Tag Archives: seth goldberg

The Light is Still Yellow, but Hemp-Derived CBD Hits The Mass Market

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

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 states demonstrates, 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.

Federal Court Tosses RICO Claim Against California Cannabis Growers, Landlord

On December 27, 2018, the Northern District of California dismissed a civil RICO claim brought against the owners and operators of a Sonoma County cannabis growing operation and the operation’s landlord. See Bokaie v. Green Earth Coffee LLC, 3:18-cv-05244-JST, 2018 WL 6813212 (N.D. Calif. Dec. 27, 2018). The lawsuit was filed by neighbors who alleged that the operation’s “skunk-like stench” interfered with the enjoyment of their property and drove down their property values. The Bokaie court found that such alleged harms did not constitute a “RICO injury,” and thus dismissed plaintiffs’ claim (albeit without prejudice, allowing 30 days to amend).

The Bokaie case is part of a growing trend of RICO lawsuits filed in legalized states—to date, roughly a dozen have been filed in California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Oregon—that seek to exploit the tension between state law and the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). RICO defines “racketeering activity” to include CSA violations, and a civil lawsuit can proceed upon allegations that an enterprise’s pattern of racketeering activity caused damage to the plaintiffs’ business or property. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961(1), 1962(c), 1964(c). RICO’s civil remedy provision awards prevailing plaintiffs triple damages and attorneys’ fees, id. § 1964(c), thus giving “not in my backyard” plaintiffs and their attorneys a powerful tool against their neighbors. By alleging that the smell of cannabis interferes with the enjoyment of their property and drives down their property value, plaintiffs in these cases are effectively elevating common law nuisance claims into federal RICO lawsuits.

Read the full Duane Morris Alert.

Constellation Brands’ $4B Cannabis Investment

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

On August 15, 2018, Constellation Brands, which owns popular beer, wine and spirits products, such as Corona, Robert Mondavi and High West, announced it is investing $4 billion in Canopy Growth, which is one of the leading investors in the global legal cannabis market.  The announcement boosted Cannabis market stocks in the US and Canada, and is likely to catch the eye of big alcohol, big tobacco, big pharma and larger consumer products companies that have been interested in entering the growing legal marijuana markets.  More and more companies once-hesitant about doing so are finding that good counsel can help them navigate the regulatory hurdles that might otherwise stand in the way of profiting from this exciting market.

Interview with Seth Goldberg: Is NJ About To Fire Up The East Coast Regulation Rush? And Hemp vs Cannabis

You may have read a piece by CLR on Duane Morris’ approach to the national cannabis market late last year.

They are running ahead of their competitors and continue to do so.

They are one of the few firms in the Am Law 200 to have taken up the challenge presented by this de-centralized and sometime rather chaotic corner of the American economy.

Seth Goldberg, based in Philadelphia, practices in business and litigation with a particular emphasis in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and Pharma, saw the opportunities in cannabis and hemp early on in the game and has developed a multidisciplinary cannabis practice drawing across a wealth of experience in the firm.

The practice now comprises 48 attorneys, of whom a good 30 or so are partners.

They are taking the sector seriously and here at CLR we’re surprised that more in the top echelons still aren’t doing the same. …

It’s a question we posed to Seth during our hour long conversation and he concurred that he was equally surprised at the lack of cannabis / hemp practice development at the larger firms on the eastern seaboard.

To read the full text of this article, please visit the Cannabis Law Report website.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to Begin Phase II Permitting

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

On April 5, 2018, Phase 2 of the PA Department of Health’s permitting for commercial medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary operations will begin.

13 Grower/Processor permits will be available, two in each of the six DOH regions, and the 13th going to the highest scorer.  23 Dispensary permits will be available, nine in Region 1, three in Regions 2 and 3, two in Regions 4 and 6, and four in Region 5.  Applications will be available online at www.medicalmarijuana.pa.gov  on April 5, and the submission deadline will be May 17.

In June 2017, 12 Grower/Processor and 27 Dispensary permits were granted.    According to April Hutcheson of DOH:

  • 25,573 patients have registered to participate in the PA program;
  • 9,020 patient certifications have issued;
  • 7,000 of those patients have purchased their ID cards;
  • 6,683 patients have bought medical marijuana in a PA dispensary;
  • 866 physicians have been registered to participate in the program; and
  • 473 of the registered physicians have been approved.

Given the very real possibility that PA will approve the use of dry flower products, i.e., smoking and edibles, this summer, the PA market is positioned for strong performance over the next few years.

Contingency Fees and Commercial Litigation Hit the Cannabis Space

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

As the values of transactions in the cannabis industry grow, commercial litigation is certain to follow.  One reason for this is that lawyers may be more inclined to represent clients on a contingency fee basis.  Where the value of a cannabis transaction is small, the expense of litigation may not be worthwhile for an individual or business feeling cheated, and any settlement or judgment would likely not cover the costs of an attorneys’ contingency fee.  However, where the value of a cannabis transaction is sufficiently high, say the upper six-figures or more, a lawyer may be more inclined to take the case for a contingency fee because the lawyer’s percentage of any recovery is likely to be greater than the costs the lawyer will incur in litigating the matter.  A contingency fee arrangement may also be utilized to the advantage of a party that believes threatened or actual litigation might shift the leverage in negotiations and result in more attractive commercial terms.

A recently filed action captioned Silver v. High Street Capital et al., 2:18-cv-00020 (E.D. PA. 1/3/18), appears to result from the type of high value transaction that might warrant a contingency fee in a commercial litigation.  The plaintiff, industry consultant Harris Silver alleges that, in connection with their bid to obtain a license to grow and process cannabis pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program, defendant High Street Capital and other defendants associated with High Street promised Silver a lucrative compensation package, including (a) $180,000 to prepare the license application; (b) a $150,000 cash bonus upon the granting of a license and a 4% non-dilutable equity stake in any licensee; and (c) a salaried position with the licensee.  Silver claims that notwithstanding his work on the High Street application, for which a permit was granted, the High Street defendants never paid Silver the valuable consideration that was contingent on the permit being granted.  Thus, based on a host of factual allegations detailing various communications he had with the High Street defendants, and other allegations detailing his efforts on their behalf, Harris asserted claims against the High Street defendants for breach of contract, common law fraud, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, securities fraud and civil conspiracy. Continue reading Contingency Fees and Commercial Litigation Hit the Cannabis Space

Adult-Use Marijuana Bill Introduced in New Jersey

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

With the election of Phil Murphy as New Jersey Governor in 2017, the possibility of New Jersey becoming one of the next states to pass recreational marijuana legislation became very real, as this was among the issues key to Murphy’s campaign.

On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, less than one week after AG Sessions issued guidance to all US Attorneys rescinding Obama-era policies deprioritizing the federal prosecution of state-lawful cannabis-related activities, that possibility became more of a likelihood, as New Jersey Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced Senate Bill 830, which would allow for the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes in New Jersey by those 21 and older.

The legislation proposes adults would be permitted to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solids, 72 ounces in liquid form, 7 grams of concentrate and up to six immature plants, and establishes a sales tax on marijuana that would rise incrementally from 7 percent to 25 percent over five years.

2018 Should Be The Year Cannabis Ends The Opioid Crisis…. Fingers Crossed!

Seth Goldberg
Seth A. Goldberg

Articles appearing this week in the LA Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other recent articles, highlight the horrors of the opioid crisis and the need for research into cannabis as a possible solution.  While the federal government warns about the spiraling toll of the opioid epidemic, it refuses to grant the applications of world-renowned scientists at major universities and research centers seeking to explore the ways in which the well-documented therapeutic properties of cannabis can alleviate the pain and suffering – physical, emotional and financial – being caused by opioid abuse.  There is no shortage of deep pockets willing to fund the research, and US-based scientists are ready, willing and able to get to work, yet the federal government refuses to depart from its antiquated “reefer madness” established in the early 20th Century.  2018 should be the year the federal government stops blocking cannabis research so that scientists can determine if and how cannabis can stem the opioid crisis.  Fingers crossed!