Massachusetts lawmakers delay, propose changes to recreational cannabis legislation

The implementation of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts may still be a ways off. Back in December, the legislature rushed through a bill that would delay implementation by at least six months (until July 2018). This week, the Massachusetts House and Senate created a new “Committee on Marijuana Policy” to rewrite the recreational marijuana laws that were passed by ballot initiative.

Because the ballot initiative (Question 4 aka the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act) was codified as statute and not an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, lawmakers are free to make any changes to the act that they desire. Governor Charlie Baker has requested a comprehensive bill to be on his desk by June 2017.

Among the changes being considered by the Committee on Marijuana Policy are a reduction in the number of plants that can be grown at home from twelve to six, a 2-year ban on edibles, and an increase in the tax assessed on marijuana products.

Our Take: This seems like a contentious mess. Even though the ballot initiative passed convincingly, lawmakers seem determined to change the laws significantly. Other groups would rather repeal the law entirely. Implementation will likely be on hold as lawmakers go through the sausage making. Once changes are enacted, it will take a while to create the regulations, systems, and processes needed for implementation. We’d be surprised if they are fully ready to go on July 1st 2018.

Arizona group pushes recreational cannabis initiative for 2018

An Arizona group called “Safer Arizona 2018” is collecting signatures for a recreational marijuana ballot initiative for 2018. Recall that Arizona only narrowly failed to pass Proposition 205 last year. The Marijuana Policy Project is not actively supporting or contributing money to the 2018 effort though because they feel the turnout in mid-term elections won’t be sufficient.

Our Take: Mid-term elections are tough for controversial ballot initiatives. This may inform public opinion and improve the changes for legislation or a 2020 ballot initiative, but this one seems unlikely to pass, especially without active support for MPP.

Congressional Cannabis Caucus Kicks Off With Ambitious Goals

A formal, bi-partisan caucus representing marijuana interests now exists in Congress. Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK) and Jared Polis (D-CO) held a brief press conference to officially kick off the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and identify their goals.

The main focus of the press conference was to prevent federal interference into state laws. Each of the four members comes from a state that has passed a ballot initiative to allow for recreational marijuana. The group made it clear that the current laws are broken, and that it’s the job of Congress to fix them. Rather than relying on the whims of the President and the Attorney General, their objective will be to pass new laws to regulate the sale and use of marijuana. They will set out initially to de-schedule marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1” drugs such as heroin, fix unfair taxation issues, create a way for marijuana businesses to have access to banks instead of dealing with large amounts of cash, and prevent federal authorities from interfering with state laws.

The group noted that 95% of the US public now lives in a state with some form of access to marijuana. In Colorado, underage use is down and crime is down, according to Rep. Polis. “The Colorado model is working”.

Our Take: This is very important. Having a credible bi-partisan group that can educate other Congressman and that will actively move to introduce legislation will make a big difference. Over time, the cannabis industry will get more and more effective with their lobbying, and having allies in Congress is key.

Watch the Congressional Cannabis Caucus press conference below.

DEA removes key misinformation about marijuana from website

Following a legal request by Americans for Safe Access, the DEA removed “factually inaccurate” information from their website.

The DEA’s removal of these popular myths about cannabis from their website could mean the end of the Washington gridlock.
This is a victory for medical cannabis patients across the nation, who rely on cannabis to treat serious illnesses. The federal government now admits that cannabis is not a gateway drug, and doesn’t cause long-term brain damage, or psychosis. While the fight to end stigma around cannabis is far from over, this is a big first step.

-Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access

Our Take: Although this seems like a small victory, this is big news. Legislators and the public at large use the DEA’s site as a crutch to form talking points that inform legislation and public policy. In order to continue to shift public opinion about cannabis, it’s important for the industry to debunk the myths and stigma around it.

The Dose: Michigan sued over wine shipping laws, Californians are confused about cannabis regulations

California marijuana business owners in legal fog as they await statewide rules: Californians are waiting for regulations for the new adult-use AND medical cannabis laws. Administrators are promising to be ready by Jan 1, 2018, but uncertainty abounds in the interim. Interesting quote from this article: “99.5% of California’s marketplace is either quasi-legal or illegal.”

Illinois state treasurer asks Trump for clarity on MMJ banking: State treasurers in California and Illinois put pressure on the President to clarify cannabis policies.

Denver MJ company recalls products for possible pesticides: Green Man Cannabis joins at least a dozen companies that implemented voluntary cannabis product recalls due to pesticide issues.

High-end cannabis pipe maker sues to defend trademark: Roor has filed over 200 lawsuits since 2013 to protect the trademark on its high-end bongs.

Indiana Wine Seller Disputes Michigan Shipping Ban: Michigan’s new wine shipping law, which discriminates between in-state and out-of-state retailers, gets a challenge in federal court.

Online giant Amazon will begin charging sales tax in Missouri
Amazon will collect, pay Mississippi tax on online sales
Wyoming to be taxed by Amazon
Amazon is adding 3 more states to the list of 34 where they already collect sales and use taxes. Missouri and Mississippi taxes will begin on February 1st, and Wyoming will commence on March 1st.

At Least Six States Mull Bills on Remote Sales Tax Collection: At least six, but up to TWENTY states will introduce new remote sales and use tax laws this year, putting even more pressure on Congress and the Supreme Court to clarify sales tax laws.

Hello world, and welcome

… to the Obsequium Blog. This is our very first post on Obsequium, and we’re really excited to get started. We’re starting this blog at a time when a tremendous amount of uncertainty exists in the United States. Donald Trump started his presidency this week, and we really don’t know much about what that will mean for the cannabis or the beverage alcohol industries. At the same time, both industries are booming in sales, and public opinion for medical and adult use cannabis is at an all-time high.

The cannabis industry eagerly awaits for more information from the President and his Attorney General nominee, Jeff Sessions. Sessions’ confirmation hearing did not provide much clarity on how they plan on dealing with the conundrum of marijuana being listed as a “Schedule 1” drug on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) federally, but legal for “adult use” in eight states plus D.C. AND either decriminalized or legal for medicinal use in the majority of states, for the vast majority of the U.S. population. We’ll surely have much more to say about Sessions and federal action on cannabis in future posts.

For beverage alcohol producers and importers, it’s currently pretty darned complicated to deal with the web of federal and state regulations for alcohol production and sales, especially if you’re doing business in multiple states. Yesterday, the President said that he’d like to cut regulations by more than 75%. How will that impact the alcohol industry and its boutique federal agency, TTB? As the industry continues the trends of direct delivery, consolidation, personalization, and the growth of craft, how will the regulatory landscape adjust and keep pace?

The goal of this blog is to attempt to take a complicated, and ever changing maze of laws and regulations and distill it into insights and information that you can understand easily. We are going to focus on two industries that will certainly have a tremendous amount of overlap: cannabis and beverage alcohol. At times we’ll take a macro perspective and at times we might get in the weeds, but hopefully we’ll do both without much of an agenda. We’ll write original pieces, but also will curate news and updates from around the interwebs.

Of course, we’ll provide a legal disclaimer at all times. Nothing in this blog should be interpreted or misconstrued as legal advice.

We hope you come along with us in this journey. Comments, suggestions, feedback, and criticism are all welcome. Please let us know how to make this blog more valuable for you by commenting on the posts and contacting us with your thoughts.