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Cannabis initiatives advance in U.S. state legislatures

Momentum toward legalization at the state level continues to pick up speed in the United States. CanPro’s Jameson Berkow takes a look at recent developments south of the border.

Maine

  • CBD products do not actually need to be pulled from store shelves in The Pine Tree state, a senior official with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry conceded over the weekend. 
  • “I have one inspector that did tell people they had to take [food products made with hemp-derived cannabidiol] off their shelves [and] for that I apologize,” Celeste Poulin, director of the department’s quality assurance and regulation division, told the Portland Press Herald late last week. “Our inspectors were asked to review with people what the federal law was,” she said, referring to the Farm Bill. 
  • Last month, one of the department’s nine inspectors told the owner of a health food store in Newport that the state wanted all CBD-based foods off the shelves. Widespread uncertainty has been the norm in the American CBD market since late 2018 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings to dozens of companies selling CBD products, claiming despite the passage of the federal Farm Bill that such products still violated FDA regulations. U.S. lawmakers have urged the agency to clarify its position and in the meantime, Maine is considering a new state law that would allow it to write its own hemp-based food rules, similar to existing regulations governing unpasteurized milk sales.

New Mexico

  • For the first time in New Mexico history, the state’s full House of Representatives will vote on whether to legalize recreational cannabis. House Bill 356 passed the Judiciary Committee in a 7-3 vote on Saturday, marking the legislation’s second approval at the committee level and clearing the way for the first-ever full House vote on cannabis legalization. The bill would allow New Mexico residents 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of dried cannabis flower, grow up to six live cannabis plants per household, and impose a 17-per-cent tax on recreational sales. 
  • New Mexico’s Republican-controlled Senate also advanced legalization legislation on Saturday, with the Public Affairs Committee voting unanimously to advance the Cannabis Regulation Act, which is similar to the House bill except it would allow the state government more control over recreational pot stores and would ban home cultivation.

Hawaii

  • Despite garnering widespread bipartisan support earlier this month when a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis in Hawaii passed the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee, the proposed legislation now appears to have stalled. Senate Bill 686, which would allow licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the Aloha state to sell their products for recreational purposes as well, passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously in a Feb 7 vote. 
  • However, because that version of the bill included some administrative functions for the state’s Health Department, another vote from the Senate Health Committee became required before it could advance and that, Honolulu Civil Beat reports, “turned out to be a significant roadblock.” 
  • It is “probably too late” for the bill to be approved before a March 1 deadline for proposed laws to reach the full chamber in the current session, a member of the committee told the non-profit news outlet. Another proposal, House Bill 1383, would replace criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Hawaii with fines and is expected to pass one final committee vote this week before proceeding to a vote on the House floor.

New Hampshire

  • With a margin of just a single vote, New Hampshire’s state government moved one step closer late last week to legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. House Bill 481 passed the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in a 10-9 vote on Friday. The bill would impose a US$30-per-ounce tax on dried cannabis flowers and would limit home cultivation to six plants per person or 12 plants per household. 
  • Public consumption would also be banned under the proposal, with fines for a first offence starting at US$100, though the bill makes no mention of other locations - be they private homes or businesses – where cannabis use would be allowed. It remains unclear which of the two choices raised in the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto the bill will follow, as Republican Governor Chris Sununu has said he would veto the legislation if it reaches his desk. 
  • However, Democratic Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff told the Boston Globe in December there is enough support for recreational legalization in both chambers of the statehouse to override a potential veto.

Aurora gets licence upgrades for Sky, Bradford facilities

Aurora Cannabis Inc. said Monday that both its Aurora Sky and MedReleaf Bradford facilities are now fully licensed by Health Canada for the production and sale of cannabis and cannabis-derivative products. Aurora CEO Terry Booth says the scale-up will add 128,000 kg a year to the company’s cannabis production. The company says it expects the 800,000 square-foot Aurora Sky facility to be fully planted in March, with product available for sale by the end of June. Aurora says the Bradford, Ont., facility will be fully planted by early April. Edmonton-based Aurora says its funded capacity of cannabis production is currently 500,000 a year.Two

Hilary Black becomes chief advocacy officer at Canopy

Canopy Growth Corp. said Monday it has named Hilary Black as its chief advocacy officer, effective immediately. The company says her mandate “includes driving patient advocacy efforts worldwide, executing the company’s global corporate social responsibility strategy, and leading the implementation of best practices for diversity and inclusion.” Before this appointment Ms. Black served as director of patient education and advocacy. Before joining Canopy, Ms. Black founded the British Columbia Compassion Club Society (BCCCS), the first medical cannabis dispensary in Canada.

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Former Mexican president Fox joins Helix board

Helix TCS Inc. of Denver said Monday it has appointed former Mexican president Vicente Fox Quesada, to its board of directors. The company says Mr. Fox will provide strategic advice as the company “continues its growth into the international cannabis market.” Before becoming the 55th president of Mexico, Mr. Fox was the CEO of Coca Cola’s Latin American operations. Helix TCS provides critical infrastructure services to legal cannabis businesses including cannabis tracking technology, dispensary point of sale software, wholesale marketplaces, digital, and physical security services.

48North reports earnings; signs deal with SQDC for outdoor-grown pot

48North Cannabis Corp. on Monday reported second-quarter revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2018, of $2.4-million, an increase of 88 per cent over first-quarter revenue of $1.3-million. That translated into a loss of $872,628 compared with a loss of $1.01-million the previous quarter. The company also said Monday that it has signed Canada’s first-ever letter of intent for outdoor grown cannabis with the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), Quebec’s sole legal retailer of recreational cannabis. Under this agreement, 48North will supply 1,200 kg of cannabis to the SQDC from its outdoor farm in Brant County, Ont., and 120 kg of indoor-grown cannabis from its facilities in Brantford, Ont., and Kirkland Lake, Ont. The company says the cannabis will be delivered to the SQDC in the fourth quarter of this year.

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