The plan to legalize marijuana in Delaware is moving along, with a key House committee approving a bill to set up regulations for an adult-use market on Tuesday as a Senate panel prepares to take up a separate House-passed measure to simply legalize possession for those 21 and older on Wednesday.
These actions are the result of a two-track approach to cannabis reform that Rep. Ed Osienski (D) devised after the House defeated an earlier bill that included both components.
That prior effort failed to generate enough support to meet the three-fifths supermajority threshold to pass, so the sponsor landed on the idea of a bifurcated reform. The more simplistic legislation to simply legalize possession and gifting of cannabis, HB 371, only needs a simple majority to pass.
Meanwhile, Osienski’s separate proposal to set up initial regulations for a recreational marijuana market advanced through the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and now heads to the floor, where it will again require three-fifths of the chamber to pass.
The sponsor previously explained that he felt that having the simple legalization bill move forward with only a simple majority requirement would put pressure on lawmakers to approve the more prescriptive regulatory legislation, rather that accept a non-commercial market.
Here’s what Delaware’s HB 371 would do:
The bill would amend state statute by eliminating penalties associated with the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
It would further add a section stipulating that adults 21 and older could share up to an ounce of cannabis “without remuneration.”
That section clarifies that marijuana could not be “gifted” as part of a contemporaneous “reciprocal transition” or if the gift is contingent on a separate transaction for non-cannabis products or services.
Here are the main provisions of the complementary HB 372:
A marijuana commissioner would be appointed under the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement. The official would be tasked with regulating the industry and overseeing licensing of retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and laboratories.
Licenses would be granted through a scored, competitive process, with advantages given to those who pay workers a living wage, provide health insurance or meet certain other benchmarks.
After 19 months of the bill’s enactment, regulators would need to approve 30 retailer licenses, half of which would go to social equity applicants. Social equity applicants would be defined as entities majority-owned by people with past cannabis convictions or who live in an area disproportionately impacted by the drug war.
Those applicants would also be allotted one-third of the planned 60 cultivation licenses, one-third of manufacturing licenses and two of five licenses for testing laboratories. They would also qualify for reduced application and licensing fees as well as technical assistance from the state.
Retail marijuana sales would be subject to a 15 percent tax. No tax would be levied on medical cannabis sales.
Seven percent of the tax revenue would be used to support a new Justice Reinvestment Fund that would provide grants, services and other initiatives that focus on issues such as jail diversion, workforce development and technical assistance for people in communities that are economically disadvantaged and disproportionately impacted by the drug war. The money would also be used to help facilitate expungements.
Home cultivation for personal use would continue to be prohibited.
The legislation would allow individual municipalities to establish their own regulations for marijuana business operating times and locations, and they would also be allowed to ban cannabis companies altogether from their jurisdictions.
The bill provides explicit legal protections for state employees who work with the state-legal market. And it would also allow marijuana businesses to claim tax deductions at the state level—something they’re prohibited from doing at the federal level under a tax code known as 280E.
The tax-and-regulate bill is materially the same as the measure defeated in the state House in March.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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Vermont lawmakers followed a similar approach to what Osienski is now pursuing by first passing a noncommercial legalization bill in 2018 and then following that up with separate legislation to tax and regulate sales in 2020.
Notably, Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D), who was the sole Democrat in the House who voted against the earlier legalization bill, signaled that he might be inclined to support a bill providing a regulatory infrastructure for marijuana commerce if the chamber votes to legalize possession and sharing. That said, he still voted against HB 371.
An even earlier legalization bill from Osienski cleared committee last year. However, disagreements over social equity provisions stalled that version, keeping it from the floor. At the time, Osienski pledged to bring a revised bill for the 2022 session that could earn broad enough support to pass.
When the sponsor’s earlier bill was being considered last year, he said he was caught off guard when he was informed that the inclusion of a social equity fund meant the bill would require 75 percent of legislators in the chamber to approve it.
The lawmaker tried to address the problem through an amendment, but some members of the Black Caucus opposed the changes, and the measure failed.
Osienski has worked with the Black Caucus in the ensuing months to build support and move toward more passable legislation. And a clear sign of the progress is that Reps. Rae Moore (D) and Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D) signed on as cosponsors to the since-rejected bill after pulling their support for the 2021 version over equity concerns. They’re also listed as cosponsors for the new HB 372.
In 2019, Osienski was the chief sponsor of a legalization bill that cleared a House committee but did not advance through the full chamber. That bill would have allowed medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling marijuana to adults 21 and older while the rest of the adult-use industry was still preparing to launch, a provision that was removed from later versions.
Four of the state’s six medical marijuana companies came out publicly against that change and testified in opposition to last year’s bill. In response, Delaware activists mounted a boycott against those operators.
Portions of the most recent version of the cannabis regulations bills on expungements were removed this session, as they were made redundant by the enactment of separate legislation last year.
As supportive lawmakers have worked to push cannabis reform through the legislature, they also faced the challenge of winning over Carney, one of the rare Democratic governors who remain opposed to legalization.
Despite his wariness about adult-use legalization, Carney did previously sign two pieces of marijuana expungement legislation. In 2017 and 2018, a state task force met to discuss issues related to legalization, and the governor hosted a series of roundtable meetings about cannabis.
A legalization bill previously received majority support on the House floor in 2018, but it failed to receive the supermajority needed to pass.
Carney’s predecessor approved a measure to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis in 2015.
An analysis from State Auditor Kathy McGuiness (D) released last year found that Delaware could generate upwards of $43 million annually in revenue from regulating marijuana and imposing a 20 percent excise tax. The legal market could also create more than 1,000 new jobs over five years if the policy is enacted, according to the report.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Iowa Legalization Campaign Gives a Voice to the People
The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws is a nonpartisan organization that is striving to “reform Iowa’s medical and recreational cannabis laws based on fairness, financial prudence, and common sense.”
The group recently launched its newest campaign, which is led by Bradley Knott and Pete D’Alessandro. Recently, Knott authored an article about their drive to get Iowa up to speed with other states that have legalized cannabis. “Cannabis reform is sweeping the country. From ruby red South Dakota and Montana to perpetually blue New York and New Jersey, majorities from across the political spectrum are voting for reform. In some states it’s a stronger medical program,” Knott wrote. “In other states voters have gone all in for both medical and recreational cannabis. In Iowa, we don’t have a choice. We don’t even have a voice.”
Knott explains how tax revenue of Iowa’s neighboring states have been invested back into the community in ways of education, health care, and other beneficial services. He also refers to a poll from 2021, which found that eight of out 10 Iowans supported a stronger medical cannabis program, and 71% of state residents under age 35 supported adult-use legalization (with 56% of those between 35-54 also supporting adult-use as well).
Despite this positive data, many legislators in Iowa are not on board with the idea. When Illinois legalized cannabis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed very clearly that she doesn’t support the cause. “I do not support recreational marijuana. I don’t. I won’t be the governor to do that,” she told The Gazette in June 2019. She shared her belief that cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to the use of other drugs.
Knott elaborates that state legislators should listen to the people, who should be able to vote on the topic. “Iowans are sensible people. They are proud of their state and have compassion toward others in need. And Iowa’s current cannabis laws make no sense,” he states plainly. “They make no sense if you want to capture lost tax dollars going to Illinois and Colorado. Or you want to build on and diversify Iowa’s excellence in agriculture, or stop the brain drain and keep the young folks here. Iowa’s cannabis laws make no sense if you want to help people who suffer from, or care for someone with, chronic pain, autism, cancer, or seizures. They make no sense if you believe in equal treatment or wise use of public safety dollars and keeping nonviolent offenders from crowding jails.”
There are a few Iowa legislators who support legalization though, as seen with the recently proposed Senate Joint Resolution 2003, which would have amended the Iowa constitution to legalize adult-use cannabis. However, it did not garner enough attention to proceed as law, which The Gazette states is due to the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Legislators like Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls believe that legalization is “long past due” though. “Democrats support legalization and Republicans oppose legalization, [and] Iowans who want legal cannabis need to vote for Democrats this election,” Wahls said.
In December 2021, Iowa state senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen and Sarah Trone Garriott joined to push a constitutional amendment for adult-use legalization. Bolkcom called out opposing legislators who aren’t considering the will of the people. “This has become a mainstream issue. “The majority of Iowans support this,” Bolkcom said. “The Republicans are in the minority on this. That said, we need their help to move this constitutional amendment to voters so they can have their voices heard.”
The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws welcomes Iowan support for the cause and offers a petition to be signed on its website, as well as opportunities to donate to the grassroots legalization effort.
New Study Confirms Safety of CBD
A new comprehensive study of more than 1,000 people has confirmed the safety of orally-ingested cannabidiol products and provides data that addresses the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s concerns about the safety of CBD. The two-part study found that daily consumption of CBD across a range of typical retail products and serving sizes is not associated with elevated liver tests, low testosterone levels, or daytime drowsiness.
To conduct the study, the research firm Validcare contracted with 17 CBD companies to study safety concerns previously expressed by the FDA. Validcare acted as the contract research organization, which included obtaining feedback from the FDA on the research protocol, conducting the study and publishing the results.
“The data in this study looks really good; it’s highly significant, and the chances of it being wrong are very, very small,” Dr. Robert Kaufmann, director of research for Validcare and a former professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, said in a statement from the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. “I am very hopeful that this data will allow the FDA to regulate these popular CBD products.”
The first cohort of the study, which was peer-reviewed and published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Medicine last year, studied how CBD products from 12 different manufacturers affected the liver function of 839 study participants. The second cohort included 222 additional individuals taking CBD products produced by five additional companies. The participation of the additional study subjects strengthened the statistical reliability of both the liver safety results and achieved statistical relevance for both sleep and testosterone results, according to the researchers.
The participants in the research were all adults aged 18 to 75 who had been taking oral CBD products for at least 30 days. Participants were recruited by the 17 CBD companies involved in the research for the decentralized observational study. The companies provided participants with their standard CBD regimen during the study period. All product companies supplied a third-party certificate of analysis (COA), which was confirmed by a neutral third party to ensure the composition of the supplied product matched both the label and the supplied COA.
FDA Still Has Not Regulated CBD
After hemp was legalized with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA recognized the “clear interest of Congress in fostering the development of appropriate hemp products” and noted that the agency “has the authority to issue a regulation,” which would allow for the legal marketing of CBD as a dietary supplement. The FDA said it would work to further clarify a regulatory approach for CBD products, “using science as our guide and upholding our rigorous public health standards.” However, the agency has not taken any substantial steps to regulate CBD, claiming that it needs more real-world data to move forward.
In March 2020, the FDA released a congressional report and public statement on potential regulatory pathways for the sale of hemp-derived CBD products, listing liver injury as the top concern for consumer safety, along with “male reproductive toxicity, or damage to fertility in males or male offspring of women.”
“We are excited to report that the ‘real-world data’ that FDA has been soliciting addresses the agency’s safety concerns,” stated Jonathan Miller, general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, the hemp industry’s national advocacy organization. “The time has come for FDA to regulate CBD and other hemp derivatives.”
The results of the study have renewed calls from CBD producers and the hemp industry for the FDA to expedite the regulation of CBD products.
“Participating in this study has allowed us to help provide regulators, scientists, product formulators, and other stakeholders with the evidence needed to prove the safety profile of CBD,” said Blake Schroeder, CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc. and its subsidiary, Kannaway, one of the companies that participated in the research. “We hope that this, in addition to our other research efforts in Brazil and Mexico, will not only help break the stigma around CBD but that it will also help legislators understand the importance of free, legal access to the entire cannabis plant.”
If the FDA still does not act to regulate CBD products, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable is calling on Congress to pass relevant legislation. There are currently three pending bills, H.R. 841, H.R. 6134 and S. 1698, that would require the FDA to develop regulatory pathways for the sale of hemp extracts such as CBD in ingestible form.
“We are proud to have participated in this ground-breaking study on CBD products and feel verified in our products’ excellent results in the testing. These results bode very well for supporting the hemp industry against the fears that FDA had previously stated which had been a hurdle in their regulatory process,” said Vince Sanders, the owner CBD American Shaman. “We are excited they can now rely on this study in verifying CBD products as safe for the human liver, have no effects of day-time drowsiness, and no negative effect on low testosterone levels or reproductive harm of male participants or the male offspring of women in the study.”
Massachusetts Adult-Use Marijuana Sales Officially Exceed $3 Billion, State Reports
Massachusetts adult-use marijuana sales have officially surpassed $3 billion since the market launched in 2018, state officials reported on Wednesday.
With 216 cannabis retailers and 11 delivery businesses operating across the commonwealth, the total gross sales for recreational marijuana reached $3,001,846,490 as of May 14.
The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) noted that it’s only been eight months since the state reported that sales had exceeded $2 billion.
“These sales figures illustrate the steady growth Massachusetts residents expected when they voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2016, and the Commission was appointed in 2017,” CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a press release.
“I’m proud our staff continue to work diligently to ensure applicants move through our licensing process efficiently,” Collins said. “Marijuana Establishments operate within a safe, accessible, and effective regulated market, and our work to ensure equity in the industry and the agency remains front and center.”
Today, @MA_Cannabis announced adult-use Marijuana Establishments in MA surpassed $3 billion in gross sales, according to the information that licensees report in the state’s mandatory seed-to-sale tracking system.
Learn more: https://t.co/B2UuNZsfng
— Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (@MA_Cannabis) May 18, 2022
This year’s cannabis holiday known as 4/20 saw $5,986,186 in marijuana sales on that one day alone, which is more than $1 million more compared to April 20 of last year, CCC said. Massachusetts marijuana tax revenue is now also exceeding that being generated from alcohol sales.
Further, the agency said that in 2021, there were $1,331,246,109 in cannabis purchases at the state’s 194 retailers at the time. That year marketed the first time that “Massachusetts’ regulated cannabis industry surpassed $1 billion in gross sales in a single calendar year.”
Massachusetts isn’t the only state that’s seeing a cannabis economic boom.
Earlier this month, Michigan officials announced that the state broke a marijuana sales record in April, with nearly $200 million in cannabis purchases.
Illinois adult-use marijuana sales reached nearly $132 million in April, the second highest monthly total since the market launched in 2020 and another sign that the state’s industry is stabilizing following a slump at the beginning of this year.
Arizona cannabis sales reached a new record in its adult-use market in March, according to the state.
In Colorado, the state released sales data for March showing that marijuana purchases rebounded in March after a prolonged slump this year. However, sales are still down from 2021 levels.
Altogether, states that have legalized marijuana for adult use collectively generated more than $3.7 billion in tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales in 2021, according to a report from MPP.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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