In the News: 3 States Adopt New Cannabis Laws; AG Sessions Resigns

Burns & Levinson LLP

Following Tuesday’s midterm elections, three states—Michigan, Missouri, and Utah—adopted new cannabis laws: Michigan voters approved a measure that legalizes marijuana for recreational use, Missouri approved the creation of a comprehensive medical marijuana program, and Utah passed a measure legalizing medical marijuana for patients with certain qualifying illnesses.


Proposal 1 makes Michigan the first Midwestern state to pass adult-use marijuana legalization. It establishes several classes of licenses and gives the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) up to one year to promulgate regulations. For at least 24 months, LARA will only accept adult-use applications from existing medical marijuana businesses. Marijuana Business Daily has projected Michigan’s recreational cannabis market will generate between $1.4 billion and $1.7 billion in annual sales within several years of launching, making it one of the largest in the nation.


Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 (Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative), making the Show-Me State one of the 33 in the Union that have embraced medical marijuana. The measure creates regulations and licensing procedures for medical marijuana and medical marijuana facilities—dispensaries, cultivators, and testing and marijuana-infused-product manufacturing facilities. Moreover, Amendment 2 tasks the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to regulate the program, and establishes a 4% tax. Revenue derived from the program will be dedicated to health care services for veterans.


Proposition 2 establishes a medical marijuana program that will allow qualifying patients to acquire and use medical cannabis. Further, it authorizes the licensing of cultivation, processing, testing, and retail facilities; and provides for electronic inventory tracking, as well as packaging and advertising requirements. Medical marijuana sales are exempt from state and local sales taxes.

In addition to the success of state marijuana initiatives, the industry witnessed another significant development this week. Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long been viewed as a hindrance to the growth of legalized marijuana, submitted a letter of resignation, at the request of President Trump.

Sessions’ treatment of the cannabis industry was marked by his repeal of the Cole Memorandum, which had previously guided states’ marijuana regulations. While little is known about acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker’s stance on cannabis reform, many industry insiders see Sessions’ departure as portending a change to federal cannabis policy, including passage of the STATES Act.

Image courtesy Julia Sumpter/Leafly

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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