cannabis legalization

We’ve seen major steps forward in cannabis legalization over the last weeks. Colorado approved a bill to allow public consumption and Illinois became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis by state legislature. Obviously, cannabis legislation is changing at a rapid pace. The hemp industry continued to evolve as well. The FDA held a public hearing last Friday to receive input on their upcoming CBD policies, and Congress approved federal funding for cultivation regulations this Monday. 

Colorado Approves Bill For Public Consumption

On Wednesday, May 29th Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill legalizing and regulating public marijuana consumption. House Bill 1230 exempts licensed businesses from the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, a law banning public indoor smoking which had been used since 2013 to prevent public consumption measures. 

As with liquor licenses, businesses will train employees to monitor marijuana intoxication and bear legal responsibility for impaired drivers on-premises. The bill comes as a significant victory for the tourism industry as visitors arriving to experience legalized cannabis have had no place to smoke it legally. 

The Illinois Legislature Legalizes Recreational Cannabis

Last Friday (May 31, 2019), the Illinois legislature approved recreational cannabis. This was the first state government to legalize marijuana for recreational use from medical marijuana.  Public vote (referendum) has been the catalyst behind previous states’ policy changes, but it was the state legislature, in this case with Gov. JB. Pritzker promising his signature. 

The move is both groundbreaking and nerve-racking for critics. The Illinois bill doubles the number of stores each license allows and gives incumbents priority in line for approval. The result is a year-long head start for a select group of investors against new applicants. 

Another first for House Bill 1438, money raised by recreational taxes would fund the expungement of over 700,000 non-violent cannabis convictions.   While other states have added equity provisions after the fact, Illinois is the first containing expungement provision from the start.

With the signing of the bill into law, 29% of the country will have access to recreational cannabis.

The FDA Holds Public Meeting on CBD

On Friday, May 31st, the Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing to discuss how to best approach regulating the CBD market. The move was welcomed by the industry and the public, eager to help nudge the FDA towards implementing guidelines.

The FDA currently says CBD is not allowed in food, drinks, and supplements, but they aren’t expected to enforce anything beyond their main concern of labels making health claims. State marijuana laws vary as do CBD laws. Several states allow the cannabinoid in food and beverages, and businesses continue to offer those products despite their ban in others like New York.

With more than 400 respondents asking to speak, the FDA chose a lottery system to select a limited number for the ten-hour discussion. Nearly two-dozen CBD manufacturers spoke during the hearing as well as members of the public. Everyone could agree more research was needed to change cannabis law.

“Currently, states are struggling with the lack of sound scientific research available in CBD and long-term health impacts, including those to children,” said Pam Miles of the Virginia Department of Agriculture, “hopeful that [the] FDA will begin to supply significant leadership as it related to CBD, including research related to its health impacts.”

Dr. Amy Abernethy, the FDA principal deputy commissioner who helped organize the public meeting, said the hearing illustrated the key issues:

  1. “There is a need to further clarify the regulatory framework to reduce confusion in the market.”
  2. “Key questions about product safety need to be addressed. Data [is] needed to determine safety thresholds for CBD.”
  3. “Consumers need consistent information and labeling.”
  4. “Systematic studies are needed. It sounds like a number of studies are available or underway. We also wonder if real-world evidence derived from electronic health records, personal monitors, administrative data, etc., can be used to address critical questions in this space.”

Public comments to the FDA’s docket on CBD issues can be submitted through July 2 via the website https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2019-N-1482.

Congress Funds Hemp Regulation

Congress’s House Appropriations Committee released two reports on Monday, June 3rd that discuss cannabis and hemp policies. One of the reports allocates $16.5 million to the USDA for the implementation of hemp regulations in the 2020 fiscal year. Cannabis legislation is being pushed nationwide with great success. 


Works Cited

Alpert, Bill, and Bill Alpert. “Cannabis Legalization Has Taken a Couple of Big Steps Forward.” Marijuana Is Legal in Illinois and the FDA Is Closer to Setting Rules for CBD – Barron’s, Barrons, 3 June 2019, www.barrons.com/articles/marijuana-legal-illinois-51559572189.

Mitchell, Thomas. “Governor Jared Polis Signs Bill Legalizing Social Marijuana Use Areas.” Westword, 4, 3 June 2019, www.westword.com/marijuana/colorado-governor-signs-bill-legalizing-marijuana-cafes-lounges-and-other-social-use-areas-11360517.

ReporterTrevor. “Illinois Posed to Legalize Marijuana Sales, Expunge Criminal Records for Pot Crimes.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 2 June 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/31/legal-marijuana-illinois-could-become-11-th-state-legalize-weed/1305090001/.

Staff, Leafly. “5 Takeaways From the FDA’s Hearing on CBD.” Leafly, 31 May 2019, www.leafly.com/news/politics/5-takeaways-from-the-fdas-hearing-on-cbd.

“US Holds CBD Hearing as Fans, Sellers Await Legal Clarity.” FOX 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV | News, Weather, Sports, 2 June 2019, fox4kc.com/2019/06/01/us-holds-cbd-hearing-as-fans-sellers-await-legal-clarity/.

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