Thank You, Cannabis

It’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain, unless you’re in the cannabis industry. There’s much to be celebrated in this contact-less Thanksgiving Week in America. You may have missed it amongst the surge of COVID cases, the unprecedented presidential election, and the slew of voter fraud lawsuits that have been filed, but November, 2020, has been tremendous for our industry. Months like this drive me and our law firm’s clients to push forward every day to develop this business on a global basis.

In the last month, we saw an election night Green Wave — a clean sweep for marijuana reform measures which enact regulatory systems in five U.S states: my home state of New Jersey (which is, after all, the Garden State); Arizona (second time is a charm for an adult use ballot measure; Montana; South Dakota; and even Mississippi. The latter two states are historically very conservative politically, with a previously staunch stand against cannabis reform. Interestingly, President Trump’s own words were used in the pro medical marijuana initiative in Mississippi, highlighted in ads where Trump had previously stated that “[he] think[s] medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I mean I think so.” He went on, “I know people that are very, very sick and for whatever reason, the marijuana really helps them.”

Apparently, the tremendous movement forward of cannabis policy reform at the state level has followed Mr. Trump into the White House (when he was elected in November, 2016, we saw a similar Green Wave with eight of nine marijuana reform measures passed across the United States). Must be something about a Trump Presidential election that gets out the cannabis vote.

We also saw Israel announce an imminent plan to legalize adult-use cannabis, with sales to users aged 21 and up. This is significant considering Israel’s prominent position in the cannabis industry as a science and technology provider. Its domestic policies will now track its international business policies. This is big because Israel is a United Nations Member State with nearly 9 million people in the Middle East. Stay tuned.

The USDA awarded a grant to the National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC) for the advancement of U.S. Hemp exports into the international market. This dovetails with the notion that the hemp industry continues to move forward, as I’d detailed in my prior article. It furthers that precise notion by seeking to expand opportunities for hemp fiber, feed, food, and CBD companies looking to break down trade barriers in markets overseas, as promoted by the NIHC. Our law firm has been doing this for years now as a practical matter, without a government grant. But we wish the NIHC luck and are happy to support its efforts.

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Biden’s advisors are pushing a new plan to slow global warming: a soil carbon bank for farmers. This one has fallen under the radar for many folks in the cannabis industry, but if you’ve paid attention to the great efforts around the global effort to regenerate agriculture, you’ll understand that this puts industrial hemp front and center. If you haven’t yet, it’s worth your time to watch Kiss The Ground on Netflix, which focuses on “regenerative agriculture” and explores the connection between the soil and climate change, and the many ways we as consumers can use dirt to help heal the earth. Industrial hemp fits nicely within this policy, as the plant rapidly captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and makes what we breathe much cleaner. In fact, for every ton of hemp produced, 1.63 tons of carbon is removed from the air. This makes hemp one of the most effective plants on the planet to capture carbon – far more effective than sequestering carbon dioxide from trees. That’s big news for the hemp industry.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced plans to legalize adult use marijuana. Even Virginia’s Attorney General weighed in, stating that, “Virginia needs to allow legal, regulated adult use of marijuana as a matter of public safety, justice, equity, and economic opportunity…” Needless to say, this represents the continued evolution at the state level of cannabis policy forming a commercial, regulated marketplace. Maybe this will prompt Washington D.C. to reconsider its policy. We now have only six U.S. states where cannabis remains outright illegal.

On top of all of that, we saw perhaps the biggest day in recent memory for global cannabis policy advancement. As had been long anticipated, Mexico’s Senate approved a landmark cannabis legalization bill by an overwhelming vote. This unequivocally paves the way for the creation of the world’s largest legal marijuana market — if the initiative passes the next hurdle in the lower house of Congress, which it is expected to do. That will highlight the fact that our neighbors to the north and our neighbors to the south have nationally legalized this plant. You don’t think D.C. is paying attention?

Finally, on November 19th, the Court of Justice for the European Union conclusively determined that A Member State may not prohibit the marketing of cannabidiol (CBD), which is lawfully produced in another E.U. Member State, when it is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant in its entirety (not solely from its seeds and fiber). This decision dramatically shifts the landscape surrounding CBD (and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids derived from cannabis/hemp) in Europe, which has struggled mightily to outline a coherent policy on industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids. This presents tremendous hope for the continued development of the already-existing, but nascent global cannabis supply chain.

2020 is not all bad. November has been a great reminder of that and given us in the cannabis industry a lot to be grateful for. Time to give thanks.

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