors with expanded licenses that will permit them to produce and sell cannabis flower, pre-rolls, edibles, and other authorized products to both the medical and recreational markets. MCA now reports that more than 90 medical dispensaries across the state have received these expanded licenses and will be eligible to sell to the recreational market on July 1.
The law also expands Maryland’s social equity efforts by establishing a new Office of Social Equity, an independent office charged with “promot[ing] and encourag[ing] full participation in the regulated cannabis industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.” The new Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund will direct tax revenues from adult-use sales to community-based initiatives designed to benefit low-income communities.
The law also creates a forum between the regulator and the licensed industry through establishment of the Advisory Board, which will be chaired by the MCA’s executive director. By law, members of the board will be appointed by the governor and include current licensees, experts in cannabis law, science, or policy, and public health experts, among others. Once appointed, the Advisory Board will be empowered to provide recommendations to MCA on policy and regulations.
Although providers currently in the medical cannabis market will be the first to offer adult use products to adult consumers, the new law authorizes the MCA to issue additional grower, processor, and dispensary licenses – including microlicenses for smaller-scale producers. This summer, the MCA and the Office of Social Equity will conduct outreach and provide training for aspirants to the new market.
The 30-day application window for new licenses will open in September 2023.
News of widespread layoffs at cannabis companies across the United States has dominated headlines, but an analysis of employee counts at America’s largest multistate operators shows several actually grew their payrolls last year.
The fact that employee payrolls were up for some marijuana MSOs at the end of 2022 but down for others underscores how several factors can play a role in determining a company’s health.
Those factors include geographic footprint, taxes, operating costs and capital availability, experts said.
“The present moment is the Great Rationalization for the industry,” Paul Josephson, a New Jersey-based partner and leader of the cannabis industry group at the Duane Morris law firm, told MJBizDaily via email.
“Price compression and profitability varies tremendously by state and even within a state. So smart operators are taking a hard look at where they are investing their human capital.”
That means winding down operations in some areas and investing in others with more opportunity for revenue growth.
In case you might have missed it with your year end festivities, the U.S. Virgin Islands became the latest U.S. region to legalize adult-use cannabis. Once regulations are finalized, the rules will allow residents and visitors to purchase medical and/or recreational cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. The bill was signed by Governor Bryant and is now effective.
The legislation also includes provisions proposed by Senators Sarauw and Bolques and automatically expunges cannabis possession charges in the territory.
Medical cannabis was previously approved in 2019 but the legislature continues to work on the applicable rules and regulations for the program.
It is estimated by Commissioner Richard Evangelista that it will likely be another 18-24 months before the government can finalize the applicable regulations for medical and adult use.
Sarauw said that even now, with adult-use reforms now heading to the governor’s desk, “we have done absolutely nothing to move cannabis forward.”
At the moment, current rules decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Key Take Away – the USVI has now officially approved adult use cannabis which will likely spark (sorry, could not resist) multiple businesses and business lines to look to establish operations in the Territory. Grow, manufacture, dispensing and businesses supporting these operations are sure to continue their thought processes as to how to engage and become licensed pending final rules to be issued by the Department of Licenses and Consumer Affairs.
Duane Morris has an active Cannabis Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on your cannabis and hemp initiatives. We would be happy to discuss your proposed project and how these new rules might apply to you. For more information or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, or Tracy Gallegos, Seth Goldberg, or Paul Josephson who co-head the Cannabis Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you in regular contact .
According to recent reporting from the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“NJCRC”), sales of legalized, recreational adult use cannabis in NJ exceeded $116.5 Million from July to September of 2022. This Q3 revenue figure represents a 46% increase from sales receipts in Q2 of 2022 of $80 Million generated from April to June 2022, when 13 state dispensaries expanded to adult cannabis sales for the first time.
By way of background, New Jersey legalized the sale of recreational marijuana for those 21 and over in April 2021. Sales were initially confined to 12 licensed dispensaries, which had approximately $24 Million in sales through May 2021, or an average of $5 Million per week in a state with 9.3 Million residents. By comparison, adult recreational cannabis generated approximately $80 Million in total sales between April and June 30 per the Cannabis Authority or $6.7M per week. Continue reading “NJ Cannabis – 3Q 2022 Adult Use Sales Numbers Continue to Blaze”
The NJ Assembly passed two bills, 1897 and 4269 that would decriminalize possession of certain amounts of cannabis, while reducing penalties for what would still be deemed to be an arrestable/convictable offense.
The measures, which were introduced at the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee on Monday, passed by a 63-10 vote.
Per NJBIZ, a Senate version (Senate Bill 2535) was introduced on March 16 to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but has not moved since introduction.
There will still be work to do to reconcile the Assembly bills with Senate Bill 2535 which was introduced on June 4th and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee but much of the same language was used in both the Assembly and Senate versions.
One the key difference between the Senate and Assemble versions is the treatment regarding possession of up to a pound of marijuana. Yes, you read that right – a POUND.
Under the Senate bill, possession of up to a pound of cannabis will no longer be an arrestable offense, replacing it with a written warning for first offenses and a $25 civil penalty or community service for any afterward.
The Assembly bills instead call for a reduced penalty for possession of up to a pound and thereby lowers a first-time offense from 18 months to 6 months of imprisonment, and fines from $10,000 to $1,000. Any subsequent offenses would be met with the current level of punishment.
Possession of up to 2 oz. of cannabis, under current state law, has sentencing guidelines for up to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
Under current law, possession of between 1 pound and 5 pounds is punishable with imprisonment between 3-5 years or fines up to $25,000, or both.
These bills come a few months before the upcoming 2020 presidential election, where voters will decide whether recreational marijuana should be legalized for adult-use. Currently, polling has support for legalization at 67% among NJ residents.
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.
For Further Information:
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.
Josephson came to cannabis law after learning state contracts and licensing skills from mentor Clive Cummis, who died in 2010.
Thanks to Cummis’ deep infrastructure work, Josephson spent the ’90s as outside counsel for the New Jersey Turnpike. Then like Cummis, Josephson got into political law, and has spent the last two decades representing gubernatorial campaigns. And when Gov. Phil Murphy pushed legalizing weed, Josephson says he was already in the right place at the right time.