The legalization of cannabis in several states had left a major question unanswered: is an employee who violates the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) by distributing cannabis as part of his or her job still subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which provides for the payment of wages?
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On October 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its long-awaited interim final rule governing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. USDA has been developing these interim regulations since hemp was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. These hotly anticipated rules are important not only for hemp producers and hemp-derived product companies, but for cannabis companies interested in diversifying or pivoting into a crop that is legal under federal law.
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On October 12, 2019, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1291 (“AB 1291”) into law, which requires companies to sign a so-called “labor peace” agreement with a union or risk losing their cannabis license; thereby, strengthening already union-friendly statewide cannabis law.
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Last week, in what may be the first of its kind, a putative class of Massachusetts consumers filed a false labeling class action complaint against Global Widget LLC, d/b/a Hemp Bombs (“Hemp Bombs”) (Ahumada v. Global Widget LLC, D. Mass. Case No. 1:19-cv-12005), challenging the labeling of numerous Hemp Bombs products, including gummies, lollipops, capsules, syrup, vape and pet products.
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U.S. House lawmakers on Wednesday approved overwhelmingly by a 321-103 vote the SAFE Banking Act. The SAFE Banking Act would pave the way for financial institutions and insurance companies to serve state-legal cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses without fear of federal reprisal. Ninety-one Republicans voted for the measure, in a showing of strong bipartisan support. This marks the first time a body of Congress has approved pro-cannabis legislation.
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On May 2, 2019, the United States Trademark Office issued new Examination Guidelines for goods and services associated with cannabis and cannabis-derived products and services legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.[1] This crack in the federal armor against the cannabis economy opens the door for the federal registration of trademark rights and is an important step toward normalizing the nation’s laws governing cannabis and cannabis-related business activities in states where such products are legal.
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On April 9, 2019, New York’s City Council passed legislation, available here, which will prohibit employers from requiring prospective employees to submit to testing for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, as a condition of employment. If, as expected, Mayor Bill de Blasio signs the law into effect, the New York City Human Rights Law will be amended to make it a discriminatory practice to require pre-employment marijuana testing of employees in New York City.
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*This article originally appeared on Cannabis Business Executive on June 25, 2019

When it was announced in April 2019, Canopy Growth Corp.’s conditional deal to purchase Acreage Holdings Inc. raised eyebrows not only because of its price tag (potentially exceeding US$ 3 billion in total consideration), but also because of the transacting parties’ apparent willingness to test the boundary of U.S. anti-money laundering law (“AML”).  Canopy is a Canadian company; Acreage is American.  Both are involved in their respective countries’ domestic cannabis industries. 
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*This article was originally posted in Law360 on June 4, 2019.

The much-anticipated public hearing last week at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds drew a wide audience of participants, with strong views on how the FDA should (or should not) regulate the controversial plant.
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