Vol. 8, No. 5 -- January 8, 2021 -- Edited by Dr. Lloyd Covens
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NEW AG, SENATE MAJORITY BRING NEW ERA FOR CANNABIS -
Last week's troubling U.S. Capitol invasion aside, cannabis interests saw a major political gain in the Biden administration naming of Merrick Garland(above left) to head the Department of Justice, and with the pending installation of (pro-cannabis, pro-hemp) New York Senator Chuck Schumer as the Senate Majority leader. (See list of relevant committee chairs below). Garland is a top federal judge on the DC Circuit, is a former Obama nominee to join the Supreme Court, and in 2014 testified that he would defer to the DEA in most drug matters. Upon his nomination this week Garland--who was chosen over Sen. Doug Jones(D-AL) and former associate AG Sally Yates-- said the "priorities lie before us, from ensuring racial equity in our justice system to meeting the evolving threat of violent extremism."
New Senate Dem Chairs Drive MJ Progress in SAFE, MORE Acts
The power to hold-off votes from even popular (read: 'likely to pass') bills was the legacy of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)-- a man with a passion for industrial hemp--and a man with little tolerance for any movement on cannabis legislation. After the Georgia senate run-off votes, there is no McConnell hold on anything-- next week Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) takes over leading the Senate, and that means Senate votes on the SAFE Banking act, the MORE Act-- both passed in last session's Congress-- and action for IRS section 280-E reform, MMJ decriminalization, robust research funding and veteran's MMJ access will all likely be taken-up in 2021.
"We are excited and encouraged to work with the new Democratic Senate majority," said Jonathan Miller, general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. Miller added that incoming majority leader Chuck Schumer has been a longtime and strong supporter of the hemp industry---as have incoming Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy and Agriculture Chair Deb Stabenow. Prospects for SAFE Banking look even brighter with Sen. Sherrod Brown leading the Banking Committee." As a Blue Grass former state treasurer-- and long-time observer of politics in Kentucky-- Miller told West420 "understand that hemp champion Mitch McConnell isn’t going anywhere. As the most powerful Republican in the Capitol, and a 50/50 Senate, he will still be able to use his influence to help the hemp industry."
During the past 12 years, Republican control of the U.S. Senate has bottled up hearings and floor votes for MJ-reform bills co-authored by Sen. Rand Paul(R-Ky), Sen. Cory Booker(D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren(D-MA), Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Kamla Harris (D-CA), Sen. Kristen Gillibrand(D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders(I-VT). The SAFE banking act -- pushed for 5 years through the House by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, witnessed a successful vote out of the full House last September. Twice the House majority added key elements from the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment on the proposed May and August Democratic stimulus bill. But after much GOP criticism, and a McConnell refusal to allow it to be attached, the measure was stripped. Now with a wholesale replacement of committee heads, the important Judiciary committee will also likely be open to hearing the House-passed MORE act, calling for national rescheduling(among other key provisions), which was authored by House Judiciary chair Rep.
Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
Wall Street reacted positively after the Georgia results, with many cannabis stocks seeing 9 to 17% stock gains on the expectation for positive near-term legislation. Piper Sandler analyst Michael Lavery, who added that Democratic control of the Senate, “could help provide better access to capital, alleviate operating headwinds, and help drive industry growth.” Here is the recap of favorable incoming chairs--noting 4 of the five are from states with existing adult-use and strong medical-MJ provisions.
* Heath, Education & Labor: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), Chairwoman
* Judiciary: Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) - GOP Ranking may be Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) or Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
* Veteran's Affairs -- Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont)
* Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs -- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)---Ranking R: Rep. Mike Crapo (R-ID); and
* Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
CANNABIS News Briefs.......
A new year brings the filing of bills across the state legislatures-- many considering new MJ/hemp initiatives, and many with over-due regulatory tune-ups. In California, a three-year effort to allow sales of hemp/CBD in food, drinks and pet supplements is being introduced again. As California’s 2021-2022 session ramps up, Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry has introduced AB 45, which is nearly identical to last year’s AB 228, but with a more explicit reference to pet food. While last years bill came within hours of passage, the severely-constrained COVID-19 session caused it to fail. The measure will allow for “dietary supplement, food, beverage, cosmetic, or pet food” to include “industrial hemp or cannabinoids, extracts, or derivatives from industrial hemp.” If passed, the California position would be in direct conflict with the Food & Drug Administration, which wants more research and trials to establish CBD safety/efficacy in foods and beverages. Starting Jan. 1, California extended its' labeling rule for all-THC products(including hemp-CBD) which must incorporate this text: “WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm – www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.”
Link-of-the-Week: "Just say 'No' to Patrick Kennedy." As the Biden Administration fills in its lineup of top policy makers, last week's news that drug-warrior Patrick Kennedy was hoping for appointment to head the office of National Drug Control Policy. Writes Kyle Devitt Lee for Project CBD, "Since leaving office in 2011, the fact-adverse Patrick Kennedy, a recovered pharmaceutical drug addict, has used his public spotlight to double-down on prohibition, co-founding the country’s leading prohibitionist organization, the misnamed Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Kennedy’s philosophy of criminalization is wrong. In the context of a life-disrupting pandemic, economic recession, debilitating student debt, escalating climate-driven wildfires, and entrenched racial disparities, a focus on perpetuating the Drug War is tone deaf and anachronistic," writes Project CBD. See the full opinion piece at: https://bit.ly/3s4rg2x
In its first 12 months of expanded RMJ access, Illinois has surpassed one-billion in annual sales, with 70 percent coming from adult use, 30% from medical. The month-to-month revenue data has reported each month's contribution from out-of-state customers at 24 to 28 percent of Illinois total sales. The state is also moving ahead with its next round of license awards targeted to ethnic minorities, veterans and physically-challenged applicants. Another round of applicants will also be placed into a lottery for expansion from the current 80 state licensees, to an additional 75. Here is a monthly Illinois recap, showing only RMJ sales(70%) of annual results:
International support for expanded medical MJ (and growing CBD acceptance) grew steadily last year as the United Nation's World Health Organization voted to reclassify cannabis. Europe, South America and even African nation's warmed to MMJ access, but that is not the case in Asia--and this week health authorities in India and Hong Kong strongly set aside talk of increased legal access. India's chief minister Pramod Sawant said he "was not interested" in pursuing proposed legislation to allow MMJ cultivation. Likewise, citing 2020 a rise of 23% in overall cannabis consumption--Hong Kong's narcotics commissioner Ivy Law Chui-me said there were no plans to advance pro-MMJ regulations.-- However, plans for Israeli expansion into cannabis/hemp was bolstered this week with the state approval of a new processing supercenter. The mega center will be built in Yeruham and incorporate grows, labs, nutritional supplements and cosmetics combined CBD and hemp, and storage, packaging, and