In advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held June 19, 2017, New Jersey State Senator Nick Scutari released the text of Senate, No. 3195, or SB 3195, the long-awaited bill legalizing cannabis in New Jersey. In a statement announcing the bill in mid-May, Senator Scutari, the bill’s sponsor, stated, “Now is the time to begin shaping New Jersey’s recreational marijuana program. We will have a new governor next year and we should be prepared to move forward with a program that ends the prohibition on marijuana and that treats our residents fairly and humanely.”

New Jersey map outline
Copyright: adamgolabek / 123RF Stock Photo

Governor Chris Christie, an ardent opponent of legalization, once famously remarked that tax revenue generated by legalization of marijuana should be considered “blood money.” As a result, the legislature is not expected to vote on the bill until 2018, when Governor Christie is out of office.

Senator Scutari and other New Jersey legislators took trips to Colorado to see their legalization framework firsthand. The effect is a bill that closely resembles Colorado’s version. SB 3195 proposes the following:

  • Legalizing the possession of one ounce of marijuana flower, seven ounces of concentrate, 16 ounces of edible products infused with cannabis, seven grams of cannabis concentrate, and 72 ounces of infused liquid for adults over 21 years of age
  • Elimination of sales tax on medical cannabis purchases and installing a staggered sales tax schedule on recreational purchases. The tax rate the first year is proposed to be 7%, 10% in year two, and then increase by 5% each year after that until reaching 25%
  • Expunging criminal charges related to possession of marijuana
  • Creating a new division within the Office of the Attorney General that would be specifically charged with overseeing the legalization program

As drafted, SB 3195 prohibits home cultivation of cannabis. While stating that he would be open to negotiating that element of the bill, Senator Scutari noted the difficulties that Colorado and other states have experienced in regulating and controlling home cultivation. Those states impose limits on home cultivation, but enforcement of those limits has proven challenging.

A study by New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform estimated that legalizing cannabis could bring $300 million in new tax revenue in year one.

Via 123RF; Copyright : ayzek

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has scheduled a press conference today at 1 PM where John Collins, the Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana, will announce the recipients of the first twelve permits to grow and process medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The Director will also provide a general update on the Department’s progress in implementing the Commonwealth’s Medical Marijuana program.

The event will be live-streamed and can be viewed here. And so it begins…!


Joseph McNelis works in Fox Rothschild’s Blue Bell, PA office and focuses his practice on labor and employment matters. Joe also tracks legal developments in the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Joe can be contacted at 610-397-2332 or jmcnelis@foxrothschild.com.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (FinCEN) recently issued a Marijuana Banking Update, with data through March 31, 2017.   The number of banking institutions offering services to Marijuana Related Businesses continues to increase, but the overall number of banks providing such services remains low.  As of March 31, 2017, only 368 banks and other depository institutions in the U.S. offered services to Marijuana Related Businesses.

Copyright: jeremynathan / 123RF Stock Photo

During the period covered by the Update, banking institutions filed approximately 30,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) across the 3 required filing categories:  Marijuana Limited, Marijuana Priority, and Marijuana Termination.  The majority of the SARs filings – over 20,000 – fell into the Marijuana Limited category, while 2,007 SARS were filed in the Marijuana Priority category and 7,326 SARs were filed in the Marijuana Limited category.

FinCEN defines the three filing categories as follows:

Marijuana Limited: the financial institution’s due diligence indicates that the MRB does not raise any of the red flags as defined in the Cole Memo and is compliant with the appropriate state’s regulations regarding marijuana businesses. The financial institution is providing banking services to the MRB.

Marijuana Priority: the financial institution’s due diligence indicates that the MRB may raise one or more of the red flags as defined in the Cole Memo or may not be fully compliant with the appropriate state’s regulations regarding MRBs. The financial institution is providing banking services to the MRB while further investigation is being conducted.

Marijuana Termination: the financial institution decided to terminate its relationship with the MRB for one or more of the following reasons:

    • The financial institution’s due diligence indicates that the MRB raises one or more of the red flags as defined in the Cole Memo.
    • The MRB is not fully compliant with the appropriate state’s regulations.
    • The financial institution has decided not to have marijuana related customers for business reasons.

 

By way of background see my posts here, herehere, and here regarding the Florida Legislature’s prior efforts to pass laws to implement Amendment 2 (medical marijuana passed by Florida’s voters in November 2016) which failed in the last, regular legislative session.

However, the Florida Legislature has now, via special session, finally passed a medical marijuana bill.

The details are as follows:

  • No sales tax on medical marijuana;
  • No 90-day waiting period for a prescription;
  • The number of licenses for growers will increase by ten (10) within four (4) months (for a total of 17);
  • A limit of 25 retail locations per grower’s license;
  • Smoking is still not permitted.

Governor Rick Scott has said he intends to sign the bill.

Litigation regarding the ban on smoking is expected.  Additionally, ongoing issues related to limited competition may have to be dealt with in future legislative sessions or via litigation.

_________

Dori K. Stibolt is a West Palm Beach, Florida based partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She focuses her practice on litigation and labor and employment issues.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

I have blogged before about the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Temporary Medical Marijuana Regulations for Physicians (here and here).

After a brief public comment period, the Department released the final version of the Regulations. For analysis on what this means for physicians looking to register under PA’s Medical Marijuana Act, check out this post on Fox’s Physician Law Blog.

Medical marijuana in jar lying on prescription form
Copyright: megaflopp / 123RF Stock Photo

Joseph McNelis works in Fox Rothschild’s Blue Bell, PA office and focuses his practice on labor and employment matters. Joe also tracks legal developments in the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Joe can be contacted at 610-397-2332 or jmcnelis@foxrothschild.com.

Cannabis and the law
Copyright: jirkaejc / 123RF Stock Photo

A temporary restraining order granted to a group of alcohol distributors may delay the sale of recreational marijuana in Nevada, which was scheduled to begin on July 1. On May 30, 2017, the First Judicial District Court of Nevada issued the temporary restraining order, which essentially prohibits the Nevada Department of Taxation from enforcing a May 31 deadline for submitting recreational marijuana license applications.

The plaintiff alcohol distributors have alleged that the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana provided, among other things, that for a period of eighteen months after the implementation of recreational marijuana licensing regulations, only holders of wholesale liquor licenses could apply to be marijuana distributors in the state. However, the ballot measure also allowed the Department to open up the application process to others if the number of wholesale liquor applicants would result in an insufficient number of marijuana distributors. The Department determined that there was insufficient interest from liquor licensees and opened up the application process to others, including current holders of medical marijuana licenses, provided that their licenses are in good standing.

State officials have stated that by one day prior to the May 31 deadline for license applications, only one liquor licensee had applied for a marijuana distribution license. The alcohol distributors contend that this is not accurate and that more applications were submitted by liquor licensees. State officials expect that another hearing will be held on the temporary restraining order within the next few weeks. Until then, the stay on the issuance of recreational licenses will remain in place.

 

See my posts here, herehere, and here regarding the Florida Legislature’s efforts to pass laws to implement Amendment 2 (medical marijuana passed by Florida’s voters in November 2016) which failed in the last legislative session.

Now, Florida’s legislatures head back to Tallahassee for a special session from June 7th to June 9th. Unfortunately, but also no surprise, medical marijuana is not on Gov. Rick Scott’s list of issues for the special session.

However, many members of the legislature appear to be committed, if there is time, to working on medical marijuana during the special session.  Meanwhile, cannabis patients are frustrated by the failure of the Florida legislature to pass comprehensive medical marijuana laws to address the lack of licenses and lack of retail locations.

_________

Dori K. Stibolt is a West Palm Beach, Florida based partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She focuses her practice on litigation and labor and employment issues.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

See my posts here, herehere, and here regarding the Florida Legislature’s efforts to pass laws to implement Amendment 2 (medical marijuana passed by Florida’s voters in November 2016) which failed in the last legislative session.

51190933 - tallahassee, florida, usa at the old and new capitol building.

While we wait to see if the Florida Legislature will call a special session to get regulations passed to implement Amendment 2, now comes news that a Florida Administrative Judge has ruled in favor of two growers who who had previously sought licenses under the low-THC medical marijuana regulatory scheme.  Those licenses have, obviously, gotten very valuable now that Amendment 2 has passed, since those are the growers who will be able to participate under Amendment 2 until litigation or further legislation permits additional licenses.

__________

Dori K. Stibolt is a West Palm Beach, Florida based partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She focuses her practice on litigation and labor and employment issues.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.

In November 2016, Arkansas passed a constitutional amendment (Amendment 98) establishing a medical marijuana program. The legislature recently added provisions to the law, resulting in significant protections for Arkansas employers.

47515134 - state capital building in little rock, arkansas.
123RF Copyright : W.Scott McGill 

The amendment includes sections that clarify when an employer can take an adverse employment action against an employee who is a medical marijuana user, and some that place limits on an employee’s right of action under the law, such as:

  • Limiting coverage to employers with 9+ employees
  • Barring suit if an employer takes an action pursuant to a “substance abuse or drug-free workplace policy”
  • Barring suit if the employer has a “good faith belief” the employee possessed, used, or was under the influence of marijuana “while on the premises of the employer or during the hours of employment”
  • Capping damages in the same way as other employment discrimination claims under Arkansas law

The amendment also makes clear that a written certification (a document from a physician stating that the patient has a medical condition covered by the Act) “is not a medical prescription.” This provision could potentially limit an employer’s obligations under both the ADA and the FMLA when considering an employment decision.

Arkansas is one of the few states that has adopted such strong employer protections in their medical marijuana statute, and each state’s approach is different. It is essential that every business understand the laws of each state where they operate, especially as more and more states implement medical marijuana programs (29 in total, as of this blog).

You can read the full text of the Arkansas amendment here.