Multiple new sources are reporting that the long anticipated bankruptcy filing for Sears Holding may happen this week.

A $134 million dollar debt payment due this coming Monday may force the company into bankruptcy. On Tuesday Sears announced that The CEO of Drivetrain, an advisory firm for distressed companies had joined its Board. Sears Holding operates approximately 500 Sears and 360 Kmart stores.

While in the past Sears’ CEO Eddie Lampert has provided funding from his own hedge fund, ESL Investments, to keep the company afloat, CNBC reports that Sears has contacted financiers to secured potential financing to keep it afloat in bankruptcy.

Continue Reading Sears May Be Preparing to File for Bankruptcy This Week

While 46 states have instituted laws permitting or decriminalizing cannabis or cannabis-based products in some way, prior events this year created an environment of legal uncertainty.

Since 2013, cannabis companies have relied on guidance contained within a trio of memos from former deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole, which detailed the federal government’s concerns with preventing marijuana distribution to minors, gangs, or into states where the drug’s sale remains illegal, as well as preventing the use of the drug as a pretext to traffic other illegal drugs, in use with violent firearms, driving under the influence, and growing marijuana on public lands or on federal property.

Those companies who were compliant with state cannabis laws and did not run afoul of any of these concerns basically considered themselves as being safe from federal prosecution.

But that security diminished earlier this year when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the guidance in the Cole memos. Continue Reading What You Need to Know About the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act

Recently, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act (the “Act”), which would facilitate and encourage federally-approved clinical trials testing the medicinal effects of chemicals found in the marijuana plant. The bill is notable because, if passed, it would bypass the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as it relates to marijuana research licenses and would put the task in the hands of Congress.

Currently, the House Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for the drug enforcement efforts of the federal government, approved the measure. If this bill passes, it would provide an opening for more medical marijuana research, which has been virtually non-existent at the federal level over the last five decades.

Notably, the Act increases the number of federally-approved manufacturers of research-grade marijuana from one to three and sets strict criteria for those manufacturers to obtain and renew their registrations. Currently, only the University of Mississippi is permitted to grow research-grade marijuana.

Continue Reading Expanded Medical Marijuana Research Bill Approved by Congress

On September 24, 2018, a special ruling issued by New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) limited the type of activities that New Jersey craft breweries were allowed to conduct. Only a week later, the ruling has been indefinitely suspended due to public outcry.

The ruling affected the 88 limited breweries already in existence as well as 23 operations that have applications pending. However, the ruling was met with significant criticism and backlash from brewers as well as state government officials, and just a week later the ABC announced that it would be suspending the ruling. The suspension will remain in effect until ABC meets with craft breweries, alcoholic beverage license holders, and lawmakers to iron out new regulations, whether they come through the division itself or new legislation.

Continue Reading Special Ruling Aimed at Restricting NJ Craft Breweries Indefinitely Suspended

Without doubt, the clear public policy of the State of New Jersey is – and always has been – to eradicate invidious discrimination from the workplace, and a central purpose of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-12, is the prohibition of discrimination in all aspects of the employment relationship. Recently, this purpose has been extended by way of a new state mandate to ensure equal pay to all employees for equal, or “substantially similar,” work.

Effective July 1, 2018, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (the “Act”) became the most sweeping equal pay legislation in the nation. Prior to its enactment, equal pay was governed generally by Title VII and the NJLAD, as well as the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, which is aimed at abolishing pay disparity only on the basis of gender. The New Jersey Equal Pay Act amended the NJLAD by furthering and broadening the prohibition against pay discrimination because, or on the basis, of an employee’s inclusion in any protected class. That means equal pay for everyone regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, etc.

Continue Reading Equal Pay for Equal Work – New Jersey’s New Equal Pay Act

Reuters reports that Houston-based Mattress Firm, Inc. the largest U.S. mattress retailer with 3,000 stores is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by the end of this week. Additionally, Reuters cites that its South African parent company, Steinhoff International Holdings NV, is encountering debt challenges, as well.

It is expected that the filing would be a shedding of unprofitable stores to attempt to secure the company, much like Payless did in its Chapter 11 filing. A filing at the end of this week would likely mean that Mattress Firm does not pay its October rents on time, as it moves to reject a number of leases.

mattress firm bankruptcy filing

If you have a Mattress Firm lease, it is important to know your rights now. Stark & Stark’s Shopping Center & Retail Development Group can help.

Continue Reading Mattress Firm Preparing to File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy This Week

On September 5, 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that the NJ Department of Health (DOH) had received 146 applications from 106 different organizations to operate vertically integrated medical marijuana dispensary operations in the state. The application window closed on August 31, 2018 and the winners of the six for-profit licenses will be announced on November 1, 2018.

Each applicant had to identify in which of the three regions of New Jersey – North, Central, and South – the applicant was interested in operating an Alternative Treatment Center (ATC). Fifty applicants identified the northern region, 45 selected the central region, and 51 the southern region.

Continue Reading High Times in New Jersey: The Search for New Operators and Expansion of the Medical Marijuana Program

In 2017, two registration prohibiting provisions of the Trademark Act of 1946 (“The Lanham Act”) were found unconstitutional under the First Amendment. These decisions raise important considerations for persons and companies whose trademarks may have been previously denied registration on such grounds or those considering registration of plausibly disparaging or scandalous marks.

In Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744, 1765 (2017), the lead singer of the rock group “THE SLANTS” appealed The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) refusal to register his band name as a trademark on the principal register due to a Lanham Act provision which prohibits registration of marks that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” 15 U.S.C. §1052(a).

The band members sought to take control of an Asian ethnic stereotype commonly used to criticize them but were denied registration because “slants” is a derogatory remark used to disparage those of Asian descent.

Continue Reading <i>Matal and Brunetti</i>: When Derogatory isn’t Derogatory

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

Eight national restaurant chains have agreed to drop provisions in their franchise agreements that prohibit franchisees from hiring fellow franchisees’ employees. The removal of the “no-poach” hiring stipulation will be effective at all of their locations nationwide.

This move comes at the heels of announcements from Attorneys General from 10 states and the District of Columbia to investigate these “no-poaching” agreements. In addition to criminal and civil enforcement by both the state and federal governments, several franchisors are also facing federal class action lawsuits from employees alleging they were adversely affected by “no-poach” agreements.

Continue Reading Franchisors Face Class Action Lawsuits & Government Enforcement over “No-Poach” Agreements