July 2020 Compliance Update: New and Noteworthy Events in Cannabis Law

by Stu Waters,

 

We’re more than halfway through an intensely challenging year for public health, and the cannabis industry is showing how it fares under challenge.

Several states have made important changes to their cannabis industry laws over the last month, while others have sent in new legislation for review. States who have undergone noteworthy changes over the last month include Iowa, Colorado, Georgia, and Ohio.

But the biggest news comes from the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, who has released a set of policy recommendations that include changes to federal cannabis law.

 

The Federal Position: The Biden-Sanders Plan

 

The Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations, released in early July, is the first federal-level outline of a presidential nominee’s position on cannabis. Until now, Biden has remained largely silent on the issue of cannabis legalization, and this document represents the position his administration would take if elected in November.

While the document is thin on specific details, it does say that Biden plans on decriminalizing cannabis and rescheduling it at the Federal level. This is not the explosive policy change many Democrats want, but it sets the stage for states to make their own decisions about medical and recreational cannabis use. It may also allow cannabis businesses to finally access funding from federally-backed banks – although the specifics on that note are far from clear at this early stage.

State Cannabis Law Developments for July 2020

 

Iowa’s governor has signed a medical marijuana bill that will replace the state’s current 3% THC per-product cap with a new measurement: 4.5 grams of THC per 90-day period limit. The bill will also add new qualifying conditions to its medical cannabis industry.

 

In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill to establish social equity licenses for the state’s regulated cannabis market. The bill, submitted only a week after protests erupted across America following the death of George Floyd, will provide mentorship and financial resources to applicants who meet the state’s criteria. The state’s previous “accelerator program” is now subsumed into its new “social equity program.”

Hemp regulations in Colorado are also due to change. A new bill will require all hemp lots to undergo testing and charge violators $2000 per day per violation for failing to meet the state’s hemp standards.

 

In Georgia, state lawmakers have passed a bill banning hemp transport without proper state-issued authorization. The bill will require hemp processors to pay a $25,000 permit fee to the state Department of Agriculture in the first year of their application and $50,000 every subsequent year. It is designed to help police officers tell the difference between hemp and cannabis during traffic stops, without requiring the officer to submit a batch of product for testing. The bill is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

 

Ohio has passed a bill that doubles the amount of cannabis state residents can possess without criminal penalties. Ohio’s personal possession cap is now 200 grams. The same bill has also downgraded the penalties for possessing many other drugs. Ohio’s governor does not support recreational legalization, however, and it’s unlikely that a ballot initiative will appear in the state this year.

 

Arizona’s House of Representatives has passed legislation that requires warning labels on medical cannabis products and adds a new qualifying condition to the state’s list: autism spectrum disorder.

 

Arizona petitioners have far exceeded the number of signatures needed for adult use legalization to appear on the state’s 2020 ballot. State authorities are still verifying the signatures, but experts believe marijuana legalization has a decent chance of succeeding in Arizona since the state narrowly lost its 2016 ballot initiative.

 

In Louisiana, a CBD and hemp bill has earned governor John Bel Edwards’ signature. However, the governor has not expressed any support for recreational marijuana legalization in the state, and this is a trend that is likely to continue for the time being.

 

Nevada’s governor Steve Sisloak signed a bill creating a pilot program for cannabis banking and prohibiting employers from refusing job applicants who fail drug tests due to marijuana use. The state’s proposed banking solution would rely on a system similar to its renowned casino and gaming industry, where consumers use tokens rather than cash to pay for cannabis products, with exchanges located throughout the state’s busiest cities.

 

New Jersey’s assembly has approved a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession under two ounces for personal use and expunge existing criminal records for that level of possession. The bill also includes social equity measures designed to reduce the impact of cannabis law enforcement on disproportionately impacted communities.