Photo of Steve Levine

Steve is head of the firm’s Food Systems industry unit, Steve leads more than 45 professionals from numerous practice areas focused on the various food and agriculture industries. He excels in bringing creative, cost-effective solutions to the various challenges that our clients face.

Since 2009, Steve’s major focus has been on the burgeoning cannabis industry, where he guides clients through the tangle of shifting regulations governing the sale and use of cannabis in both the marijuana and industrial hemp sectors across the nation.

Husch Blackwell’s Cannabis Group is thrilled to announce their expanded presence in the Northeast. This expansion into Boston coincides with a strong year for the cannabis team. In June 2021, Chambers USA cited the team’s cross-disciplinary approach that utilizes its well-established base in regulatory compliance to advise on a range of transactions and business structuring

On June 21, 2021, the U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear Eric D. Speidell, et al., Petitioners v. United States, which sought to overturn the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2020 opinion on Speidell v. United States. In that case, the Tenth Circuit rejected the argument of several Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not have authority to investigate whether a taxpayer is dealing in controlled substances. Because the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the Tenth Circuit ruling stands, and taxpayers can reasonably expect courts across the country to reach similar results as the Tenth Circuit did. Marijuana-related businesses can expect the IRS to continue aggressively enforcing Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to IRS Enforcement of Cannabis Tax Rules

The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (the “Act”) was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 31, 2021. Not only does the Act create the foundation for the adult-use marijuana program, it contains sweeping changes to the current medical marijuana regulatory framework as well as criminal reform elements.

Per the Act, the administration of the adult-use and medical marijuana programs will be two pronged. The Act provides the criteria for the composition of a Cannabis Control Board which will be charged with creating regulations for the medical and adult-use programs. The implementation and enforcement of the policies will be conducted through the Office of Cannabis Management which will enforce the policies. It will be a bit more than a “New York Minute” before these regulators are ready to release the more specific provisions of the regulations or application process here is what we do know:
Continue Reading New York State of Mind- An Overview of the Unique Aspects of New York’s New Marijuana Regulatory Framework.

Delta-8 has been the topic of many conversations over the last year in various cannabis circles. Is it legal?  How will hemp-derived Delta-8 THC impact the state-legal marijuana industry?  How is Delta-8 THC extracted from hemp and in what quantities?  Much of this was already covered in a recent webinar hosted by our firm a

On February 8, 2021, leading cannabis businesses, associations and advocacy organizations launched the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), a nonprofit organization focused on advancing social equity and advocating for state and federal cannabis reform.

The coalition will advocate for the descheduling and legalization of cannabis.  Additionally, the USCC aims to fight for restorative justice in communities

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“the “FDA”) in enforcing laws related to marketing CBD products. The FDA has historically issued warning letters and pursued companies that illegally market CBD products with claims the products may treat medical conditions.  The FTC has joined the FDA is this pursuit and announced settlements with six different CBD companies involves fines ranging between $20,000-$85,000 in addition to notifications provided to consumers.  Pursuant to these settlement agreements the respondent companies are also prohibited from similar marketing efforts in the future, any health claims must have scientific evidence to support them.

Industry actors making any health or therapeutic claims are vulnerable to action by agencies such as the FDA and FTC, however, they may also be subject to civil suits based on enforcement by those agencies. In April of 2020 Charlotte’s Web Holdings, Inc. (“CWB”) was served with yet another (its second) class action lawsuit due to how their products are labeled. Benson v. Charlotte’s Web Holdings, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-00418 (N.D. Ill.)  The suit based a significant portion of the allegations on FDA guidance:

 “Based on available evidence, FDA has concluded that THC and CBD products are excluded from the dietary supplement definition under section 201(ff)(3)(B) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(ff)(3)(B)]. Under that provision, if a substance (such as THC or CBD) is an active ingredient in a drug product that has been approved under section 505 of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 355], or has been authorized for investigation as a new drug for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public, then products containing that substance are excluded from the definition of a dietary supplement”

Companies facing enforcement actions by the FTC may similarly be subject to civil allegations.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Continue Reading CBD Companies Now Facing Monetary Penalties For Deceptive Marketing, Will Civil Liability Follow?

On January 15, 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) published its final rule (the “Final Rule”) regulating the production of industrial hemp under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”). The Final Rule modifies regulations set forth in the interim final rule published on October 31, 2019 (the “Interim Rule”). The modifications are based on approximately 5,900 public comments submitted to the USDA over three public comment periods.

The Final Rule contains the following key provisions:
Continue Reading USDA Releases Final Rule Regulating Industrial Hemp

Earlier this year the City of Denver Department of Excise and Licenses created the Marijuana Licensing Work Group (the “MLWG”). This week the MLWG released draft legislation regarding a continued license cap, licensing categories, and Social Equity Applicants. If passed the legislation would have some noteworthy impacts.
Continue Reading City of Denver Releases Proposed Legislation To Extend The Current Licensing Mortarium, Creation Of Social Equity Opportunities, And Development Of A Delivery Framework