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Cannabis News Roundup: 12/11/23 - 12/31/23

Recent legislative changes in the United States have led to significant developments in cannabis policies across various states. In Alabama, legal challenges have disrupted the Medical Cannabis Commission’s licensing process, leading to a temporary restraining order against issuing licenses to four dispensaries. Pennsylvania has expanded retail opportunities for medical marijuana growers, with a new law signed by Governor Shapiro allowing grower-processors to serve as retailers. Florida is navigating contrasting cannabis issues, with a new bill proposing tax relief for medical marijuana businesses, while a grassroots initiative for home cultivation faces withdrawal due to financial challenges. New York’s Governor Hochul rejected a bill that would have allowed cannabis sales to tribal outlets, impacting farmers facing market surpluses. Wisconsin is advancing towards decriminalization with a new bill proposing reduced penalties for cannabis possession. Meanwhile, Nevada has increased its marijuana possession limits, reflecting the state’s progressive stance on cannabis regulation.

Legal Challenges Impact Alabama’s Medical Marijuana Licensing Process

On December 28th, an Alabama circuit judge temporarily blocked the issuance of dispensary licenses, preventing the start of medical marijuana sales in the state. Alabama legalized medical marijuana in 2021, but ongoing challenges related to license applications and awards have delayed MMJ businesses and patients. Prior to the judge’s decision, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission issued 20 licenses on December 1st, including four for dispensaries, which led to a lawsuit by Yellowhammer Medical Dispensaries. Additionally, on December 12th, the state granted five integrated licenses with specific financial requirements. For more updates on Alabama’s cannabis program, click here.

New Pennsylvania Law Signed by Governor Shapiro Expands Retail Opportunities for Medical Marijuana Growers

On December 14th, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro signed a bill allowing all licensed medical marijuana grower-processors in the state to serve as retailers and sell their cannabis products directly to patients. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gebhard, also allows the state’s four independent dispensaries to obtain grower permits to cultivate products in-house. This new law replaces the previous restriction where no more than five of the state’s 25 grower-processor license holders could also hold dispensary licenses. The reform is expected to generate significant revenue from application and permit fees and is seen as a partial remedy to the near-monopoly in the state’s cannabis industry. Additionally, there’s growing anticipation for adult-use legalization in Pennsylvania. Learn about the current cannabis program in Pennsylvania by reading this article.

Florida’s Marijuana Legislation: Tax Relief Efforts and Grassroots Challenges

On December 15th, Florida Republican Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez introduced a bill aimed at providing tax relief to licensed medical marijuana businesses. This legislation is designed to allow these businesses to claim state tax deductions that are currently disallowed under the federal IRS code 280E, reflecting a broader movement across various states to establish tax parity for the cannabis industry amidst financial barriers imposed by federal prohibition. On the other hand, on December 19th, a contrasting scenario unfolded with the withdrawal of a grassroots initiative led by Moriah Barnhart which sought to legalize the home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients. This initiative faced financial hurdles, raising just over $4,000, which was insufficient to cover the costs associated with qualifying the measure for the 2024 ballot. The withdrawal of the home cultivation initiative underscores the significant challenges faced by grassroots movements in influencing marijuana legislation in Florida, especially when contrasted against the backdrop of well-funded industry-backed campaigns. You may learn more about the current cannabis program in Florida by reading our blog article on the topic here.

New York Governor Blocks Bill Allowing Cannabis Sales to Tribal Outlets

On December 23rd, New York Governor Kathy Hochul rejected the “Cannabis Crop Rescue Act,” a bill that would have allowed licensed marijuana growers to sell their products to tribal retailers, worsening the financial problems of farmers with excess products and no market to sell them. This decision comes amid a difficult start for New York’s recreational marijuana market, marked by regulatory delays, lawsuits, and a lack of retail outlets. Meanwhile, the state is preparing to issue nearly 1,500 new cannabis business licenses, including at least 500 for dispensaries, as part of its efforts to expand the legal marijuana market and provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs. For more information on New York’s cannabis program, visit this page.

Wisconsin Advances Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

On December 26th, Wisconsin made a significant move by introducing a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession. Assembly Bill 861, introduced by a bipartisan group including Reps. Shae Sortwell (R), Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D), and others propose to change the penalties for possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis from criminal charges to a $100 civil fine. This represents a substantial shift from the current penalties of a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. The bill also includes measures to eliminate the need for court appearances for minor marijuana offenses, treating payment of the fine as a no-contest plea. It aims to prevent repeat offense charges for possession of up to 28 grams and reduces jail time for larger amounts. Additionally, it addresses the reduction of penalties for drug paraphernalia possession. This legislative step is a response to the growing call for reform in marijuana laws in Wisconsin. It is part of a wider conversation on cannabis policy in the United States. The bill, which also gives law enforcement discretion in handling cannabis cases and limits employer liability for THC testing, has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, marking a pivotal moment in the state’s legislative session. For a comprehensive understanding of Wisconsin’s cannabis program, please refer to this detailed guide

Nevada Sets New Cannabis Possession Limits Effective January 1st

On December 27th, Nevada announced new marijuana possession limits set to take effect from January 1st, 2024, allowing adults 21 and older to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower and a quarter ounce of concentrates from licensed retailers. This update marks a significant increase from the previous limits of one ounce of flower and one-eighth of an ounce of concentrates, as part of legislation (SB 277) signed by Republican Governor Joe Lombardo on June 14, 2023. The law permits licensed medical dispensaries to serve non-patients starting in 2024. These changes reflect Nevada’s progressive stance on cannabis, building on the state’s legalization of the adult-use cannabis market in 2016 and the approval of medical cannabis in 2000, indicating a continued evolution in the state’s approach to cannabis use and regulation. 

Keep an eye out for our email updates and we’ll be sure to let you know about any changes as they occur. Cannaspire can assist you in determining your next steps, obtaining a license, complying with regulations, and other relevant cannabis business services. Please visit this page for further details.