Legislative & Licensing Update: July 21, 2022
Rules, New License Types, Job Training Programs & Ballot Initiatives
In this week’s cannabis news, Russ Hudson reports on proposed new license types in New Jersey plus approved rules for social equity retailer applications and funding for community college cannabis job training programs in New York. Rumblings of progress in South Dakota and at the federal level, plus ballot initiative watches in Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma. In Texas, more spotlight on the absurd cannabis laws that hopefully will lead to progress in that holdout state where support for cannabis — at least at the medical level — is supported by 4 out of 5 Texans.
In States with Active Cannabis Licensing
In the Garden State, New Jersey cannabis regulators have proposed 3 new classes of licenses: Wholesaler, Distributor, and Delivery, with public comments on these licenses opening on August 1, and implementation coming about 6 months after the public comment period closes. The next meeting of the Cannabis Regulatory Committee is Thursday, July 28, for which no agenda has been released yet, but stakeholders are hopeful there will be more Conditional application awards at this meeting, as there won’t be another one until late September.
In New York, cannabis regulators have approved rules to start accepting social equity retailer applications.
The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) requires that applicants must have a conviction for a cannabis-related offense prior to the enactment of legalization in the state, or have a direct relative with such a conviction, and they must also have experience operating a qualifying business. Applications could open up as soon as next month, bringing the state one step closer to fulfilling its goal of launching sales this year.
Elsewhere in the state, four New York community colleges have been awarded $5 million to create cannabis job training programs.
The State has awarded $5 million in funding to community colleges to support the development and improvement of courses and programs specifically meant to help people secure jobs in the cannabis industry. Three community colleges in the State University of New York System will receive $1 million each, and one City University of New York community college will get $2 million. Each of those campuses will serve as the cannabis education program lead, partnering with about a dozen other community colleges across the state.
South Dakota has held the first meeting of the state’s new Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee, the body tasked with creating rules associated with Initiated Measure 26. Opening the meeting was a presentation from the Department of Health led by Geno Adams, who acts as administrator for the Medical Cannabis Program. Adams said, “The meeting is definitely introductory, determining exactly what the duties and responsibilities of the committee are. We’re building the airplane while we’re flying the airplane.”
In Oregon, the Keizer City Council is set to vote Monday on whether to ask voters in November to let them ban psilocybin therapeutic treatment centers within city limits. On January 2, the Oregon Health Authority is expected to begin accepting applications for licenses to manufacture, deliver and administer psilocybin in the state. Elsewhere in the state, some counties are looking at similar measures.
Federal & National-Level Cannabis News
Biden says his administration is “working on” plans to fulfill his campaign pledge to free people who are incarcerated for cannabis. “I don’t think anyone should be in prison for the use of marijuana,” Biden said but failed to provide specifics on how his vision will be carried out. In his presidential term thus far, Biden has commuted the sentences of just a few handfuls of people convicted of cannabis and other drug crimes.
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 7900, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23), by a vote of 329-101. This includes the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to access the banking system.
In other national cannabis news, the National Association of Cannabis Businesses said it will cease operations by July 31 – less than two weeks from now – because of the difficult economic conditions. The Wisconsin-based NACB, which was founded in 2017, is a national association for cannabis growers, business owners, suppliers, and CBD or hemp affiliates. The organization focused on developing national standards for the cannabis industry in a wide range of areas
2022 Cannabis Ballot Watch
The fate of a Missouri marijuana initiative petition is unclear as a signature count continues. The latest incomplete tabulations from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office show the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative is short of the required signatures in four of the six Congressional districts necessary to make the ballot. The biggest obstacle for the initiative campaigns was the COVID-19 pandemic that made signature gathering difficult and a large number of signatures from unregistered people, said Sean Nicholson, campaign manager for Better Elections.
This November, Colorado Springs voters will have the choice to vote on whether the city should legalize sales of recreational marijuana. The Your Choice Colorado campaign collected 98,000 signatures in Spring 2022 out of only 19k required signatures. Once approved, there will be two issues on the ballot: Authorization of recreational marijuana, and an ordinance pertaining to a special retail marijuana sales tax at 5%. If passed by the voters, sales and the sales tax will go into effect in early 2023.
The Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws (OSML) campaign announced on Tuesday that it has turned in more than 164,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office in an effort to put legalization on the November ballot. They need nearly 95,000 of the submissions to be valid to qualify the proposed statutory amendment, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to an ounce of cannabis, and grow 6 mature plants and 6 seedlings for personal use.
States to Watch for Cannabis Action & Opportunity
Morris Denton, CEO of Texas Original – which is just one of three licensed operators in the state – said that seemingly crazy Texas rules are hampering business efforts.
According to Denton, when dispensary operators arrive to open their stores in the morning, technical rules dictate that shelves have to be empty, and when the dispensary closes in the evening, shelves again have to be emptied. All cannabis products must be transported back to one allowed storage location, which for Denton is in Austin. This means hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent by dispensaries just to transport their products out of their retail center every day, and bring them back hours later in the morning.