It’s 4/20, the unofficial cannabis holiday! Now that cannabis is legal in both New York and New Jersey, what can we expect to be different about this year’s celebrations?

Access to Cannabis

Not much has changed since 2021. While possession of cannabis is legal in New York and New Jersey, there will not be any legally operating dispensaries in either state. In the ultimate troll move, Governor Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21, 2022, one day late. And while New York has made it easier to get a medical cannabis license, it’s unlikely that this will lead to a significant uptick in purchases of legal cannabis on 4/20. Expect those seeking to join the festivities to turn to the legacy market in 2022, as they do every year.  And while April 21st will not be a 4/20 celebration, expect long lines at the few dispensaries that are permitted to sell adult-use cannabis on that date.

In the Workplace?

As outlined in my colleague Marissa Mastroianni’s blog post here, New York employers can no longer discriminate against employees who use cannabis outside the workplace. Cannabis use can potentially show on drug tests for weeks after usage, making them an unreliable way to prevent cannabis use at work. In fact, under New York law drug testing for cannabis is prohibited unless the employer is required by state or federal law, the employer would lose a federal contract or federal funding, or the employee manifests “specific articulable symptoms of cannabis impairment.” Employers can still prohibit cannabis use during work and prohibit employees from working under the influence of cannabis. So, while employers can prevent employees from celebrating 4/20 in the office, most employers cannot implement mass drug testing. For more details on what is and is not allowed, we highly recommend reading our employment blog post linked above.

Next Year

While it’s been over a year since adult-use cannabis legalization in New York and New Jersey, don’t expect any major changes this 4/20. Next year will likely usher in the first 4/20 in which adult-use cannabis is widely available. In the meantime, enjoy the day, and read our cannabis and employment blog posts in preparation for retail sales.

On March 10, 2022, the New York State Cannabis Control Board released proposed regulations for conditional adult-use retail dispensaries.  This follows the announcement on February 22, 2022 that New York would grant conditional cultivation and processing licenses to certain qualified individuals within New York’s industrial hemp industry.  After long delays in releasing cannabis regulations, New York appears poised to accept applications for conditional adult-use retail dispensary applications as early as this summer.

What is a conditional license?

New York’s conditional adult-use dispensary licenses are temporary licenses only available for “justice involved” applicants. This includes those who have had a cannabis-related offense or have an immediate family member with a cannabis related offense, who have experience owning and operating a business. This is different from New Jersey’s conditional licenses, which are meant to allow people to obtain adult-use cannabis licenses without large amounts of capital pre-application.

Why are conditional adult-use retail dispensary licenses being awarded to “justice involved” entrepreneurs?

When New York passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (“MRTA”), they created a new benchmark for social equity cannabis programs.  New York set goals of awarding 50% of all cannabis licenses to equity candidates in order to allow the communities most harmed by the war on drugs to benefit from the new cannabis laws.  In granting “justice involved” candidates licenses first, New York is further demonstrating a commitment to equity applicants by offering an edge and allowing these candidates to establish their businesses before multi-state operators (“MSOs”) can enter the state.

How will “justice involved” applicants set-up their retail dispensaries?

Gov. Hochul has proposed a $200 million Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund. Those awarded conditional adult-use retail dispensary licenses would be able to utilize the fund to help with securing and renovating property for their dispensaries.

What does this mean for cannabis in New York?

The creation of these conditional licenses should greatly accelerate the formation of New York’s legal cannabis market.  The Cannabis Control Board indicated that they expect to accept retail applications as early as summer 2022 and to award licenses in late summer or early fall 2022, allowing retail stores to open before the end of 2022.

Am I eligible for a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license?

To be eligible for a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license, applicants must:

  • Be majority-owned by “justice involved” individuals;
  • Said individuals must have had at least a 10% ownership stake for at least two years in a business that had a net profit for at least two years;
  • And be New York residents if applying as an individual, or have a principal corporate location within New York or be organized under the laws of New York if applying as an entity.

Alternatively, applicants can be:

  • Non-profits that serve “justice involved” individuals and communities that managed a social enterprise with at least two years of positive net assets;
  • Have a history of creating opportunities for “justice involved” individuals;
  • Have “justice involved” individuals on its board or as officers;
  • And have at least five full-time employees.

Conditional licenses are valid for four years from the date on which a license is granted, and license holders can apply to convert to a standard retail dispensary license prior to expiration.  License holders would be required to enter a labor peace agreement with a bona-fide labor organization.

In conclusion

New York’s recent steps regarding conditional cannabis licenses should help the state catch up with neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut and allow adult-use cannabis to be sold in 2022.

 

On February 22, 2022, Gov. Hochul signed into law an act creating conditional licenses for adult-use cannabis cultivators and processors.  Then, on March 10, 2022, the New York State Cannabis Control Board released proposed regulations for conditional adult-use retail dispensaries.  After long delays in releasing cannabis regulations, New York has begun accepting applications for conditional adult-use cultivator licenses and is expected to accept applications for conditional adult-use processor licenses soon.

What is a conditional cultivator or processor license?

New York’s conditional cultivator and processor licenses are temporary licenses meant to be available only certain individuals and companies currently working in New York’s industrial hemp market.  The purpose of these licenses appears to ensure that cannabis can be cultivated and processed in the 2022 outdoor growing season, ensuring a strong supply of cannabis for the conditional adult-use retail dispensaries later this year.  As of March 15, 2022, applications are already being accepted from hemp farmers for the adult-use conditional cultivator licenses. This is a different approach than New Jersey, where conditional licenses are meant to allow people to obtain adult-use cannabis licenses without large amounts of capital pre-application.

What does this mean for cannabis in New York?

The creation of these conditional licenses should greatly accelerate the formation of New York’s legal cannabis market.  The Cannabis Control Board indicated that they expect to accept retail applications as early as summer 2022 and to award licenses in late summer or early fall 2022, allowing retail stores to open before the end of 2022.

Am I eligible for a conditional adult-use cultivator or processor license? What would I be able to do if I got a license?

To be eligible for a conditional adult-use cultivator license, an applicant must:

  • Be authorized to grow cannabinoid hemp (a.k.a. CBD Hemp), not simply hemp grown for grain or fiber, and be in good standing with the Department of Agriculture and Markets Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program; and
  • Have been harvesting hemp for two of the four years ending in January 1, 2022.

To be eligible for a conditional adult-use cultivator license, an applicant must have had a cannabinoid hemp processor license before January 1, 2022, and have an active cannabinoid hemp processor license issued by the Office of Cannabis Management.

Cultivators will be permitted to cultivate up to 43,560 square feet of canopy outdoors, 25,000 square feet of canopy in a greenhouse with a maximum of 20 artificial lights, or a combination of 30,000 square feet of outdoor canopy and 20,000 square feet of greenhouse canopy.  Both types of conditional license holders will be permitted to process and distribute cannabis until June 1, 2023, at which point cultivators would need to apply for separate processor and/or distributor licenses and processors would need to apply for separate distributor licenses.  Conditional licenses shall be valid until June 30, 2024, at which point the licensee would need to apply for a standard license.

Other details of note

Both conditional cultivators and conditional processors will be required to participate in an environmental sustainability program and a social equity mentorship program.  The social equity mentorship program will identify individuals eligible to be social equity applicants under the Cannabis Law and pair them with conditional license holders so they can obtain experience in cannabis business management and sustainable cannabis cultivation.  Conditional cultivators and processors will also be required to enter a labor peace agreement with a bona-fide labor organization.

In conclusion

New York’s recent steps regarding conditional cannabis licenses should help the state catch up with neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut and allow adult-use cannabis to be sold in 2022.

 

It was widely reported in November 2021 that Uber would be entering the Canadian cannabis industry via its Uber Eats platform.  This, of course, has led to speculation that Uber Eats could begin delivering cannabis in states in which adult-use cannabis has been legalized.

Is it true?

To put it bluntly, the answer is:  it’s highly unlikely. First, it should be noted that while Canadians will be able to purchase cannabis through Uber Eats, Uber will not be delivering those goods. While dispensaries can deliver cannabis in Canada, third-party delivery services cannot.  Thus, in Canada, Uber Eats will only allow you to purchase cannabis for pick-up, specifically at the Tokyo Smoke line of dispensaries.

So, what about the U.S.?

Even if Uber Eats was making cannabis deliveries in Canada, it would still be unlikely that Uber Eats would enter the U.S. delivery market. With the U.S.’s patchwork of cannabis laws, Uber Eats would need to undertake the expensive process of ensuring compliance with each state’s cannabis regulations.  Further, in states that permit delivery of cannabis, some form of license is required, with states either limiting delivery to those with a dispensary license or offering a delivery license specifically for third-party delivery services.

Too much green for the green.

In the states in which Uber Eats would be able to deliver cannabis, Uber Eats would have to go through the often-times expensive licensing process, on top of following disparate state regulations.  For example, if Uber Eats were to obtain a delivery license in New Jersey, Uber Eats drivers would need to have secure lockboxes in their vehicles, verify purchaser age, and possess Cannabis Business Identification Cards.  Further, Uber Eats would need to ensure the delivery vehicles for at least $1,000,000 per accident/occurrence and provide the Cannabis Regulatory Commission with vehicle information.  And this is just for New Jersey – other states have different requirements that the company would have to comply with.  While Uber Eats may feel that this undertaking is worth pursuing, it appears unlikely we will see Uber Eats delivering cannabis to people’s homes in the near future.

We won’t be a total buzz kill…

While Uber Eats and other food delivery services are unlikely to hit the cannabis industry just yet, there is an opportunity for strategic partnerships between food delivery services and restaurants with cannabis businesses.  Specifically, food delivery services, restaurants, and cannabis consumption lounges.  For example, under New Jersey law, a cannabis dispensary with a class 5 retailer license and an approved consumption area endorsement may operate an on-site consumption lounge.  Here’s the thing…consumption lounges are barred from selling food.  But! There is no bar on bringing outside food into a consumption lounge, so you can have your cannabis, and eat too. And the opportunity for local food delivery services and restaurants is that they may seek to capitalize on delivering food to consumption lounge patrons.  Consumption lounges may even choose to have menus on-site from local restaurants for their patrons’ convenience.  And, of course, New Jersey will have cannabis delivery services; they’re just unlikely to be Uber Eats.

Will the option to bring food in be extracted from the equation?

It’s certainly possible that New Jersey’s revised regulations will bar consumption lounges from allowing patrons to bring their own food, or from allowing food delivery services to make deliveries to patrons at the location.  However, as currently written, New Jersey’s regulations provide an opportunity for restaurants and food delivery services to target consumption lounge patrons and fill a need which consumption lounges are not permitted to fill themselves.  In other states, restaurant owners and food delivery services may also want to look into the applicable regulations regarding food in consumption lounges.

So, while Uber Eats may not be delivering cannabis to you any time soon, they may launch a campaign to light the way forward for food delivery services and consumption lounges.

A group of House Republicans, led by Representative Nancy Mace, introduced the States Reform Act on Monday, November 15, 2021.  This follows the passage the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act (the “MORE Act”) by the House Judiciary Committee, the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (the “SAFE Banking Act”) as part of a defense spending bill by the full House of Representatives, and the introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act ( the “CAOA”) and Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana Act (the “CLAIM Act”) in the Senate.

The States Reform Act, if passed, would:

  • Decriminalize cannabis at the federal level (states would still be permitted to criminalize cannabis);
  • Expunge federal convictions for people with non-violent cannabis convictions, which Rep. Mace expects would lead to 2,600 incarcerated people being released;
  • Impose a 3% federal excise tax on cannabis;
  • Empowers the US Department of Agriculture to regulate cannabis cultivation, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (to be renamed the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Tax and Trade Bureau) to regulate interstate and international cannabis trade, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would regulate cannabis products, and the FDA to regulate medical cannabis only;
  • Allows the federal government to issue packaging and labelling requirements;
  • Permits the VA to recommend cannabis to veterans and prevents discrimination against veterans in federal hiring or for healthcare benefits. The States Reform Act does not protect non-veterans from discrimination based on cannabis use in federal hiring;
  • The creation of federal permits necessary to operate within the market, grandfathering in those who have already been licensed by states that allow for cannabis;
  • Sets the national cannabis consumption age at 21 years old, through a system similar to how the government set a national drinking age by withholding certain funds from states that utilize a lower age. People under 21 would still be eligible for prescription cannabis.

The States Reform Act does quite a bit and is much more ambitious than prior Republican proposals that would simply decriminalize cannabis.  There are a number of differentiators between the States Reform Act, the MORE Act, and the CAOA.

  • The States Reform Act imposes a significantly lower tax rate, with the MORE Act taxing cannabis at 5% and increasing to 8% over three years. Meanwhile, the CAOA taxes cannabis at 10% and increases to 25% over five years.  The tax revenue is also dedicated to different purposes, with the MORE Act and CAOA dedicating more tax revenue to social equity programs.  The States Reform Act lacks the dedication to social equity programs present in the MORE Act and CAOA.  However, the States Reform Act does dedicate some revenue to mental health, addiction, and second chance programs;
  • The States Reform Act does not protect immigrants from deportation for cannabis-related offenses and does not prevent non-veteran recipients of federal benefits from being disqualified due to cannabis use.

While there is still a gap between the States Reform Act and the Democratic-led proposals, the States Reform Act represents a significant step towards potential federal decriminalization and/or legalization.  Should the supporters of the States Reform Act, MORE Act, and CAOA reach a compromise, a bipartisan bill may emerge that could potentially pass in both chambers of Congress.

In addition to Rep. Mace, the States Reform Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Tom McClintock, Don Young, Brian Mast, and Peter Meijer.  Rep. McClintock previously voted in favor of the MORE Act.

We will continue to monitor federal legalization efforts and provide updates regarding any developments.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) announced during its November 9, 2021 meeting the dates applications for licenses can be submitted for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers.  Cannabis cultivators and manufacturers can begin submitting their applications on December 15, 2021, while cannabis retailers can begin submitting their applications on March 15, 2022.  Below is where you should be if you’re planning on applying:

Cultivators seeking an Annual or Conditional License:

With the statutory limit of 37 cultivators until February 2023 in place, we expect cultivation applications to be very competitive.  Cultivators should have already retained a cannabis attorney and application writer, assembled their complete team, and signed letters of intent with the contractors necessary to meet their regulatory obligations.  You should have secured a letter of support from your municipality, and received minority or women business enterprise certification if you meet those criteria.  You also should have entered into a labor and peace agreement with a union.  Further, cultivators seeking annual licenses should have property secured before December 15, 2021, while cultivators seeking conditional licenses should be identifying property and at least be in active negotiations with the owner or landlord.  Next on your to do list – plan on submitting all materials as soon as the CRC begins accepting applications.

Manufacturers Seeking an Annual or Conditional License:

There are no caps on the number of manufacturing licenses, so the need to file an application immediately is less necessary.  However, with the limited number of municipalities allowing manufacturing, and the limited real estate available, it will be preferable to apply sooner rather than later.

  • You should have already retained an application writer/consultant to assist in preparing your application. While an application writer is not necessary, we highly recommend retaining one as it will give you the best chance of securing a license.
  • You should have already retained a cannabis attorney to ensure your application and operations are compliant with New Jersey’s laws and regulations.
  • You preferably have secured property and ensured the property is compliant with all cannabis-related zoning, or you are close to securing said property. If seeking a conditional license, securing the property is not yet necessary, but you should be in negotiations with a landlord or seller.
  • You should be working with your municipality to secure a letter of support if you have not secured on already.
  • You have already filed for certification as a minority or women business enterprise if you meet the qualifications.
  • You should have entered into a labor and peace agreement with a union.
  • You should be prepared to line-up all of the contractors needed for the application, such as a security professional, in the coming weeks if you have not secured those services already.

If you have fallen behind, it may not be too late to seek a manufacturing license – just be aware that as more licenses are granted and less real estate is available, it will become harder to secure a license.

Retailers Seeking an Annual or Conditional License:

  • You should be looking to retain an application writer/consultant now if you have not already done so.
  • You should be looking to retain a cannabis attorney now if you have not already done so.
  • You should be looking to secure property now. There is limited suitable property available, so while there is some time before your application is due, the property may not be available closer to the application date.  Remember, there are many restrictions on what property you legally can use, and we therefore recommend retaining a real estate attorney with cannabis experience.
  • You should start vetting contractors to provide the services necessary for an application and entering into letters of intent with them.
  • You should be preparing your organizational documents, if you have not done so already.
  • You should be applying for minority or women business enterprise certification.
  • You should be negotiating with a union regarding a labor and peace agreement.

Microbusinesses:

Microbusinesses are unique in that there are no caps on microbusinesses, even cultivation microbusinesses, and many municipalities have created favorable local licensing for microbusinesses.  Still, it will be beneficial for applicants to get their applications in as soon as possible.  Therefore, microbusinesses should follow the above guidelines for cultivators, manufacturers, or retailers, depending on the license they are seeking, with the understanding that they have slightly more flexibility than applicants seeking annual or conditional licenses.

Other Cannabis License Classes:

The CRC has not issued any guidance regarding the timeframe for whole or distribution licenses.  However, we recommend those seeking these licenses begin preparations now, rather than waiting for an announcement.

There is no deadline for submitting these applications, and no hard cap on the number of licenses that will be issued for non-cultivation licenses.  However, due to the limited number of towns allowing cannabis enterprises, and the limited amount of eligible property available, we recommend those intending to enter this new market move swiftly to secure a license.

On Wednesday, July 14, 2021, Senators Schumer (NY), Booker (NJ), and Wyden (OR) introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (“CAOA”), a draft bill for the decriminalization and regulation of cannabis at the federal level.  The CAOA represents a comprehensive change to the federal government’s approach to cannabis, embracing state legalization and permitting shipping of cannabis across state lines.  As currently written, the bill is divided into the following six titles: 1) decriminalization of cannabis, public safety, and states’ rights; 2) research, training, and prevention; 3) restorative justice and opportunity; 4) taxation and establishment of trust fund; 5) public health, cannabis administration, and trade practices; and 6) miscellaneous.  Key components of the bill include:

  • Removes cannabis and THC from the Controlled Substances Act, any schedule under such act, and other laws and regulations related to the prohibition of controlled substances;
  • Transfers cannabis-related responsibilities from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (renamed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, Firearms, and Explosives), the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury;
  • Permits states to continue to regulate cannabis use and possession, but prevents states from forbidding the shipping of cannabis through said state to a destination where cannabis has been legalized;
  • Authorizes federal studies by HHS on the impacts of cannabis on public health and its medicinal properties. Also authorizes studies by the Department of Transportation on cannabis-impaired driving and methods of detecting cannabis-impaired driving;
  • Establishes a Cannabis Justice Office in the Office of Justice Programs to administer the Community Reinvestment Grant Program. The Grant program shall administer services for those adversely affected by the war on drugs, including job training, reentry services, legal aid for civil and criminal cases, including expungement, literacy programs, youth recreation and mentoring programs, and health education;
  • Creates the Cannabis Opportunity Program to provide states and localities funds for issuing loans that would assist small businesses owned and controlled by economically disadvantaged individuals in the cannabis industry, as well as the Equitable License Grant Program to provide funds to states and localities with the goal of easing access to the industry for those adversely impacted by the war on drugs and to establish licensing boards that are reflective society and can serve as oversight of the equitable licensing programs;
  • Authorizes the Small Business Administration to make all programs available to cannabis-related businesses;
  • Expunges federal arrests and convictions for non-violent cannabis-related offenses and seals such records;
  • Prevents cannabis use, possession, or prior convictions from disqualifying individuals from federal benefits or from impacting one’s immigration status;
  • Taxes cannabis federally at 10% for the first two years after passage of the CAOA, 15% during the third year, 20% during the fourth year, and 25% during the fifth year, with the Department of Treasury performing studies to determine the applicable tax rate thereafter. Tax revenues would go to the Opportunity Trust Fund, 60% of which is appropriated to the Attorney General for use in connection to the Community Reinvestment Grant Program, and 40% to the Small Business Administration for the provision of services to cannabis-related businesses under the CAOA;
  • Establishes the Center for Cannabis Products under the FDA to regulate cannabis and CBD and ensure no adulteration or misbranding of cannabis products occurs;
  • Prohibits the selling of electronically delivered flavored cannabis products;
  • Establishes federal permitting of cannabis businesses granted state licenses;
  • Authorizes the Comptroller General to identify all instances of “marijuana” or “marihuana” in federal laws and regulations to be changed to “cannabis,” and to identify any further laws or regulations requiring amendment.

While the CAOA has the support of the Senate Majority Leader, and therefore can be placed on the docket for a vote, it is unclear if it will have the support necessary to be passed into law.  We will continue to monitor the CAOA and other attempts at federal legalization and will post updates as the bill progresses.

After a special legislative session, the Connecticut Senate passed An Act Concerning Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis on June 17, 2021, following the Connecticut House’s passage of the bill on June 16, 2021.  Governor Ned Lamont has indicated that he intends to sign the bill into law.  The law was previously passed by the Connecticut Senate but was filibustered in the Connecticut House, thereby necessitating the special session.  The new law will legalize adult-use cannabis for adults 21 and over and provides for the licensure of cultivators, retailers, manufacturers, and delivery services under the supervision of the Department of Consumer Protection.  Like other Northeast states, Connecticut’s law puts a heavy emphasis on social equity, requiring half of all licenses to go to social equity applicants.  Further, the state will provide assistance to these applicants in getting their business started.  Additional highlights include:

  • Adults 21 and over may possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis starting July 1, 2021, and may store up to 5 ounces in their residence or vehicle.
  • Automatic expungement of convictions for possession of under four ounces of cannabis. However, automatic expungement will not begin until 2023, and will apply only to convictions between January 1, 2000 and September 15, 2015, with others needing to petition to have their convictions expunged.
  • Adults 21 and over may grow up to three mature and three immature plants starting July 1, 2023. Medical patients 18 and over may begin growing plants October 1, 2021.
  • Employers may not take adverse action against workers for positive cannabis metabolite tests.
  • The smell of cannabis is no longer probable cause to stop and search individuals. Adults between 18 and 20 face a civil fine for possession.  Minors would be subject to a written warning for their first two offenses, but can face more severe penalties for subsequent offenses.
  • Localities may prohibit cannabis businesses.
  • Flower will be capped at 30% THC on a dry-weight basis, whereas all other products will be capped at 60% on a dry-weight basis. The 60% THC cap on other cannabis products does not apply to pre-filled cartridges for electronic cannabis delivery systems.
  • Cannabis sales will be subject to a THC-based excise tax, a 3% municipal tax, and Connecticut’s state sales tax. At first, the state-based taxes will go towards Connecticut’s general fund, but beginning June 30, 2023, 60% of tax revenue will go towards the Social Equity and Innovation Fund. That amount will gradually increase from 2026 to 2028.
  • Social equity applicants will pay only 50% of the standard application fee for licenses, while medicinal dispensaries can pay $1 million in order to operate as a hybrid dispensary.

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas aims to have legal sales begin in May 2022.

Following Representative Nadler’s introduction of the MORE Act, which would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, Representatives Cori Bush and Bonnie Watson Coleman introduced the Drug Policy Reform Act (“DPRA”) on June 15, 2021, which would decriminalize all drugs, including cannabis.

Under the DPRA, regulation of all drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act would be handled by the Department of Health and Human Services, who would be empowered to determine the amount of each drug that constitutes personal use as well as expand access to substance abuse treatment.  Further, the bill provides for the expungement of federal criminal records for simple possession of drugs and provides incentives to states who do the same. The DPRA also provides protections for employees who may have used drugs, preventing employment discrimination based on drug use convictions.  The DPRA forbids denying individuals certain federal benefits, the right to vote, or a drivers’ license based on prior drug use.  Drug use would also no longer be grounds for denying immigration status.  While drug possession below a certain amount would not be criminalized, civil fines could still be issued for such possession.

Oregon has already decriminalized drug possession.  While it’s unlikely the DPRA will be passed into law this legislative session, we may see some states follow Oregon’s lead.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act (the “MORE Act”) on Friday, May 28, 2021.  The MORE Act seeks to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge certain cannabis-related criminal records at the federal level, and create social equity programs via a federal sales tax on cannabis products.  Rep. Nadler had previously introduced the MORE Act in 2020.  At that time, it passed the House of Representatives but was never voted on in the Senate.

This year’s version of the MORE Act differs slightly from the 2020 version.  Key points contained in the act are:

  • Implementation of a five percent federal sales tax on cannabis products, that would increase to eight percent over three years. Tax revenue raised would fund the Opportunity Trust Fund, which would help communities impacted by the war on drugs.
  • Creation of the Office of Cannabis Justice to prevent penalizing cannabis users who receive social services from the federal government, as well as to oversee the social equity components of the bill.
  • Establishment of the Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program under the Small Business Administration.
  • Expungement of low-level federal convictions for cannabis possession, as well as the creation of incentives for states to expunge similar convictions.
  • Permitting the prescription of medicinal cannabis to veterans through the VA system.
  • Preventing deportation of immigrants for minor cannabis infractions or for working for cannabis companies in states where cannabis has been legalized.

The MORE Act is co-sponsored by Representatives Barbara Lee, Earl Blumenauer, Sheila Jackson Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, and Nydia Velázquez.  While it is expected the bill will be passed by the House of Representatives, its future in the Senate is unclear.  Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden intend to introduce their own bill legalizing cannabis soon.