It’s the last week of March here in 2019 and these are your top marijuana news stories of the week from your managing editor here at TNMNews, Richard Lowe. We are less than a month away from our favorite holiday and a lot is happening in the world of weed. First up though, I have to tie up a couple of the stories I have been covering regularly for the last year or so.
New Jersey isn’t legalizing marijuana for adults any time soon. Despite the fact that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has Democratic control of both the State Assembly and Senate, the bill that would have legalized adult-use marijuana fell apart. A group of lawmakers claimed that legal marijuana would be a menace to their communities and kept referencing the supposed challenges other states that have legalized cannabis are facing trying to keep marijuana out of the hands of teenagers or preventing people from driving under the influence of marijuana. Their arguments do not make much sense but it was enough to squash the bill. Gov. Murphy claims to not be done with the fight, but there is no way to know when the state legislature will bring marijuana reform up again. It may be up to the people of New Jersey to force the vote during the 2020 election instead.
Also, I became very curious about the end of the smoking ban in Florida and went on a mission to discover whether it was true and how it worked. I will come back to that story later. First though, we have some big national news to cover because where the state of New Jersey may have failed, the federal government is making more progress towards marijuana reform than ever before.
SAFE Banking Act Heading for House Vote
Ah, the SAFE Banking Act. Could it be true? Could the banking problems of the state legal marijuana industry be coming to an end this year? It’s still very questionable. Now that the former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions is no longer the Chair of the House Rules Committee, which decides upon bills the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on, marijuana reform bills can actually be voted on by the House. Pete Sessions is a staunch opponent of cannabis legalization and prevented every cannabis bill from ever even getting a vote while he held the position. But now Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern is the Chair of the Rules Committee, so marijuana is getting somewhere on the federal level. This week the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 – 15 to let the full House vote on the SAFE Banking Act which everyone is anticipating will happen in the next couple of weeks. If the bill passed in the House, it would then move on to the Senate, who may never even vote on it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not support the national legalization of marijuana. If it did pass in the Senate, then the President would have to sign off on it. So, it still has a long way to go. If the SAFE Banking Act passed it would:
- Stop banking regulators from punishing financial institutions that elect to work with state legal cannabis companies
- Require that the Financial Institutions Examination Council create guidance and examination procedures for financial institutions that serve lawful cannabis businesses within 180 days
- Make federal banking regulators create a report for Congress that outlined the financial services available to both minorities and women who own cannabis businesses and how to expand those services
Very Importantly the bill would give access to loans for cannabis companies. The cannabis industry is creating a lot of jobs and is growing quickly so it’s not as if the banks don’t want to get in on the action. Both the American Bankers Association and the Credit Union National Association support the bill too. In a nutshell, if the SAFE Banking Act passed, it would be the last big puzzle piece for the cannabis industry to really start to move. There are still some missing elements like Tax Code 280 and marijuana would still be a Schedule I drug, but that doesn’t seem to really mean anything anymore. The Justice Department has been stripped of funding to pursue state legal cannabis companies and the new Attorney General, William Barr, has openly said he has no plans to go after cannabis companies anyways.
Guam Legalizes Marijuana
While marijuana reform on the federal level loses races to snails on the regular, that is not true of states or for United States Territories like Guam. The Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 passed in the territory’s Senate on Wednesday and is waiting to be signed by the island’s governor. Guam will be the first state or territory to legalize marijuana in 2019. Other territories like the Northern Mariana Islands legalized marijuana last year. The islands are generally very progressive towards marijuana reform, so good for Guam. If the governor signs the bill it would also create a framework of rules for the commercial sale and taxing of marijuana.
Virginia Expands Medical Marijuana Program
Virginia expanded it medical marijuana laws this week as well. Now patients that have been ok’d by a certified medical marijuana doctor will be able to access cannabis with THC in it in multiple forms. Patients will be able to purchase oils, capsules, lozenges, patches, and lollipops with up to 10 mgs of THC in them. There are five licensed dispensaries in Virginia in total.
CBD Market Expands to Mainstream Pharmacies
The CBD craze has gone wild ever since the Hemp Farming Act passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill which made hemp and its derivatives legal nationally. Curaleaf, a marijuana company working in multiple states, solidified a deal to sell its CBD products at CVS pharmacies. Walgreens got in on the action this week as well, saying it will be selling a variety of CBD brands in 1,500 of its stores through 9 different states. People will be able to purchase CBD topicals, sprays and patches. CBD is a cannabinoid found in both the marijuana plant and hemp that has no psychoactive effects. CBD does help reduce inflammation in the body and is seen by many as the main medicinal compound found in cannabis. More and more research is showing that THC also has very strong medicinal value. Together, the two cannabinoids are supposedly even more effective. The FDA still has not implemented rules though on the sale of CBD products or interstate commerce but that is not stopping many retailers from beginning the sale of CBD products anyways.
Canopy Buys Houseplant
Seth Rogen’s company, Houseplant, has been purchased by Canopy Growth Corporation, the biggest marijuana company in the world. Canopy will start selling the Houseplant cannabis products in Canada soon. Canopy has done a lot with celebrities, buying Snoop Dogg’s Leafs by Snoop and hiring Martha Stewart to help them design CBD products for pets. Seth Rogen has starred in and directed many comedies that involve smoking weed in some way, including one of my favorites, “Pineapple Express.” Canopy’s co-CEO Mark Zekulin said he was impressed by Houseplant’s understanding of the cannabis consumer. Well if Seth does not understand cannabis consumers then who does, right?
Florida Smoking Ban
Finally, I have to talk about my experience going to buy medical marijuana flower for the first time here in Florida. I have talked about the ludicrous ban on smoking medical marijuana for years now. But, two weeks ago Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that ended the ban. The new rules required that I go see my medical marijuana doctor again to get authorization to purchase flower. At the appointment they want to make sure I had tried all of the alternatives, which I have. I have purchased vape pens, capsules and tinctures. I never did the needleless syringes because I did not see the point for me. I clarified that none of the current alternatives have been as effective as I needed them to be to get a good night’s sleep. The doctor told me he had to disclose that smoking marijuana can be addictive, but also told me that it is not very addictive. He then disclosed to me that smoking it can cause cancer like smoking cigarettes, but that there was no scientific evidence supporting the disclosure. He said I could develop bronchitis by smoking marijuana but that I just had to take a break for a couple of days and it would go away.
During that same doctor session he entered my information in the state registry so that the dispensaries could see that he had authorized me to purchase flower. I then headed straight to a Trulieve dispensary where they had three strains I could choose from but told me that they would be quickly expanding their inventory. I purchased 9 LB Hammer, Bubble Gum and Truberry OG. They sell flower in eighths or .12 ozs, and the cost varies between $43 and $53 and eighth. I can purchase up to 2.5 ounces every 35 days and legally possess up to 4 ounces. I am amazed that the state of Florida was able to implement the rules this quickly and how fast everyone has responded. Florida’s medical marijuana market is anticipated to be one of the largest in the country.
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.