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National News - June 2019

Politics and Corruption in NJ Waylay Weed

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) are on the same side when it comes to marijuana in New Jersey.  In late March both the Senate and Assembly were scheduled to vote on legalization.  Now, two months later, Sweeney has announced that the bill will not move forward, instead it will go to the ballot in 2020.  What happened?

In March a task force created by Gov. Murphy to investigate the states controversial tax breaks met with a whistle-blower who stated that her former company lied to win incentives.  At the same time, an investigation by ProPublica and WYNC found that one of Sweeney’s major backers, South Jersey insurance executive and political boss George Norcross III, was awarded $1 billion dollars in tax breaks among his company, business partners, and brother.  Nearly two thirds of the total tax breaks awarded in Camden.  With political scandal comes media frenzy, and more work.

“The biggest problem we have right now is a lack of oxygen to talk about these things.  The Senate President and the Governor aren’t sitting down and talking to figure out how to get it done,” said attorney Bill Caruso, a founding member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform.  “The legislators and staffers are distracted from trying to get the hard part done, which is the fistfight to get those last two or three votes.”

If legal weed does go to the ballot in November of 2020 the schedule would likely be worked into the bill, which would be barebones, leaving lawmakers to hash out the details later.  This means New Jerseyans may have to wait as long as 2022 before they see their first legal shop.

Players Seek to Change NFL Cannabis Policy

As legal marijuana use gains traction in U.S. states, many nation wide institutions still hold to the old ways.  The National Football league maintains a strict anti-drug policy for it’s players which includes cannabis use, medicinal or otherwise.  Under the current 2011 contract, players are tested once annually between April and August.  The first positive result requires the player to enter into a substance abuse program without any suspension, and flags them for random drug tests throughout the year, including the offseason.  A second, and each subsequent, positive leads to a two-game fine, then a four-game fine, next a four game suspension, finally ending with a ten game suspension for the fifth failed test.  According to, in the past five years 117 players have been suspended for positive test results, lost $43.9 million in salary, and 552 days of playing time.  While strict is a relative term, and these punishments may seem like a dream come true for anyone working a minimum wage job for an employer that terminates on the first offense, it still highlights the inconsistency in marijuana policy nationwide, and the players want it to change.

Although the league does not specify what drug the players were suspended for, Willis Marshall, a Detroit resident and professional football player, estimates that 70%-80% of the infractions are for marijuana.  “If it’s steroids, they’ll say it’s steroids or performance enhancing drugs,” he said.  “And it’s probably not alcohol or cocaine because that leaves your system a lot quicker than marijuana.  And I can’t see any players using heroin or meth and being able to play or even practice on those.  So it kind of narrows it down to marijuana.”  Willis produces and sells a line of CBD-infused hair and skin care products under the DaO label.  He believes cannabis is a better choice than opiods, which are rampant in professional sports, “Even in the Canadian Football League, where they don’t test for marijuana, prescription drugs are a dime a dozen in the locker rooms.  They hand them out like candy corn and that’s an unfortunate thing.”

Joining the cause are former Detroit Lions’ players Calvin Johnson and Robert Sims, who made recent news by entering into the marijuana business, with plans for a line of cannabis called ‘Primative’.  “The word Primative comes from the idea that there is this medicine we used for thousands of years before we got into the opioids and stuff,” Sims said.  “We believe that the benefits and the healing from cannabis comes from a simpler time.”  With the contract up for renegotiation in 2022, he is hopeful that the league will loosen it’s policy on marijuana, “Players should have the opportunity to use this.  It’s safe, no one has died from it and it should be made readily available to players.”  

Key Hearing Holds Fate of Cannabis Banking in California

California’s Senate Bill 51 is designed to help marijuana firms acquire traditional banking services, from which they have been denied access thus far.  Specifically, the measure would allow private banks or credit unions to apply for a limited-purpose state charter so they can provide depository services to licensed cannabis businesses.  Most are forced to deal exclusively in cash due to the tight restrictions that make it impossible for them to have a bank account. 

“Banks are scared to death, and they just don’t want the expense and the trauma of exposing themselves,” explains Gavin Kogan, chairman and co-founder of Grupo Flor, a California based retail cannabis and cultivation company. 
Last year’s Senate Bill 930, which aimed to create cannabis banks, did not pass legislature.  Some have cited cost issues as the reason for it’s failure, as the it would require the state to hire more employees.  Others believe cost is just being used as an excuse by those who oppose marijuana legality.  SB 51 would potentially create 12 new cannabis banks or credit unions, which would require the state to hire peronnel such as examiners which would cost an estimated $2 million a year.

FDA Newest Weapon Against Cannabis

In March the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along side the Federal Trade Commision, charged three CBD companies for being in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, et seq. (“FDA Act”) and Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 41-58 (“FTC Act”).  Relievus (a chain of pain clinics), Nutra Pure LLC (a CBD capsule manufacturer) and PotNetwork Holdings (a gummy manufacturer) are accused of placing “‘unapproved’ and ‘misbranded’ human drugs and adulterants” and “unapproved and unsafe animal drugs” into interstate commerce, as well as making false or unsubstantiated health claims.  Each received a letter warning them to contact the FDA and FTC within 15 days of addressing their concerns and threatening legal action including product seizures, injuctions, and reimbursement of all sales proceeds.

The major concern is that the FDA and it’s powerhouse alliance with the FTC provide absolutely no giudance on how exactly companies are to comply with either current or future regulations.  Also, Internet sales account for the majority of CBD products sold, and the health and dietary benefits are what makes the products attractive to consumers, so virtually every product will be in violation, with zero pressure on the FDA to define what is and is not allowed.  Couple that with a $6.1 billion dollar budget with federal lawyers on leashes and the potential exists for one hell of an adversary.

The FDA is expected to create rules for CBD, including material information and dosage limits, at which point it will regulate them as dietary supplements, but no timeline exists nor are they under any obligation to act. 

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