On May 16, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA“) published its 92-page notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM“) to move marijuana from schedule 1 on the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) to schedule 3 (ironically, the proposed rule itself only takes up a couple of paragraphs on the last two pages of the NPRM). On the same day, the DEA released an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel (within the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), which prepares legal opinions of the U.S. Attorney General “and provides its own written opinions and other advice in response to requests from the Counsel to the President, the various agencies of the Executive Branch, and other components of the Department of Justice”) in response to questions from the U.S. Attorney General’s office about schedule 3 marijuana (the “Opinion”). While the NPRM represents the proposed DEA rule that moves marijuana from schedule 1 to schedule 3, the Opinion is essentially the OLC’s roadmap for fending off legal and administrative challenges to this historic move.

Continue Reading Schedule 3 Marijuana Alert: DEA Publishes NPRM

The biggest legal shift in the cannabis industry in decades just occurred on the heels of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) proposal today for cannabis rescheduling. Specifically, as many anticipated, the DEA will exercise its authority to reschedule cannabis from a schedule I controlled substance to a schedule III controlled substance on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This cannabis rescheduling comes in part from the recommendation of the Department of Health and Human Services to reschedule cannabis from a I to a III on the CSA. The DEA’s proposal must now go before the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval. The OMB’s primary functions relate to budget formulation and execution, legislative coordination and clearance, executive orders and proclamations, information and regulatory affairs, and mission-support areas and management initiatives. OMB will very likely review this DEA proposal for budget impact, regulatory impact, and legislative coordination.

Continue Reading BREAKING: DEA Will Reschedule Cannabis to a Schedule III Drug

Due to federal illegality, the cannabis industry has long been plagued by federal agencies taking a variety of different enforcement approaches to cannabis businesses. From the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the National Labor Relations Board to the Bureau of Reclamation, the cannabis industry has not really received consistent treatment across the board. All that to say that a new threat has entered the chat–cannabis qui tam actions. Not many people know what a “qui tam” action is. And with good reason as it’s fairly antiquated and an obscure means through which the federal government (potentially) seeks financial recovery from individuals and businesses that defraud it. In addition to the “gotchas” of IRC 280E and banking, cannabis qui tam actions are now on the table.

Continue Reading BOLO: Cannabis Qui Tam Actions

Hemp Production and Prices Increase

Earlier this year, hemp was included in the USDA’s Census of Agriculture. When hemp was first legalized in 2018, there was a boom in production under the fervor of new opportunities, spearheaded by the demand for CBD products. This resulted in over production and over supply. The CBD market was over-saturated within a growing season and hemp biomass prices plummeted, along with hemp production. More recently, however, hemp production has leveled out and is even increasing as reported by the USDA on April 17, 2024. As an example, prices for hemp outdoor-grown flower are up 35% and hemp clone and transplant prices are up 61%.

Continue Reading Hemp Production on the Upswing – Is Intoxicating Hemp the Main Driver?

Dealing with creditors is never a fun experience. However, some creditors are more severe than others, especially in the cannabis industry. One of those is the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), which administers California’s sales and use, fuel, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis taxes, as well as a variety of other taxes and fees that fund specific state programs. It’s no secret that CDTFA cannabis taxes are crippling the California cannabis industry. For example, I recently recorded a Cannabis Law Now podcast episode with Anthony Almaz, general counsel for Catalyst. Catalyst is challenging various emergency rules promulgated and adopted by CDTFA that would further expand taxable items in California’s cannabis industry. This post though is about the CDTFA cannabis creditor relationship and the myths and truths around it.

Continue Reading CDTFA Cannabis Creditor: Myths and Truths

If you’re in house counsel at any company, you’re likely looking to cut down on the day to day, high volume minutia posed by a variety of commercial agreements and transactions that come your way time and again. Doubly so in the cannabis industry given the fact that you have bigger fish to fry with labor and employment issues, day to day operational issues, fundraising and finding more capital, and dealing with the precarious legal environment created by the current federal law conflict (even with possible rescheduling on the horizon). To alleviate some of that in house stress, general counsels should be considering instituting cannabis corporate playbooks (or alternative language libraries) to make the company’s contracting process more turnkey, predictable, and efficient while cutting down on risk.

Continue Reading Cannabis Corporate Playbooks

In November of last year, we wrote about how Total Wine & More jumped into the cannabis drinks arena in Minnesota. Since then (and probably before that), there’s been an influx of “THC Beverages” hitting the marketplace, and I don’t mean the state-licensed cannabis marketplace either. At this point, you can buy these drinks online or in person at a number of retail outlets and locations that don’t have any kind of state cannabis licensing at all (here’s one in Alabama, for example). How, you may be asking, is this legally possible and why are these libations picking up great speed with consumers?

Continue Reading What’s in Your “THC Beverages”?

Between LinkedIn, Twitter, the media, and diehard marijuana investors, there is more noise and froth in the industry about a marijuana reschedule than I’ve seen since Washington and Colorado legalized it back in 2012. When speculation about the Feds starts to explode in the industry, I usually ignore most of it as fairly useless hearsay backed by a lot of hope, negativity, and/or hypotheticals.

This time, the tea leaves surround the number one question in the industry, will there be a 2024 marijuana reschedule from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on the back of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) schedule III recommendation? Namely, is a marijuana reschedule imminent that could change the entire course of success for the industry?

Continue Reading All the Outcomes of a Marijuana Reschedule

In October 2022, President Biden asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Attorney General to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. In August 2023, the HHS marijuana recommendation went to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In October 2023, HHS released a heavily redacted copy of its recommendation to DEA. And until last Friday, no one outside of Bloomberg News and choice government insiders had seen the totality of the HHS marijuana recommendation. However, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act legal battle by lawyer Matt Zorn, the public can now see all 252 pages of (and related to) HHS’s marijuana recommendation to DEA.

Continue Reading HHS Marijuana Recommendation Now on Blast

I split my time between Los Angeles and Milwaukee these days (I’m eligible to practice law in Wisconsin), and I often find myself working from my firm’s Milwaukee office depending on the month. Wisconsin is an incredibly interesting state when it comes to marijuana in that it is surrounded by states that have both adult use and medical cannabis legal regimes while it has nothing. Wisconsin’s state government is mainly controlled by Republicans who are anti-cannabis legalization. However, they seem to be alright with the concept of Wisconsin medical marijuana. It will be limited though and if the Republicans’ proposal goes through as presented (we don’t have an actual bill yet), Wisconsin will have state-run dispensaries with state-employed pharmacists.

Continue Reading Wisconsin Medical Marijuana…Maybe