Although Congress failed to pass federal legislation legalizing cannabis in 2021, the push to end the federal prohibition of the ever-growing industry continues to gain steam.  While Republican lawmakers have traditionally opposed decriminalization, more are beginning to support or even introduce new cannabis legislation.[1]  On top of that, recent polls indicate that an estimated 68% of Americans now support legalization[2] with many consumers now viewing cannabis as less dangerous than alcohol.[3]  In addition, the industry’s total addressable market has been forecasted to grow to $84B by 2026.[4]

Continue Reading Cannabis Legislation Year-in-Review

In a win for much of the booming hemp products industry, on October 6, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB-45 into law.  AB-45 is comprehensive legislation that regulates and legitimizes many industrial hemp products. The law excludes from the list of permissible products inhalable hemp products. The law takes effect immediately and supersedes the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) 2018 “FAQ” guidance on hemp-derived CBD in food, beverages, dietary supplements, and pet food. The new law allows for the inclusion of hemp and cannabinoids (e.g., CBD), extracts, or derivatives of hemp in food and beverages, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and pet food.

Continue Reading AB-45: California Finally Welcomes Hemp Products To The Marketplace

It is undeniable that, not only is the cannabis industry here to stay, but it is growing exponentially.  To date, 47 states, 4 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis in some form – whether they decriminalize production, allow uses limited to cannabidiol (“CBD”) or hemp, or is as expansive as permitting THC-containing cannabis for medical use, adult-use or both.  Yet, in comparison to other industries, legitimate licensed cannabis-related businesses remain hobbled by the difficulties they face in accessing traditional banking and financial services – largely due to the fact that “marijuana” is still considered illegal on the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”).  Currently, financial institutions (including federally-insured banks) are hesitant, and oftentimes unwilling, to work with cannabis-related businesses due to fear of reprisal from federal banking regulators.

Continue Reading SAFE Banking Act of 2021: Where Are We on Cannabis Banking Change?

California’s comparable-to-organic “OCal” certification program for cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products officially went into effect on July 14, 2021.  The OCal program represents a new branch of state cannabis regulation, but remains firmly rooted in existing state and federal organics standards and procedures.  Its goal is to “assure consumers” that certified OCal products “meet a consistent standard comparable to standards met by products sold, labeled, or represented as organic.”

Continue Reading California Breaks New Ground With OCal: Answers to Key Questions About “Comparable-to-Organic” Cannabis

In January 2020, Illinois legalized the use of recreational marijuana through the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“the Act”).  Two months later, many employees began working remotely because of the pandemic.  Today, work-from-home continues to blur the lines between “work” and “home” in countless ways, and employee drug policies are no exception.  The new world of remote work has left many employers wondering what to do with their drug policies now that cannabis is legal and their employees are remote or hybrid.  Can an employer lawfully prevent their employees from using cannabis while working from home?

Continue Reading What Do I Do With My Workplace Drug Policy Now That Cannabis Is Legal in Illinois and My Employees Are Remote?

This article originally appeared on Law360 on June 25, 2021.

On Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid.  The ruling invalidated a California labor regulation that requires growers to grant union organizers seeking to represent their workers property access, and declared it an unconstitutional taking of the grower’s property in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments.  Several other California laws and decisions sanction similar union trespass onto private property.  For example, numerous state court decisions have granted unions access to private property of employers with whom they have a dispute on the theory that such access is required in order to enable labor to communicate its message to the public and to put economic pressure on the employer.  Likewise, California’s statutes have been applied to grant special protections to labor speech and to bar courts from enjoining union trespass on private property.  See e.g., Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 8, 55 Cal.4th 1083 (2012); UFCW, Local 324 v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 83 Cal.App.4th 566 (2000); cf. Waremart Foods v. NLRB, 354 F.3d 870 (D.C. Cir. 2004).[i]  Cedar Point offers a new avenue of attack against such union invasions of an employer’s property and a possible leg up on getting such trespasses enjoined in the future.
Continue Reading SCOTUS Decision May Force Reversal of California Laws Sanctioning Union Trespass

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