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National News Briefs: March

BY DR. LLOYD COVENS

Banking Reform Gets Historic Win

Tue., March 25 was a red-letter day for cannabis reform in Congress.  For the first time ever, a cannabis reform bill passed out of committee in the House Financial Services Committee. A solution for the dreaded IRS 280E cannabis problem may be gaining ground at last. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s banking access bill, dubbed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 will be slated for “markup” where details of the measure will be completed ahead of expected full House consideration.  Citizens may review the committee markup hearing HERE.

FDA & CBD

Outgoing FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb repeated his position that allowing CBD in foods will be a multi-year proposition, without express legislative action in Congress. Telling a Brookings Institute interviewer, “it cannot be allowed in the food supply” until it is proven safe. Gottlieb has named Abby Abernathy to head up the “special review” of the entire CBD regulatory issue. But a bill to clear CBD from being excluded from food, cosmetics or beverages is moving through the California Assembly.  AB-228 is aimed at clarifying that “any food or beverage products containing industrial hemp, or its derivatives are safe for human and animal consumption.”  The bill passed the Assembly health committee and would allow sales and cultivation of hemp and CBD by any MAUCRSA (MMJ/RMJ) licensee.  Should the bill pass both California chambers, it would become immediately in force with the signature of CA Governor Gavin Newsom.

CBD Products to be Sold at CVS & Walgreens’ Chains

In one of the largest CBD normalizing moves so far, the massive drug store chains Walgreens and CVS both announced their stores will start selling over-the-counter CBD products. Announcing their distribution deal with Curaleaf Holding Inc., CVS plans to market CBD products in a test market of 600 stores. In response, Walgreens announced 1500 of their stores will start marketing CBD creams, sprays and patches in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont, South Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana.

Legislative Legalization Updates

Supporters of a legislative fix to legalize cannabis in New York state have not given up.  Despite missing a critical deadline for including the bill in the state’s annual budget package, advocates (and some senior officials in the Cuomo administration) are said to be actively attempting to keeping the bill alive through other channels.  In Connecticut, a powerful group of lawmakers have assembled a package of bills to formerly welcome RMJ in that state.  Illinois’ governor J.B. Pritzker also has signaled his intent to push for a favorable RMJ bill before year’s end. For 2019, legalization measures in both New Mexico and Hawaii have failed.  Many states still have legalization measures moving through committee, but few newly-legal states seem like to prevail.

Liberalizing Kansas

The Lawrence, Kansas City Council lowered the penalty for possessing 32 grams or less of cannabis to $1, applicable for the first two offenses.  The third is a felony, as it is in the rest of Kansas.  Council members said that they wanted to pass a strong decriminalization message, but note it remains one of the state’s more liberal areas.  Of a total city of Lawrence population of 96,900, about 28,450 of that number are students at the University of Kansas.

Canada Watch

Tilray CEO Brenden Kennedy told analysts this week that global markets will drive the next round of growth for his BC-based company, during his March 18 conference call.  Tilray saw 2018 revenues of $43Mil., up 110% over 2017, but not good enough to avoid a total annual loss of $67.7 Mil for 2018.  “We achieved this growth despite supply chain constraints across Canada that have created pricing pressure for cannabis that meets our quality standards, forcing us to source from other suppliers,” said Kennedy.  He predicted Canadian oversupply over the next year and a half, adding that key new MMJ markets in Europe and South America will be the next avenue of growth.  “I believe we are a lot closer to federal legalization in the U.S. than most people realize,” Kennedy said.

Farm Bill Follies

Warning against hype about hemp euphoria now that the US Farm Bill legalized hemp nationally, USDA head Sonny Perdue said the industrial hemp industry wants fast regulatory action, but he wants to be careful.   “With the illegality of its cousin, the THC marijuana, it has to be extremely regulated, because they’re indistinguishable visibly between one another,” said Perdue. Perdue told Cheddar he remained skeptical that farmers looking to grow hemp would want to engage in the cannabis market.”

Link-of-the-Week

For those of you who missed last week’s USDA listening session on the 2018 Farm Bill, well don’t despair.  All 2 hours, 58 minutes are here– with a fixed camera shot of four USDA regulators busy taking notes.  In addition to audio, there is a running transcript of the national interchange.  Find it HERE.

–Based in Denver, Dr. Lloyd Covens, DBA is a seasoned cannabis industry journalist and the publisher of West420 NewsWeekly. Writing his doctorate on diffusion of innovations, Covens has been an expert journalist/researcher for 20 years chronicling new technology, global television and renewable energy advancements. He has reported on developments in the cannabis and hemp industry with weekly reports since 2014 covering the western U.S. for legal medical cannabis, recreational sales and hemp production. Covens is also the creator of the annual CO Hemp CBD Conference held in Pueblo, Colorado.

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