As the marijuana industry grows and makes strides in the legalization of the substance, the legislation surrounding marijuana continues to significantly impact businesses in the market. Most recently, the House of Representatives voted to approve the MORE Act at the beginning of December 2020. As Ritter Spencer specializes in marijuana, cannabis, and CBD law, our experts explain what the MORE Act states and what it means for the marijuana industry.
In the 2020 elections, voters approved statewide ballot proposals to legalize medical and/or adult-recreational-use marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Mississippi, and South Dakota. In total, medical marijuana is now legal in 36 states and recreational use cannabis is now legal in 15 states. Currently, marijuana legalization remains on the docket for Texas in 2021. While many lawmakers have high expectations for this year, loosening marijuana laws has been a long and grueling battle for the Lone Star State.
2020 was a monumental year for the cannabis industry, and experts predict the momentum will continue well into the future. Specifically, when businesses across the globe were forced to close amidst the worldwide spread of Covid-19, cannabis dispensaries were deemed an essential business and permitted to continue operations at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Cannabis activists across the country counted this as a significant win in the progress of our nation’s collective perception of the substance. As this fast-paced industry constantly evolves, expect to see continued strides made throughout the industry in the following year. Below we’ve included what to expect from the cannabis industry in 2021.
In early January, Mexico published regulations for the legal use of medical marijuana, marking a significant move forward in the cannabis space. This is a substantial step in cannabis reform for Mexico and will have a notable impact on the rest of the world as well. While some feel these regulations were long overdue, Mexico’s Ministry of Health’s rules were signed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.
The 2020 elections proved that the nation may be as divided as it has ever been politically. However, based on the election results, Americans seem to be trending towards quite a favorable outlook on cannabis legalization. This sentiment has changed over the years, as recreational marijuana was illegal in all 50 states less than just a decade ago. But what are the recent changes and results of the 2020 elections regarding marijuana legislation? And what does this mean for the cannabis industry as a whole?
Although Texas has a medical marijuana program, as established by the Texas Compassionate Use Act in 2015, only three “Dispensing Organizations” have been granted licenses by the Texas Department of Safety (“DPS”) to cultivate, process, and dispense low-THC cannabis (up to a 0.5 percent THC limit as of the date of this blog) in Texas to prescribed patients. See 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 12.1. Texas is a vertically integrated state, meaning that the Dispensing Organization must cultivate, process, package, and dispense the medical marijuana.
In 2015, the Texas Compassionate Use Act, Senate Bill 339, was enacted, requiring the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) to create a secure registry for qualified physicians to treat patients suffering from a limited list of medical conditions, such as ALS and intractable epilepsy, with low-THC cannabis. In 2019, the Texas Legislature expanded the Texas Compassionate Use Program (“TCUP”) via House Bill 3703 to include additional medical conditions, e.g., incurable neurodegenerative diseases, and physician specialties in which low-THC cannabis can be prescribed. Moreover, the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (“CURT”) has been updated in accordance with the expanded TCUP to allow for a simpler process for physicians to register and prescribe low-THC cannabis to their patients.
In June of 2019, the state of Texas passed HB 1325, which, in part, authorizes and directs the Texas Department of State Health Services (“DSHS”) to enact rules regarding the processing and manufacturing of smokable hemp products. See Tex. Health & Safety Code § 443.204(4). In August of 2020, DSHS banned the processing, manufacturing, distribution, and retail sale of smokable hemp products throughout the state of Texas. See Tex. Admin. Code § 300.104. With its excessive regulations, DSHS essentially stifled the smokable hemp market in Texas, forcing existing companies, such as Crown Distributing LLC (“Crown”), to move their businesses out of state.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) currently prohibits cannabidiol (“CBD”) from being added to food, beverages, or cosmetics and from being sold as a dietary supplement. While we await further guidelines from the FDA, Congressmen Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Morgan Griffith of Virginia introduced on September 4, 2020, H.R. 8179, the “Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2020”, which would allow hemp, CBD, and any other hemp-derived ingredient to be sold as dietary ingredients in dietary supplements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the “FD&C Act”).
The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”) established that hemp is to be treated similarly to other legal agricultural commodities and traded in standard interstate commerce as a raw material. However, the 2018 Farm Bill governs only state production programs and specifically permits states to enact more stringent regulations than those contained in the Bill. As a result, legal hemp has facilitated the emergence of a wide array of consumer products and uses. Specifically, smokable hemp has made a significant presence in the cannabis and hemp markets and continues to grow despite the increasing legality of other forms of cannabis that often include higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”). Below, we discuss the smokable hemp industry and the legal challenges it faces as it comes to fruition.