The past year saw a multitude of milestones both within pop culture and on a legislative level alike. To name a few, online searches for CBDoutnumbered those for Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian. Other celebrities like Martha Stewart, Drake, Gwyneth Paltrow and Montel Williams either announced or debuted their own cannabis or CBD-specific lines, and countless others worked to shift the social stigma surrounding the plant within the mainstream. Meanwhile on the legislative side, the country began adhering to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp at the federal level (having gone into effect on January 1, 2019).
With a variety of polls indicating that the American public is shifting its perception and interest in utilizing cannabis-derived products, legislators across the country are working to provide opportunities for citizens to vote on how the plant is viewed in the eyes of the law moving forward. Now that January 2020 is already in the books, let's take a brief look at some of the legislative developments that made headlines and drove conversations in the cannabis space during the past month.
Beginning on January 1, 2020, a series of new laws went into effect, including one welcoming great change to the legal cannabis landscape in Illinois. Governor Pritzker signed into law the Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized the use and possession of marijuana for adults age 21 or older beginning at the top of the year. Dispensaries in Michigan opened their doors to allow for the legal recreational sale of cannabis on December 1, with sales data indicating that the transition yielded almost $6.5 million during its first month of legalized sales.
A handful of states also passed legislation that center on the employment sector, providing various protections to medical marijuana patients in the general workforce, including states where recreational cannabis is still prohibited. New Mexico and Oklahoma each passed pieces of legislation that went into effect on January 1 that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of their status as a registered medical marijuana user. The Oklahoma law, however, does have an exception included for safety-sensitive jobs.
Similarly, Nevada passed a new law that prevents employers from failing or refusing to hire due to an applicant testing positive for marijuana that went into effect on January 1, 2020. New York City passed an ordinance, Int. 1445-A, that bars most employers from conducting any pre-employment testing for THC. New Jersey also now prohibits employers from taking disciplinary action against an employee due to their status as a registered medical marijuana user, as well as passed a new requirement to offer employees and applicants who test positive on drug screenings the opportunity to explain the positive results.
California and Florida are also among those with new state-wide legislation going into effect. In California, there are two new laws that went into effect on January 1, both of which aim to clarify state and federal tax laws as they pertain to the cannabis industry. First is AB 34, also known as the Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Compassionate Care Act, which allows licensed cannabis retailers to donate cannabis to medical patients who have difficulty accessing it. Second is Assembly Bill 37, which allows cannabis operators to deduct business expenses, and third is Assembly Bill 1810, which makes it illegal for passengers in commercial vehicles, such as taxis or limos, to consume cannabis. Meanwhile in Florida, a new set of regulations pertaining to the sale of hemp went into effect, allowing for government enforcement regarding how products containing hemp and CBD are labeled, marketed and distributed.
On the federal level, the House passed multiple cannabis-centric bills, including the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, the latter of which removes marijuana from the Schedule 1 category of the Controlled Substances act and requires federal courts to expunge prior marijuana-related convictions. While such significant legislation is unlikely to pass in the Senate (given the focus on it being an election year), such measures in Congress will continue to push the needle forward and work to reflect a shift in public opinion regarding cannabis.
Given the expansive range of legislative action that was taken in 2019 overall, and the fact that forecasters are anticipating the industry to continue growing exponentially this year, the cannabis landscape is anticipated to keep shifting and evolving in definitive ways as 2020 unfolds.