Cannabis Client Alert - Week of March 22, 2021



In this week’s edition:

  • Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act reintroduced into US House of Representatives
  • Biden’s top candidate for drug czar worked on state cannabis legalization
  • Curaleaf gets state approval to expand in Illinois via an US$830 million acquisition
  • Join Dentons on March 30 for a webinar on government relations for the cannabis industry led by Gov. Howard Dean - Register here
  • And more…


SAFE Banking Act for Cannabis Industry Reintroduced in House - A bipartisan group of federal legislators reintroduced a cannabis banking reform bill—The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking—to the US House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill is expected to pass the House, where it passed before in 2019, but it will also need to pass the Senate to become law.

Schumer Says His Marijuana Bill Will Stop Big Alcohol And Tobacco From Dominating Market Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is preparing a comprehensive reform bill, with the help of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Citing restorative justice for the “War on Drugs,” Schumer intends the bill to prioritize market participation by small businesses and communities of color.

Biden’s Top Candidate for Drug Czar Worked on State Cannabis Legalization - Rahul Gupta, the former chair of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board who also served as the lead on drug policy in Biden’s presidential transition team, is said to be President Biden’s top candidate to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). A formal announcement has not yet been made.

Five White House Staffers Lose Jobs over Cannabis Use - While the Biden administration has a flexible policy that does not automatically disqualify potential staffers for cannabis use, five staffers were terminated for their previous drug use last week. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, “In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. […] While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated.”


CO - After a record-setting 2020, Colorado’s marijuana sales have surpassed US$10 billion in total since 2014. According to recently released Colorado Department of Revenue data, pot sales in January 2021 were almost 35 percent higher than in January 2020 due to nearly US$35 million in medical and US$152 million in recreational sales this past January.

IL - Curaleaf received approval to expand into Illinois via an US$830 million acquisition of Grassroots. The nine dispensaries will be rebranded as Curaleaf by April 1. Curaleaf is publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange and operates in 23 US states.

MO - Health authorities in Missouri have begun revoking the business permits of medical cannabis companies that did not meet operating deadlines. Although many of the companies received COVID19-related extensions, not all did, and some companies struggled to meet the “commencement deadline” inspection date even after being granted the extension. Applications for the permit were highly competitive, with more than 2,000 applicants for 370 business licenses.

MT -  Following approval of Initiative 190, an adult use measure, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) has released a plan to heavily regulate cannabis legalization in the state, effectively banning home-growing, instituting a THC cap in flower buds at 35 percent, a ban on local sales unless cities “opt in,” and a 20 percent statewide sales tax. The plan also prohibits logos on cannabis products, but includes stipulations allowing Montana’s eight tribes to engage in off-reservation cannabis production.

NM - New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) intends to call a special legislative session on March 31 to address cannabis legislation. House Bill 12, which would legalize marijuana sale and use to adults 21 and over, has stalled in the 2021 session of the state Legislature.

NY - According to a recent poll by Consensus Strategies, a majority of adult New Yorkers are in favor of marijuana legalization. In addition, a majority of respondents are in favor of legalizing personal cultivation and home delivery, but also support opt-out for local jurisdictions that oppose local cultivation and sale. This comes as legalization is working its way through the New York State Legislature.

OK - A new state bill in Oklahoma, known as HB 2272, would place a cap on the issuance of any new medical marijuana commercial licenses until September 2023. The bill would also introduce an “active use” stipulation, which would terminate licenses if the businesses did not meet certain revenue or growing requirements within an 18-month period. The bill, which passed the state House of Representatives 69-21, would also eventually reduce the state’s currently active 10,000 licenses to 8,000.

TN - Two bills for limited medical cannabis legalization—one for quadriplegic veterans injured in the line of duty and one for cancer patients with life threatening cases that do not respond to conventional treatment—are working through the Tennessee House of Representatives. Both bills would permit only topical or oral treatment with oils or extracts. Republican Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally has stated that he is against legalization.

WY - Wyoming House Bill 82, which would allow funding for a report on medical marijuana, recently passed the House Judiciary Committee 6-3. The bill is headed to the House floor for discussion concurrently with House Bill 209, a full legalization effort.


FDA - Earlier in this month, the US Food and Drug Administration issued another warning letter to Scottsdale, AZ-based Cannafyl, a company claiming that CBD helps with COVID-19.  The FDA stated that the agency is taking urgent measures to protect consumers from certain products that, without approval or authorization by the agency, claim to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19 in people.


New Zealand - A commercial medical cannabis legalization bill in New Zealand failed last week on its first reading in the House of Representatives. The bill proposed to license high quality domestic medicinal cannabis production, regulate health practitioner controlled gateway access, and facilitate pharmacist dispensing of medicinal cannabis.


Cannabis Mortgage REIT AFC Gamma Begins Trading on NASDAQ -  AFC Gamma, Inc., a commercial real estate finance company that provides loans to operators in the cannabis industry, announced its IPO last week. Share prices rose 21 percent on its first day of trading last week.

Cannabis Tech Platform Dutchie Raises US$200M, Acquires Greenbits, LeafLogix - Cannabis retail technology platform Dutchie raised US$200 million in a Series C funding round, and bringing its valuation to US$1.7 billion. The company also acquired two other marijuana software platforms, Greenbits and LeafLogix, for an undisclosed amount.

Cresco announces US$90M entry into Massachusetts cannabis market - Chicago-based cannabis MSO Cresco Labs will spend US$90 million to acquire vertically integrated Massachusetts operator Cultivate. Cresco currently has operations in Fall River, MA, and also operates in Arizona, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Trends in Youth Cannabis Use in Canada, Post-Legalization - A recent study in Canada found that cannabis legalization has not yet been followed by pronounced changes in youth cannabis use. High prevalence of youth cannabis use in the sample remained a concern. The data suggest that the Cannabis Act has not yet led to the reduction in youth cannabis use envisioned in its public health approach.

Dentons Speaks

On March 30, 2021, Gov. Howard Dean, a senior advisor in Dentons’ Public Policy and Regulation practice, will lead a panel discussion with John Ashford, CEO of The Hawthorn Group, and Dentons’ Eric Berlin, David Quam and Ashley Bell on opportunities in the cannabis industry through government relations. Information about and registration for the webinar is available here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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