New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Proposed Legislation on Legalization of Cannabis
Under the leadership of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (whose party also controls the State legislature), the Empire State appears poised to become one of the next states to legalize the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale, and adult use of cannabis for recreational purposes.
Indeed, on the heels of a series of public hearings and a report from the New York Department of Health, advocating for decriminalization of cannabis (not to mention similar legislation under consideration in New Jersey), Gov. Cuomo unveiled the proposed legislation, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (CRTA), to do just that—while also expanding the state’s nascent medical marijuana program and differentiating between industrial hemp and hemp cannabis markets.
All eyes in the medical cannabis industry are watching a December deadline faced by Congress. A short-term funding deal signed into law on September 8 by President Donald Trump not only kept the government running, it also preserved an existing provision known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment that prohibited the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. That deal will expire on December 8, and Congress will have to approve a new version of the amendment if the protections are to remain in the next spending bill.
The House Appropriations Committee released the 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill on May 1 as part of the fiscal year. Congress decided to continue the 2015 rider that prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds to prevent state implementation of their medical marijuana laws. The new rider expires on September 30, 2017, the end of the fiscal year, unless it is included in the next appropriations bill. Past legislative actions suggest its continuation is more likely than not.
Justice Department has options to crack down, but may galvanize the push for even wider legalization
In statements that were perhaps inevitable but nonetheless surprising to the cannabis industry, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on February 23, 2017, provided the first official comments on how the Trump administration may address recreational marijuana.
Responding to a question from an Arkansas reporter regarding medical marijuana, Spicer indicated that the Trump administration sees “a big difference” between medical and recreational marijuana, stating that federal law needs to be followed “when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
Spicer also indicated that enforcement decisions will primarily be a Department of Justice (“DOJ”) matter, stating that enforcement is “a question for the Department of Justice,” but that he believed there would be “greater enforcement of [federal law], because again, there’s a big difference between medical use, which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was on how the Department of Justice would handle that issue,” which, Spicer stated, is “very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”
Although Spicer’s statements should probably not be considered as the Trump administration’s definitive policy statement on recreational marijuana use, they do raise a variety of concerns for cannabis businesses.
On Wednesday, June 8th, Governor John Kasich signed Ohio House Bill 523 to authorize the medical use of marijuana in Ohio, which will take effect in 90 days. While initially remaining quiet regarding his position on the issue, Kasich had earlier stated that he would follow the recommendations of physicians, but that he wanted to provide relief to children in pain.
Although medical marijuana will be legal in Ohio in September, it will take much longer to establish its rules for patients, growers and dispensaries (likely eight months). In the meantime, however, medical marijuana may be legally purchased in other states where it is legal and brought back into Ohio. Once the rules are established, out of state medical marijuana will no longer be legally transported into Ohio.
One distinguishing aspect of the new law is that it is still illegal to smoke medical marijuana in Ohio – vaporizers, edibles and oils are the only legal forms of its use. It should also be noted that recreational use of marijuana remains illegal and that employers will be allowed to fire employees who violate company policies against marijuana use, even if used for medical purposes.
Under the law, physicians who are certified by the Medical Board of Ohio may recommend medical marijuana to those suffering a number of medical conditions after attending at least two hours of training on diagnosing and treating conditions with medical marijuana.
Growers interested in growing medical marijuana will have to file an application with the Ohio Department of Commerce. Growers will not be allowed within 500 feet of schools, public playgrounds, churches, public parks or public libraries, and applicants with criminal convictions will be disqualified.
Washington State Bar Association is hosting its CLE program, “Marijuana Law: Changes in Regulation and Best Practices” seminar taking place next Tuesday, April 12, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.
The marijuana industry is a rapidly evolving landscape. The seminar will address changes and updates in the law, what constitutes medical marijuana, commercial best practices relating to contracts, and ethical considerations in running a cannabis law practice.
The seminar will kick off with introductions by program Co-Chairs, Andy I. Aley, Owner at Garvey Schubert Barer and Co-Chair of the Cannabis practice group and Jared Van Kirk, Owner at GSB and Co-Chair of its Labor and Employment practice group. Emily Harris Gant, also Co-Chair of Garvey Schubert Barer’s Cannabis practice group, will lead off the seminar with reviews of Washington’s legislative and regulatory updates.
Foster Garvey’s Cannabis practice group comprises a premier legal counsel team who provides a full range of legal services such as regulatory compliance, marijuana licensing, business finance, contracts, labor and employment, health care, real estate, intellectual property, litigation and dispute resolution, technology and tax. Our team possesses deep and diverse industry experience and has counseled clients across virtually all industry sectors. We understand the inherent challenges that licensed marijuana and ancillary businesses in Washington state, Oregon and Alaska are burdened with in this highly regulated industry as they deal with onerous state and local regulations as well as uncertainty resulting from federal law.
We are committed to helping our clients achieve their business goals while navigating the intricacies in this rapidly changing area of law. We prize innovation and entrepreneurship, and closely monitoring industry trends.