The Week in Weed: April 2020 #4

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[author: Susan Ryan]

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

Yet again,COVID-19 dominated the news, in the marijuana industry and in every other aspect of life. The lack of funding for marijuana businesses in the stimulus packages, the halt to state legalization efforts, the issues surrounding Massachusetts (yes, those continue), even Mexico’s decision to legalize cannabis – all are caused or colored by the coronavirus. But let’s start with an issue that got a lot of attention without being directly related to the pandemic – social equity in the cannabis industry, specifically in California.

LOS ANGELES LICENSING ISSUES

Last September, the city launched a new round of cannabis licensing to provide 100 retail licenses to social equity applicants. Some applicants may have been able to access the system early, which is a problem in a first-come, first-served process. Now, The Social Equity Owners and Workers Association has filed suit against the city, asking that all applications be vetted, or alternatively, that the city start over, with an entirely new process to ensure fairness.

CALIFORNIA SOCIAL EQUITY GRANTS

On the plus side, the state of California recently allocated $30 million to local governments. This money will allow them to provide low and no-interest loans to social equity cannabis operators. Funds will be available starting July 1.

ACLU REPORT

Problems with social equity are everywhere. The ACLU released a report on Monday that highlights the racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, both in states were marijuana is legal and in states where it is not. Among the findings of the report: in some states where cannabis is still illegal, African-Americans are ten times more likely to be arrested than whites, even though consumption rates are practically identical.

For more on social equity issues, see our post from February that examines programs around the country.

(LACK OF) FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

The marijuana industry has received on relief from federal relief programs. As we detailed last week, various business groups and lawmakers are writing letters decrying this situation. The letter writing continues, as a bipartisan group of Representatives wrote to House leadership asking that marijuana businesses receive funding in the next stimulus bill. A group of 10 Senators have also put pen to paper, asking their leadership to include the cannabis industry in the SBA loan program.

***breaking news***

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) just introduced the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act in the House of Representatives. See text of bill here.

MARIJUANA BANKING

The industry needs not just financial aid, but financial services as well. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is optimistic that cannabis banking could make its way into one of the next two relief packages. Because it’s hard to get money from the federal government if you have no bank account to receive it.

STATE ISSUES

What would The Week in Weed be without a look at what’s happening on the state level? We’ll start with Montana, where legalization activists are facing the same dilemma all other ballot initiative backers are facing: the danger of collecting in-person signatures during a pandemic. Advocates in some states are asking to substitute e-signatures; New Approach Montana has taken the matter to court. Further bulletins as events warrant.

As for Massachusetts, the courts have not been kind to adult-use dispensary owners seeking to overturn the Governor’s order that they close, as non-essential businesses. In deciding against the owners, the judge wrote: “The governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional.”

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Turning our attention abroad, Mexico has extended its deadline to legalize cannabis to December 15. Lawmakers were expected to enact legislation in the current legislative session, but coronavirus had other plans.

AND FINALLY

If you’re looking for a new beverage, Molson Coors and Hexo Corporation are working on a concoction you might want to check out. The non-alcoholic CBD drink will only be available in Colorado, which has a regulatory framework for selling CBD products. No date has been set for the product’s launch.

Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!

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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