On Wednesday, two businessmen were convicted of a single count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1349) for orchestrating a scheme to disguise cannabis-related financial transactions as transactions unrelated to cannabis.[1]  The conviction followed the close of a three-week trial in the Southern District of New York, which was one of the first federal criminal trials to be held in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The jury deliberated for less than a day.  Sentencing is scheduled for June 25, 2021.
Continue Reading Online Cannabis Marketplace Businessmen Convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud

The trial of two men associated with an online cannabis marketplace began last week in the Southern District of New York.  Prosecutors seek to prove that Hamid Akhavan and Ruben Weigand, two businessmen who worked with the online platform from 2016 to 2019, conspired to commit bank fraud by disguising credit and debit card transactions for cannabis purchases as transactions for non-cannabis purchases.  While selling cannabis remains illegal under federal law, the case demonstrates how cannabis businesses face white collar enforcement risks unrelated to drug-trafficking charges.   
Continue Reading Bank Fraud Trial Highlights White Collar Enforcement Risks for Cannabis Industry

On December 9, 2020, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3797—The Medical Marijuana Research Act (the “Bill”), expanding access to cannabis for medical research purposes.  In so doing, a bipartisan majority of members of the House of Representatives agreed that, while proponents and opponents of cannabis legalization are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.
Continue Reading House Of Representatives Passes A Cannabis Bill That Republicans And Democrats Can Agree On

On Friday, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve The Marijuana Opportunity and Expungement Act (MORE Act),[1] which would decriminalize cannabis. This vote marks the first time that a chamber of Congress voted on a standalone cannabis bill.  While the 228-164 vote passed mostly on party lines, 5 Republicans voted in support of the bill, and 6 Democrats voted against.
Continue Reading Cannabis Gets Go-Ahead from House, But Still Faces Hurdles Before Federal Legalization

When it comes to whether unions have a right to enter an employer’s premises over the employer’s objections, California’s law is the polar opposite of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the law in most other states.  In California, unions generally have special access rights that nonlabor parties do not have.  Unions are given preferential treatment because of the state’s union-friendly public policies.  For example, under Assembly Bill 1291 (AB 1291) (AB 1291) and California Business and Professions Code Section 26001(x), any company engaged in the cultivation, packaging, distribution or sale of cannabis products cannot be licensed unless it agrees to enter into a labor peace agreement (LPA) with a union.  By statute, an LPA must, at minimum, (a) require the company not to “disrupt” the ability of unions to communicate with and to organize employees, and (b) grant workplace access to union organizers.  Likewise, under the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB)’s access regulations – which covers agricultural workers engaged in the cultivation of cannabis – agricultural employers are required to provide union organizers with access to their property to communicate with employees and engage in union organizing efforts for up to 120 days in a calendar year.[1]
Continue Reading SCOTUS to Consider Whether California Unconstitutionally “Takes” Private Property When It Compels Agricultural Employers to Grant Union Access to Private Property

Even two weeks after Election Day, jurisdictions nationwide are riding high after a number of positive wins related to the possible systemic legalization of cannabis use nationwide.  As of November 3, 2020, the pendulum now undeniably swings in favor of cannabis, with medical cannabis legal in 33 states and recreational adult-use permitted in 12 states and Washington D.C.
Continue Reading Green Wave: The Latest Election Cycle Brings Hope for Standardized Cannabis Legalization

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

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

In a case of first impression, the New Jersey Appellate Division determined that employers in the state must reimburse employees for medical cannabis following a workplace accident, despite federal prohibitions
Continue Reading New Jersey Court Commands Cannabis Reimbursement in Workers’ Compensation Dispute