Happy Friday everyone! It’s your managing editor at TNMnews again, Richard Lowe, bringing you the top five cannabis news stories of the week on March 22nd, 2019.
Just to give you a quick roundup from last week’s cannabis news summary, on Monday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did sign S.B. 182 ending the ban on smoking medical marijuana. The rules went into effect immediately. If a Florida medical marijuana patient 18 years of age or older goes and sees their certified doctor and receives permission to buy marijuana flower to smoke, then the patient can go and buy medical flower that same day at a licensed medical marijuana treatment center as long as the doctor updates the Florida medical marijuana registry. It has to be the fastest Florida has ever moved on any issue. On top of that, I reported last week about how the cannabis industry was the fastest growing job sector in the United States, and Florida led the way creating more than 9,000 cannabis related jobs in 2018 according to Forbes, more than any other state.
Also, I mentioned last week that the New Jersey legislature is set to vote on its recreational marijuana bill this upcoming Monday, March 25th. However, Governor Phil Murphy told reporters this week that he did not think there were enough votes to get it passed. We will have to see what happens on Monday. Until then, let’s go over the top 5 exciting marijuana news stories of this week.
SAFE Banking Act Will Be Voted on By the House Financial Services Committee Next Week
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has 138 cosponsors and is actually moving forward for a real vote next week by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. The SAFE Banking Act is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its potential to partially solve the banking problems the cannabis industry contends with on a daily basis. Due to the federal Schedule I status of cannabis, most banks refuse to open accounts for businesses that handle the cannabis plant in fear of being accused of money laundering for the distribution of a controlled substance. The IRS audits banks working with cannabis more often and the paperwork makes it expensive for banks to work with cannabis companies due to the additional time and work it involves. Most cannabis companies have to work on a cash only basis making accounting difficult and leaving them vulnerable to robberies. The bill looks to resolve all of those issues. The other reason that the SAFE bill moving forward in the House of Representatives is significant is that it is the first time a scheduled committee vote will take place in the House. During the last Congress, the Republican led House of Representatives would never allow a marijuana reform bill to move forward for an official vote. Now, the Democratic led House seems adamant about moving marijuana law reform legislation forward.
61% of Americans Now Approve of Marijuana Legalization Around the Country
According to the General Social Survey, which has been collecting data through surveys on the societal complexities here in the U.S. since 1972, says that a new record 61% of Americans want to see marijuana fully legalized on a national level. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, only 16% of those polled wanted to see cannabis legalized. More than 70% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 want to see it legalized in this most recent survey. People over 65 years of age are warming up to legalization, but still only 42% support legalizing cannabis. According to the survey, the strongest support for marijuana legalization came from the Midwest and the lowest support came from the South. 69% of Democrats want it legalized but only 42% of Republicans want it to be legal. The trend for supporting marijuana law reform is on a steady climb up here in the U.S. and there are plenty of bills floating around Congress that would accomplish the job at this time.
Oklahoma Puts Regulations in Place for Medical Marijuana Program
Last June, Oklahoma voters approved a very permissive medical marijuana law in their state. It set Oklahoma apart from other politically conservative states that have, for the most part, stayed away from marijuana legalization. This week, Oklahoma Governor Ken Stitt signed HB 2612 which sets up regulations for the program that will go into full effect 90 days after the current legislative session comes to an end. A couple of the most standout aspects of the Oklahoma medical marijuana program is that it forces employers to not discriminate against medical marijuana patients and ensures that patients can still maintain firearm licenses and own guns as well. The bill also sets up standards for banks that are willing to let medical marijuana dispensaries open up bank accounts with them. Both the Oklahoma Senate and House overwhelmingly voted in favor of HB 2612. If Oklahoma can show the rest of the Midwestern states all the benefits of legal cannabis, perhaps others will follow suit as well. Missouri is putting together a medical marijuana program, but states like Nebraska and Kansas have been slow to join the green wave.
California Still Struggling with Regulating Commercial Marijuana Market with Tracking System
California began the commercial sale of adult-use marijuana in January of 2018, partially in hopes of curtailing the prolific illegal cannabis market in the massive state. It has not gone smoothly though for California as it is trying to transition from its gray market which had 20 years to establish itself after Prop. 215 passed in the late ‘90s. The illicit marijuana market is still going strong as many consumers find legal marijuana is just too expensive. The latest news is about the barcode track-and-trace technology that California is trying to make a uniform system throughout the state. The software used with the track-and-trace system is called Metrc, but apparently it not very user friendly. The 100 or so fully licensed dispensaries operating in California and mandated to use the new tracking system are very confused on how to use it. They complain that all of the other dispensaries with temporary licenses do not need to use it. They are also saying the barcodes cover up key elements of the state mandated label. No one thought it would be easy for California to transition into a legal marijuana market, but now we are seeing the real difficulties.
The Fast Growing CBD Industry, Commerce and Interstate Delivery
The CBD industry is up and running fast even before the FDA finalizes its rules for interstate commerce. The President signed the Hemp Farming Act as a part of the 2018 Farm Bill making hemp legal in the U.S. for the first time in 80 years, including all hemp derived products like CBD. You can find CBD products for sale nearly anywhere already. I went and picked up my dog from the groomers the other day and their shelves were covered in CBD products for pets. The United States Postal Service issued guidelines for shipping CBD products earlier this month. Anyone mailing CBD must be licensed by the Department of Agriculture and any products must contain less than .3% THC to be legal. Also, a letter with company letterhead must accompany the shipment with the following statement, “I certify that all information contained in this letter and supporting documents are accurate, truthful, and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information or omits information relating to this certification may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties, including fines and imprisonment.” You can see the entirety of the USPS guidelines for shipping CBD here.
That’s it for this week everyone. Remember to follow our Youtube channel, The National Marijuana News, along with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @NationalMJNews. I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.