On June 29, 2020, Colorado adopted a statewide social equity program (SEP) for permitting cannabis operators.[1]  More specifically, House Bill 20-1424 (HB 20-1424) “defines social equity licensees, and modifies and expands the marijuana accelerator program to make it available for social equity licensees and retail marijuana stores.”[2]  The new law enables a social equity licensee to participate in the state’s accelerator program, which, as managed by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, supports cannabis business development.[3]  Colorado’s accelerator licensing program, originally slated to go into effect July 1, 2020,[4] pairs low-income entrepreneurs with existing cannabis businesses and, under the new law, effective January 1, 2021,[5] accelerator licenses will now be available to social equity applicants.[6]
Continue Reading Colorado’s Accelerator Program Paves Way for a Social Equity Program

On June 29, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published updated guidance intended to “enhance the availability of financial services” for the hemp industry (the Guidance).  Even though the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 legalized hemp[1] at the federal level, some banks have hesitated to provide financing to the hemp industry because they are uncertain of their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act or Anti-Money Laundering regulations (BSA/AML).  The Guidance was published to clarify those obligations, and follows closely on the new National Credit Union Administration guidance for federally-chartered credit unions issued on June 20, 2020. 
Continue Reading Clearing the Air: FinCEN Guidance May Help Banks Find Their Way in the Field of Hemp Financing

It would be an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted transactional activity for buyers and sellers across a range of industries, the hemp and cannabis merger and acquisition (“M&A”) space being no exception.  In particular, the current period of COVID-19 volatility in the hemp and cannabis space is marked by numerous consequential outcomes, namely: (1) a sharp decline in the number of deals; (2) decline in capital raises; and (3) overall decline in market valuations.
Continue Reading Up in Smoke: COVID-19’s Impacts on Hemp & Cannabis M&A

As the novel coronavirus (COVID or COVID-19) continues to ravage the United States, the cannabis industry is feeling the pandemic’s negative impacts despite an initial spike in sales after cannabis operations were deemed essential under various state “stay-at-home” orders.[1]  This article details the most recent state-level responses activated in California and Illinois.
Continue Reading COVID-19’s Continued Impacts on Cannabis Operators

The cannabis industry faced heightened antitrust scrutiny from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2019.  There were public reports regarding several “Second Requests” seeking information about potential cannabis transactions.  Second Requests are a part of expensive and time-consuming antitrust investigations typically issued in the approximately 2 percent of transactions that present significant anticompetitive concerns.  To have several Second Requests within a short period of time in the same industry, particularly in an emerging industry such as cannabis, appeared unusual to many observers.  Recent events have shed light on some possible reasons for DOJ’s heightened focus.
Continue Reading High Risk of Second Requests in the Cannabis Industry

As with many states, Texas and the cannabis plant have a long, complex history – from the first citywide cannabis ban adopted in El Paso in 1915, to the enactment of state laws in 1931 that made possession of any amount of cannabis illegal statewide, to imposing in 1955 sentences of up to life imprisonment for cannabis possession by repeat offenders.
Continue Reading Easing the Pain: Relief for Texans in the Form of Low-THC Cannabis

This article originally appeared in Cannabis Business Executive​ on June 10, 2020.

Claimed “illegality” of cannabusinesses continues to be a critical issue for them in their ability to enforce their rights in the courts. The ability to seek judicial relief may be especially important to some cannabusinesses that are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., to seek bankruptcy relief, or to obtain compensation from customers or suppliers that breach contracts). In our December 2019 articles[i], we observed that a cannabusiness may find it difficult to pursue its Intellectual Property (IP) rights in certain jurisdictions where cannabis remains illegal. Here, we provide an update on the “illegality” issue, including outside of the IP arena. We discuss some recent legal rulings in the cannabis space and some potential ramifications to cannabusinesses’ ability to seek bankruptcy and other relief in the courts.
Continue Reading The Status of a Cannabusiness’ Ability to Seek Relief in the Courts — the ‘Illegality’ Issue

Many Illinois cannabis contracts, including intellectual property licensing agreements, development agreements and supply agreements, contain force majeure clauses.  Depending upon the language of these clauses, the COVID-19 pandemic may be an event that triggers these clauses and provides a defense to nonperformance of the contract.

Companies that are experiencing difficulties complying with or enforcing compliance with their contracts should carefully examine their contracts to determine if a force majeure clause may excuse performance.

On March 20, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a stay at home order for all Illinois residents.  (Executive Order 2020-10.)  On April 30, 2020, Governor Pritzker extended the stay-at-home order through May 30, 2020.  (Executive Order 2020-32.)  Many other state and local government agencies have taken similar measures.  And, while cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities are deemed to be “essential businesses” under the Illinois orders, some other states, such as Massachusetts, have not exempted such facilities.[1]  As a result of the restrictions placed on businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies operating in the cannabis industry in Illinois may be experiencing compliance-related difficulties with their contracts.


Continue Reading IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON ILLINOIS CANNABIS CONTRACTS — Do Force Majeure Clauses Provide A Defense To Non-Performance

In an effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 transmission, many state and local governments have enacted “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” orders to protect the health and well-being of citizens, and
Continue Reading Continued Cannabis Operation Deemed “Essential” In Many COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders