As of September 2018, nine states, including the District of Columbia, allow adult-use (recreational) marijuana and thirty-one states have adopted laws legalizing the sale and use of medical marijuana. The possession and sale of marijuana, however, remains illegal at the federal level due to the Controlled Substances Act’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

For a cannabis business operating within the bounds of state law seeking to enter the marijuana industry, the juxtaposition of marijuana’s quasi-legality raises important legal and practical concerns, one of the most pressing being access to banking. The Federal Bank Secrecy Act (the “BSA”), 31 U.S.C 5311 et seq, prohibits national financial and banking institutions from accepting money generated from the sale of cannabis, often forcing marijuana companies to operate on a cash-only basis and putting them at risk of criminal activity. The cannabis industry’s bout with banking has somewhat of a rocky history.

Continue Reading Don’t Bank on it Just Yet: Financial Services Uncertainty in the Cannabis Industry

With medical marijuana legal in more than half of the United States and nearly 70% of the country having access to medical marijuana, the clinical research on the health benefits and healing properties of cannabinoids is contributing to the growing empirical studies and evidence supporting the use of marijuana as an effective medicine.

Frustratingly, however, many medical cannabis patients suffering from debilitating conditions and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, muscular dystrophy, seizure disorders, anxiety, migraines, and chronic pain, must solely bear the cost of medicine in the form of cannabis because it is not covered by healthcare insurance. Although a physician’s recommendation of cannabis for a patient’s qualifying ailments is no different than a script for opioids, anticonvulsants, or antidepressants, the patient’s health insurance provider will cover the cost of the latter but not the former.

Why? Several reasons.

Continue Reading Availability of Medical Insurance Coverage for Medical Cannabis Patients

Recently, on June 25, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, which is a prescription drug containing cannabidiol (CBD) isolate. Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved medicine that contains plant-derived, non-synthetic cannabinoids. The drug is used for treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe types of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. CBD is a chemical component of the cannabis sativa plant, also known commonly as marijuana. Another form of the cannabis sativa plant is hemp. Marijuana and hemp contain both CBD and tetrahydrocannibol (THC) components. The difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of THC that each plant produces. While marijuana can produce up to 30% of THC, hemp can produce no more than 0.3%. Hence, the critical difference is that hemp has no psychoactive effect. Moreover, the Ninth Circuit also recently ruled that CBD derived from hemp is not a controlled substance.

Though the recent approvals do not change the state of the law with respect to marijuana, the tides are slowly changing. Epidiolex is now the first FDA-approved drug that contains substance derived from marijuana. It is therefore possible that the approval of Epidiolex may lead the Drug Enforcement Administration to review and reschedule the status of cannabinoids under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA).

Continue Reading How to Protect Cannabis Related Intellectual Property: Recent Developments & Tips for Cannabis Businesses

Trademarks are a popular and effective way of building and protecting a business’s brand. A trademark can be any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes a maker’s goods from those manufactured or sold by others.

Trademark owners enjoy certain intellectual property rights and protections against infringement. These rights are earned through the actual use of the mark in the marketplace or through registering the mark with either the state or federal government. Trademarks are source identifiers that distinguish competing products and give businesses brand recognition among discerning consumers. They are also powerful tools for growing businesses and start-ups.

Not all marks, however, are eligible for federal registration as a number of cannabis-touching businesses have learned the hard way.

Continue Reading How to Protect Cannabis Related Intellectual Property: Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents

Since 1970, the federal government has maintained a strict prohibition on cannabis, but in recent years, that prohibition has been bypassed by a growing number of states that have legalized medical and adult use marijuana. New Jersey is now poised to join the green revolution sweeping the nation. Learning from the successes and follies of California, Colorado, Washington State, Nevada, Oregon and others, New Jersey is aptly positioned to create, regulate, and tax a robust cannabis market.

As of June 2018, two New Jersey state Senate bills have been introduced by Senator Nicholas Scutari, S2702 and S2703. If passed, the legislation would allow consumers over the age of 21 to obtain and personally use up to one ounce of marijuana.

Continue Reading Beyond the Horizon: Proposed New Jersey Bills Pave Way for Legalizing Cannabis