Category: Legal (page 1 of 14)

Jeff Sessions and the Uncertain Future of Cannabis

The man who is President Tump’s front-runner for Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, today saw Democrats delay the committee vote for his nomination. Many different groups and organizations oppose Sessions for a number of reasons, all of which reveal some very threatening trends. This has left many Americans on edge, especially members of the nascent cannabis industry.

Jeff Sessions has been quoted as sayinggood people don’t smoke marijuana.” While everything uttered by politicians needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it is no surprise people who live and love cannabis felt pretty uneasy. Sessions has made public statements that the comments were taken out of context, but his history of negative remarks is less than consoling.

The reason Sessions is so threatening for this industry and community is that the position he is vying for currently holds together the rocky relationship between federal and state cannabis laws. Memos from past Attorney Generals allowed for states to implement their own laws, provided they were compliant based on reasonable standards, like reduced youth exposure and other public safety measures.

Despite Jeff Sessions denigrating cannabis users, there are those in cannabis that are not so worried about his nomination. Cannabis is at an all time high in terms of social popularity, with major positive influence from veteran support organizations, medical practitioners, and families of sick children who have miraculous responses to certain cannabinoids.

Federal law has not been supportive of cannabis, and the DEA has made no acknowledgement of the streams of scientific evidence showing the medical benefits of cannabis. If Sessions were to be approved, and he upheld his federal jurisdiction when it came to cannabis, there would be problems. States would be more apprehensive to allow for legal business, and supply would dwindle. Entire local economies could shut down if raids on cultivators began again.

Still, the majority of states allow for legal cannabis in some form, and the new administration knows how cumbersome a states’ rights battle would be with half of the nation. Combine that with overwhelming public support for medical cannabis, and over half of Americans now comfortable with responsible adult use laws, and you have a social juggernaut that would not go quietly.

But the social power of cannabis is now rivaled by the power of the industry, at least in economic terms. Recreational cannabis sales are sky high, and tax revenues have been exceeding expectations wherever sales are made legal. Additionally, the cannabis industry now employees hundreds of thousands, (if not millions) of people.

The reporting on cannabis employment is somewhat flawed due to the proliferation of the black market, but cannabis laws will inevitably change that. Licensed business paying taxes have employees who pay taxes, and the government loves nothing more than people paying them money.

It may all come crashing down if Sessions is eventually nominated. Democrats in Congress are certainly not making it easy, as Sessions’ hate toward cannabis is far outweighed by his many disparaging remarks of racism.  But even if Sessions becomes the Attorney General, there is so much going for cannabis right now, that you should feel confident in the integrity of your state’s cannabis laws.

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New Jersey Judge Rules in Favor of Insurance Company Covering Medical Cannabis Expenses

Cannabis in the workplace just got even more complicated. Under Federal law, employers have the right to terminate an employee if they discover that person uses cannabis, whether illegally or legally through state medical and recreational laws.

However, a recent court ruling has added another layer to the liabilities undertaken by employers and their insurance firms.

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New Jersey Judge Ingrid French, who has worked with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, recently ruled in favor of an employee seeking reimbursement for medical cannabis expenses after a workplace injury.

Andrew Watson, a 39-year-old worker at an 84 Lumber location, developed intractable neuropathic pain after a power saw accident in Watson enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program in 2014, and was seeking insurance coverage for both past cannabis expenses as well as future treatments.

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Judge French heard expert testimony from a psychiatrists with neurological focuses, and agreed with their assessment that Watson’s condition was well within New Jersey’s list of qualifying medical conditions for cannabis use.

While the ruling does nothing to protect workers from termination from anti-cannabis employers, it does set an interesting precedent for the legitimacy of medical cannabis to treat injuries sustained in the workplace.

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One major consideration for other insurance companies is that covering patients using medical cannabis is going to be far less expensive than subsidizing costly opioid treatments, not to mention the human costs associated with the opioid epidemic.

Lawyers representing 84 Lumber and their insurance provider said they do not intend to appeal the decision, which is evidence of a paradigm shift when it comes to cannabis as a universal medical application.

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Cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation, and beyond recreational use, well over half of American states have enacted some legal language regarding the use of medical cannabis for those with debilitating conditions. It is a little bit tricky considering that there is no standard between states as to which conditions are applicable for cannabis treatment.

Some states are incredibly limited, while others like California have unmistakably inclusive policies that cover any pain that might affect normal daily functions.

As these states adopt medical cannabis policies, employers will have to adjust certain workplace policies to reflect both the state and national precedents. These adjustments are of major concern to employer groups, especially in more conservative states that have only recently adopted medical cannabis laws, like Arkansas.
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Many newly-initiated medical cannabis states are holding seminars for employers to learn more about cannabis policies in general, and where the liabilities are likely to present themselves. Some areas of discussion will be conflicts between federal and state cannabis laws, as well as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and OSHA regulations regarding drug testing.

At the end of the day, drug-free workplace policies can absolutely remain intact, however, cannabis is especially tricky to test for use in a working capacity, as cannabinoids stay within an individual’s system anywhere from one to forty-five days. We have certainly not heard the end of the potential conflicts based on employers checking for on-site impairment versus legal medical use at home.

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Certain states, like Nevada, have medical cannabis laws that require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who hold valid medical registry cards for cannabis use. While Nevada courts have yet to rule on a case that covers this conflict, it is reasonable to assume that the language exists to protect folks who are not abusing the medical cannabis system.

Overall, the ruling was a positive step forward for medical cannabis across the country, but there are still 49 other states that will eventually have to approach this tricky situation.

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Canadian Regulators Prepare to Legalize Cannabis for Adult Use

The Canadian Liberal Party, fronted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, swept into power last year on the promise of more sensible social laws that protect rather than antagonize. One of the key promises of that campaign was to shift the national approach to cannabis. While Canada has always been ahead of America on sensible drug policy, cannabis legalization would confirm Canada’s status as a bastion for responsible drug policies.

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In America, political promises are flimsy and evaporate at the first sign of friction. Trudeau’s party on the other hand has said from the beginning that the goal is to “legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”

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A panel of regulators focusing on cannabis legalization recently submitted a report that calls for tighter controls on a regulated market in an effort to reduce illicit markets and the crime inherent with those operations. The nine member task force was composed by the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety, and Health earlier in June of 2016.

The report itself is incredibly detailed in the many possible ways to minimize the social harms of cannabis use while ensuring a regulated supply chain that enforces public safety and continued medical access.

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Among the recommendations presented by the panel were several components that have been present in all legalization attempts seen over the past five years:

  • Minimum age requirements to reduce youth exposure (18 currently recommended)
  • Specialty licensing for cannabis retailers with similar restrictions as alcohol and tobacco sellers
  • Marketing and advertising restrictions
  • Mandated product packaging that reflects risks and potency of the item
  • A safe supply chain with a “seed-to-sale” tracking program designed for traceability
  • Personal use cultivation opportunities (4 plants per household currently recommended)
  • Personal possession of cannabis in public (30 grams currently recommended)
  • Harsh penalties for the sale and distribution of unregulated cannabis
  • Taxation that promotes legal sales and funds education programs for youth and disaffected individuals
  • Workplace safety regulations and impaired driving provisions

Many of these recommendations are directly based on legalization attempts in the United States, most notably California which has similar population demographics and geographic dispersion constraints. Prime Minister Trudeau has accepted the report with open arms, and expects to introduce legislation in the first couple of months of 2017.

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As America enters an uncertain age with an unpredictable leader set to take the helm, Canada marks one of the focal points for cannabis legalization in North America.

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