The constant flow of cannabis news can be daunting and keeping current can be a hassle. For this reason, Respect My Region keeps an eye out on your behalf, providing a weekly roundup of significant happenings in the world of cannabis and cannabis legislation.
This week, we cover the surprising comments on prohibition by a formerly anti-cannabis Kennedy, hemp’s role in Trump’s new trade deal with China, and a showdown between Congress and the FDA. We will also dive into the surplus of state-level developments regarding cannabis legislation.
Trump’s Trade Deal Requires China To Import Hemp
Over the past week, news outlets have scrambled to properly assess the myriad of potential outcomes of Trump’s trade deal with China. The trade deal, unsurprisingly, elicited widely varying reviews by news outlets with allegiances to either side of the political aisle. However, one aspect of the trade deal is primed to have a positive impact on one agricultural industry in particular.
As part of the newly signed trade deal, China has agreed to increase their importation of—among other agricultural products—hemp . Hemp was federally legalized by the 2019 Farm Bill, and the industry has been making great strides ever since. Jonathan Miller, a representative of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, claims this will further strengthen the U.S. hemp industry.
According to Miller, the U.S. has a history of importing Chinese hemp, but its quality has often been considered deficient. “The fact that China would be importing our hemp and would be giving a new market for American farmers is pretty exciting,” Miller said. While it is not currently known just how much hemp China will purchase, the Trump trade deal seems likely to give yet another boost to the already burgeoning hemp industry.
Former Anti-Legalization Proponent Joe Kennedy Advocated For Victims Of Prohibition
This week, a federal hearing was held to discuss the future of federal cannabis regulation. In total, six potential cannabis legalization bills were part of a discussion by numerous federal officials. During the hearing, opposing sides made their case for and against certain aspects of regulation. However, one high-ranking lawmaker spoke out in a way that showed a significant change in their approach to the issue.
Joe Kennedy is a congressional representative of Massachusetts and, in the past, he hasn’t exactly been a friend to cannabis. When his state moved to legalize in 2017, he advocated for the bill’s denial. He also has a history of voting against house measures seeking to expand legalization. He even made a statement declaring that criminalization was a positive factor, in that it gave the police more opportunities to search vehicles.
During the federal hearing, however, Kennedy seemed to have changed his tune. “Federal prohibition has failed,” Kennedy declared, stating that prohibition policies have serious negative consequences across the country. He even scheduled a follow-up meeting to allow victims of prohibition to testify regarding its impact. He condemned their absence at the initial hearing.
“There are also critical stakeholders who are missing: those whose lives have been directly touched by our broken marijuana policies, people unjustly incarcerated, patients who rely on medical cannabis, researchers with expertise who are yearning to learn more, small business owners trying to find fair footing in a new industry.”
Florida Suffers A Devastating Blow In Their Bid To Vote On Recreational Cannabis
Last week we went over the legislative hurdles being placed before advocates of recreational cannabis in Florida. After activists made known their intention to introduce a legalization bill to the 2020 ballot, the state fought back. Florida lawmakers introduced policies that severely restricted the ability of cannabis activists to collect signatures for the 2020 bill. With their abilities to gather signatures stunted severely, activists knew that they faced an uphill battle.
Unfortunately, those same activists have now announced that, in terms of 2020, the battle is over. Unable to recover from the legislative blows to their campaign, these activist groups have decided to abandon their efforts. Despite the fact that polls show Floridians having a majority support for recreational cannabis, such a change will have to wait. As of now, the plan is to make another attempt in 2022 during the midterm elections. However, there is a concern that historically low voter turnout during midterm elections will present a danger to such aspirations. For now, attempts to legalize recreational cannabis in Florida are dead in the water.
Congress Introduces A Bill That Would Sidestep The FDA’s Stance On CBD
The prevalence of CBD products in the U.S. has brought with it concerns about counterfeit products, underage exposure, and the safety of the substance itself, to name a few. Much of the national speculation surrounding CBD has been propagated by one government agency in particular: the Food and Drug Administration.
In a Nov 25th consumer update, the FDA announced they believed CBD to be a harmful substance, citing potential health concerns associated with the cannabinoid. This decision put a significant damper on the prospect of using CBD as a food and beverage additive, forcing companies with such ambitions to tentatively put their plans on hold.
This week, however, a bipartisan group of House representatives introduced a bill that would deal a significant blow to the FDA’s attempts to slow down CBD. The bill, H.R. 5587, would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The amendment would classify CBD as a dietary supplement, putting it outside of the FDA’s regulatory purview. Additionally, the bill would provide CBD an exception to FDCA provisions that would otherwise prevent it from being used as a food and beverage additive.
The bill has a strong likelihood of passing through the house of representatives. In the Senate, however, the outcome is more unclear. Although the Senate has typically erred on the side of cannabis prohibition, this bill may end up garnering bipartisan support. Senate Leader Mitch McConnel has been adamant regarding his support for the hemp industry and was a staunch supporter of the 2018 Farm Bill. With this in mind, there is a speculative chance that H.R. 5587 could be signed into law, providing CBD a major legislative victory.
A Series Of Major State-Level Legalization Efforts Take Place
Although Florida suffered a brutal defeat this week in its pursuit of recreational cannabis, the news isn’t all bad. In fact, this past week has seen a number of positive developments that point toward expanded cannabis legalization around the country. This week, the following states have taken steps to widen the reach of legalization.
A number of states have been gearing up to introduce various legalization bills to their ballots, and Missouri has now entered the conversation. Missouri’s secretary of state certified a bill that would legalize adult recreational use of cannabis. Now, the process of gathering signatures can begin. Activists are optimistic, stating that there is wide support for legalization among Missouri voters. They must gather 160,000 signatures by mid-May in order to secure the bill’s place on a 2020 ballot.
As part of her 2020 legislative agenda, New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham stated that cannabis reform would be a priority. As a result, state lawmakers have successfully introduced legislation that would legalize adult recreational consumption of cannabis. It would also enact numerous restorative justice and social equality provisions. As of now, state lawmakers are convening for a 30-day legislative session. If the bill makes it through, all signs point to Governor Grisham signing it into law, making New Mexico the 12th state to fully legalize cannabis.
Activists in Montana submitted a proposed legalization bill to the state government. The bill would enact full cannabis legalization, building upon the existing legalization of medical cannabis in the state. The bill will require over 25,000 signatures to make it to the 2020 ballot. If passed, the state would have to issue business licenses by Jan 1, 2022.
Within the spectrum of cannabis legalization, Vermont finds itself in a somewhat peculiar position. The state made the decision to legalize low-level possession and home cultivation in 2018, but failed to legalize the sale of cannabis within state lines. As a result, residents are capable of cultivating their own cannabis plants and “gifting” cannabis to other residents. Such a policy has some glaring issues, making the acquisition of cannabis a dicey and often illegal prospect for residents of The Green Mountain State.
Although Vermont Governor Phil Scott has opposed state cannabis sales in the past, he has seemingly changed course. Seeking funding for an after-school program of his own design, Gov. Scott now intends to make the legalization of cannabis sales a priority during the 2020 state legislative session.
Of all the state developments this past week, Rhode Island’s is perhaps the strangest. While many states are pursuing legalization via signature-backed bills and state-authored legislation, Rhode Island is taking a different path. The governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, shocked many of her peers by including a system for state-run cannabis sales in her 2021 budget proposal.
In order to generate revenues, the governor included a plan to sell cannabis through state-run shops, acquiring products through licensed contractors. A state-run program of cannabis sales is unprecedented. Some states have floated the idea, but nothing has been implemented, thus far.