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Oregon senators push for interstate CBD trade

Hemp became legal in the United States with the passage and signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, but current regulations still prevent hemp-derived products such as CBD from being widely sold, both Senators from Oregon told the Food and Drug Administration this week.

“We urge the [FDA] to immediately update federal regulations governing the use of certain hemp-derived ingredients in food, beverages or dietary supplements,” Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Markley wrote in a letter addressed to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “Farmers in Oregon and nationwide are poised to make real economic gains for their communities once these regulations are updated.”

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After the farm bill was passed, Mr. Gottlieb said hemp-derived CBD would still not be allowed in food products because it was also an active ingredient in various FDA-approved pharmaceutical products. However, as Cannabis Professional’s Mark Rendell reported earlier this week, hemp industry lawyers question that argument as large cannabis companies eye what many expect to be a multibillion-dollar industry by the mid 2020s. Earlier this week, for example, Canopy Growth announced plans to spend up to US$150-million on hemp production in New York after being granted a license from the state to cultivate the plant.

New York Governor outlines legal pot plan

Beyond just hemp, the Empire State is also moving closer to legalizing recreational cannabis. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early details of the plan in his annual budget address this week, including a proposed 20-per-cent state sales tax, 2-per-cent county tax on transfers from wholesalers to retailers and, similar to Canada, a $1 per gram excise tax on production. The combination should generate roughly $300-million in annual tax revenue, Gov. Cuomo said. His plan would also establish a new Office of Cannabis Management which would, among other things, prohibit licensed cannabis producers from also owning retail storefronts.

New York joins several other eastern American states in advancing legalization initiatives, with neighbouring Connecticut and New Jersey both expected to allow adult cannabis use at some point before the end of this year.

“Cuomo’s increased attention to legalization could set up New York to legalize marijuana before New Jersey, despite the Garden State having more than a year’s head start,” Payton Guion wrote in a column on the speech from NJ.com, noting New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy introduced a similar plan in 2018. “There is no finish line in sight.”

Trump treasury official pushes for cannabis banking reform

The legal marijuana industry might have just found a new alley inside the U.S. Trump administration. Joseph Otting, currency comptroller in the Treasury Department, told Politico Pro this week that Congress must “act at the national level to legalize marijuana if they want those entities involved in that business to utilize the U.S. banking system.”

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“If I’m a betting person, I’m like 25 [to] 30 per cent maybe next year, but I would hope by 2020 we can get this issue resolved,” Mr. Otting said.

Ongoing federal cannabis prohibition makes accessing federally-regulated banking services immensely challenging for cannabis businesses operating within state laws. As Cannabis Professional has reported extensively in the past, those challenges range from having to pay taxes with duffel bags full of cash to obscure tax provisions leaving pot companies with overall tax rates of 80 per cent or more.

Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives as of this month is broadly expected to result in legislative solutions to at least some of those issues. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States or STATES Act, for example, would enshrine banking rights for cannabis companies that comply with relevant state-level laws.

Erdogan hints at shift in Turkish cannabis policy

The largest economy in the Middle East could be on the verge of a cannabis resurgence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told municipal leaders earlier this month they had “destroyed cannabis in this country because of some enemies who were disguised as friends,” according to local pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah, referring to the decades-long United States-led global war on drugs. The report also noted Turkey previously cultivated both cannabis and hemp on roughly 42,000 acres of land as recently as 1989, with that number falling dramatically to just 66 acres in 2009. Currently 19 of Turkey’s 81 provinces allow cannabis cultivation, though only of varieties with a maximum of 0.3 per cent THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. The industry is expected to focus on industrial uses, the report said.

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