Stay up to date with the latest legalization and cannabis news with the C.B. Advisors. Every week, we will release a snippet of what’s happening with each state in the cannabis industry. Did you miss last week? No worries – click here for last week’s cannabis news.
Nebraska: State officials are hoping to have the signatures on petitions to put the issue of medical cannabis on the 2022 ballot verified potentially by next week. While signatures are still being validated to put medical cannabis on the 2022 ballot in Nebraska, there are already people selling and using the product in some form.
Organizers need 87,000 valid signatures on both petitions to put medical marijuana on the November ballot. Organizers say they collected more than 90,000 signatures on each petition.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued another round of pardons last week, including 11 for individuals previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. Clemency has been a defining part of Evers’ gubernatorial tenure. In May, Evers issued dozens to bring his total number of pardons to 498, with his office saying at the time that he had “granted more pardons during his first three years in office than any other governor in contemporary history.”
The first-term Democrat, who is up for re-election this year, granted another 49 pardons on Friday to bring his total up to 603.
Alabama: Alabama became the 36th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2021, but the program has taken some time to roll out.
“A lot of good can come from having a safe, quality drug for people to use instead of sending them out onto the streets to operate on the black market,” said John McMillan, director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
McMillan said the commission is on track to begin accepting applications for pharmacy licenses by September, with rules for the program due to be published this summer.
Arkansas: Responsible Growth Arkansas is fighting back after the state Board of Election Commissioners rejected its adult-use cannabis ballot initiative last week. The group submitted more than 190,000 signatures—more than double the 89,151 signatures required—to the secretary of state’s office last month to get its adult-use cannabis legalization measure before voters this fall. The ballot initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment, would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older.
State officials announced on July 29 that Responsible Growth Arkansas met the signature requirement. The Board of Election Commissioners was tasked with officially approving the proposal’s popular name and title to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
After rejecting the popular name and ballot title, the board ultimately struck down the measure on Aug. 3. Officials expressed concerns that the ballot title did not fully explain to voters the impact of the constitutional amendment.
Florida: A new industry-led campaign in Florida filed a marijuana legalization initiative aimed at the 2024 ballot on Monday.
Past attempts to place adult-use legalization on the Florida ballot have been challenged and rejected by the state Supreme Court. But the Smart & Safe Florida political committee says the language of their proposed amendment to the state’s marijuana law will avoid such a contest and prevail.
The initiative is backed by the state’s largest medical cannabis operator Trulieve and musicians with the country band The Bellamy Brothers, who are featured in an initial ad for the effort that talks about the economic opportunities and civil liberties implications of recreational legalization.
Louisiana: Aug. 1 marks the first day for several new medical marijuana laws in Louisiana. As a result of those new laws:
- Police cannot use the smell of marijuana as a reason to do home searches without a warrant,
- The Louisiana Department of Health is in charge of regulation, instead of the Department of Agriculture & Forestry,
- People cannot smoke marijuana in vehicles, and,
- State employees cannot receive negative employment consequences for testing positive for THC if they have a doctor’s recommendation.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma is enacting a nearly two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana grower, processing, and dispensary licenses, beginning Aug. 26, to catch up with a backlog of work and raise business-compliance levels.
The state has one of the country’s most business-friendly medical cannabis programs, resulting in thousands of licensed operators. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) initially announced that the moratorium would take effect on Aug. 1 but then said it incorrectly interpreted the effective date of House Bill 3208. This legislation created the licensing pause.
California: The long-awaited debut of sit-down cannabis consumption lounges throughout California appears to have arrived, and industry experts predict these venues will expand exponentially in the next few years.
That would mark a significant change. To date, the uptick in marijuana lounges has been modest in California and across the nation, slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. The lounges currently open in California are clustered primarily in San Francisco and Oakland. Most are marijuana smoking rooms.
But several lounges are finally getting the green light from other municipalities in Southern California and the Central Valley.
As a result, the number of cannabis consumption lounges is expected to double – or even triple – over the next year or two from the dozen or so currently operating.
Connecticut: The Social Equity Council has begun its review of Connecticut cannabis license applications selected from the lottery. The final round of the 90-day application cycle for cannabis licenses in Connecticut concluded in June. Several thousand applied for a chance to be selected for one of the 56 Connecticut marijuana licenses available.
The state will award 28 licenses to social equity applicants. The general lottery later this year will select who will move forward in the application process. Considering the large pool of applicants and the limited number of licenses available, it’s safe to say there will be a lot of broken hearts.
Illinois: A statewide cannabis commission, similar to Illinois’ liquor and gaming commissions, is being proposed to simplify the state’s regulation of the legal cannabis industry while working to reduce litigation and the specter of politics.
Currently, entrepreneurs in the adult-use and the medical cannabis industry in Illinois have multiple state agencies they must work through to get licensed and regulated. State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, wants to reduce the touch points by creating a cannabis commission.
Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) issued 28 additional cannabis dispensing licenses selected from three lotteries. The total number of dispensaries issued licenses to date since adult-use sales became legal in January 2020 is 177. State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, wants to reduce the touch points by creating a cannabis commission. Evans plans to file a standalone bill to bring about a state cannabis commission of seven members – including gubernatorial appointees and equal representation from General Assembly leaders – and a dedicated executive director.
Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Legislature approved a series of marijuana industry reforms in a bid by lawmakers to lower barriers to entry for small and minority-owned businesses, jump-start consumption lounges, and decrease local fees for cannabis businesses.
According to The Boston Globe, the bill was applauded by a wide swath of industry proponents, especially for its crackdown on so-called local “impact” fees, which some stakeholders have called “legalized bribery” and which have led to at least two federal corruption investigations.
The measure will give the state Cannabis Control Commission authority to approve or reject the local impact fees, Needham TV station WBTS reported. The bill will also devote more state money to a Social Equity Trust Fund, which will disperse grants and loans to entrepreneurs harmed by the war on drugs, WBTS reported.
Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated he will likely sign the bill into law.
Nevada: Now that final regulations have been issued for marijuana consumption lounges to begin operating in Nevada, Las Vegas cannabis executives are gearing up to lure customers off the Strip and into their smoking rooms.
Many Las Vegas business owners have been waiting upward of five years for the final go-ahead on consumption lounges. They are eager to capitalize on visitors who need a place to consume in this tourism-dominated market. The law allows lounges to begin operating statewide as early as the end of 2022 and for licenses to be processed this fall.
The state allows 40-45 licenses for lounges attached to existing marijuana retail stores and 20 for stand-alone establishments, including 10 with sharply discounted fees reserved for social equity applicants.
New Jersey: New Jersey is one step closer to allowing weed delivery and other cannabis-related services.
This week, the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or CRC, proposed several amendments to existing weed regulations — including licensing procedures for delivery, distribution, and wholesale businesses. The public will have about two months to comment on the proposed updates.
Under the proposed guidelines, cannabis retailers would also be required to provide customers with education material that encourages safe consumption. And it would clarify what constitutes one ounce of cannabis product — the maximum amount of weed a person can buy in one transaction.
Vermont: Vermont has begun accepting license applications for all recreational marijuana businesses, including retailers, growers, manufacturers, and testing labs. The application window for retailers, in particular, opened on Aug. 1, a month earlier than initially scheduled, according to the Vermont Cannabis Control Board website.
Meanwhile, the window for manufacturing licenses opened July 1, at least two testing labs were licensed in June, and growers could begin applying for permits in April. So far, more than 200 companies have been prequalified for some sort of license, and about 50 of those are retailers, Colchester-based My Champlain Valley News reported.
Recreational marijuana sales are slated to begin in Vermont on Oct. 1.