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This week, lawmakers in Missouri, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and Connecticut renewed efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis during the 2021 legislative session, while an Alabama senator announced plans to reintroduce a medical cannabis legalization bill this year. Elsewhere, in New Jersey, lawmakers proposed changes to legislation to implement the state’s adult-use cannabis program in an attempt to meet the demands of the governor, who refused to sign an earlier version of the bill.

Here, we’ve rounded up the top 10 headlines you need to know before this week is over.

Rhode Island: Regulators have received 45 applications for six new medical cannabis dispensary licenses in the state. If all applicants meet the requirements for a license, six will randomly be selected in a lottery to operate retail locations in different regions across the state. Read moreMissouri: Rep. Shamed Dogan has filed legislation that would place an adult-use cannabis legalization measure on the state’s 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, Missourians for a New Approach has announced plans for a separate 2022 ballot initiative after an unsuccessful signature campaign to get the issue before voters in 2020. Read moreAlabama: Sen. Tim Melson plans to reintroduce a medical cannabis legalization bill this year. Medical cannabis legislation passed the Alabama Senate during the 2020 session, but failed to clear the House. Read moreIllinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced New Year’s Eve that he would expunge nearly half a million cannabis records and issue pardons for thousands more low-level cannabis convictions. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which passed in 2019 to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois, mandated that 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records between 2013 and 2019 be expunged by Jan. 1. Read moreIllinois lawmakers have proposed the creation of 75 new cannabis retail licenses to give disadvantaged and minority applicants a second chance at licensing following the controversial licensing lottery to issue an initial 75 dispensary licenses. A work group made up of lawmakers and members of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration met this week to finalize details of the bill, which will be introduced in a lame-duck session that starts Jan. 8, before new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 13. Read moreMinnesota: House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler is again renewing his push to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, announcing plans to reintroduce a legalization bill this year. Winkler told WCCO that he sees “Senate leadership as being the number one obstacle,” but said that if lawmakers agreed to place an adult-use legalization initiative on Minnesota’s 2022 ballot, “it would pass overwhelmingly.” Read moreNew York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again calling for cannabis legalization this year, announcing an adult-use proposal Jan. 6 as part of his upcoming State of the State agenda. This is Cuomo’s third attempt in three years to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state; last year, Cuomo included a legalization proposal in his state budget, but the plan was ultimately cut in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read moreNew Jersey: Lawmakers have proposed fines for underage cannabis use in a new version of an adult-use legalization bill in an attempt to meet the demands of Gov. Phil Murphy, who refused to sign an earlier version of the bill unless such penalties were added. The new version of the bill, A.5211, imposes a fine of at least $250 for those ages 18 to 20 who possess up to 6 ounces of cannabis, and a fine of $500 or more for those who possess more than 6 ounces, which is the legal limit under New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis law. Read moreVirginia: Del. Steve Heretick has reintroduced a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis. Heretick has proposed legislation related to decriminalization and legalization in the past, and this year’s bill would legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis in the state. Read moreConnecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont renewed his push for adult-use legalization during his State of the State address Jan. 6, announcing that it is a priority for the new legislative session. Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session opened Jan. 6, and Lamont, a Democrat, kicks off the session with increased majorities in the House and Senate, which could increase his chances of passing an adult-use legalization bill. Read more

After Democrats secured the majority in the U.S. Senate following the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoff election, many in the cannabis industry are undoubtedly wondering how the shift in power might affect federal reform efforts.

“The Senate flipping from red to blue is a huge green light for cannabis policy,” Melissa Kuipers Blake, an attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. “[Incoming Majority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer has long been an advocate of cannabis reform, particularly the MORE Act, and we expect him to act on comprehensive cannabis reform in the coming year.”

RELATED: How U.S. House, Senate Results Could Influence Cannabis Legislation

According to Kris Krane, founder and president of 4Front Ventures, the parent company of Mission Dispensaries, the Democrats taking control of the Senate “changes things completely.”

“It’s an entirely different calculus now in terms of what we can get accomplished at the federal level than it was just a few days ago, when it looked like we’d be looking at the prospects of the Biden administration and a Republican Senate,” Krane tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.

PRESS RELEASE--St. Louis, Mo. (Jan. 7, 2020)--Cannabis Safety & Quality (CSQ) has awarded the first CSQ Certifications to Curaleaf, a leading U.S. provider of consumer products in cannabis, and Florida-based retailer, One Plant. The CSQ Certification Program and applicable standards aim to serve as protection for these brands by minimizing the risk and ensuring regulatory requirements are met from seed-to-sale. The standards were built in 2020 to meet ISO requirements and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) requirements.

“We are thrilled to have Curaleaf and One Plant as the first of many industry-leading brands putting compliance and quality first with CSQ’s stamp of approval,” said Tyler Williams, founder and chief technical officer of CSQ. “Obtaining third-party certifications like ours helps lay the groundwork for a more self-regulated industry that continuously produces safe and reliable products for patients and consumers.”

CSQ’s licensed third-party auditors, technical directors, and consultants have been training since the beginning of December 2020 to make these pilot audit certifications possible. Both companies were reviewed under the “Manufacturing and Infusion of Cannabis into Food & Beverage Products” standard, which applies to the addition of cannabis flower or cannabis derivatives into shelf-stable food and beverage products. This standard is one of four total standards within CSQ that are breaking new ground as part of the world's first cannabis certification program meeting the GFSI requirements, set to be benchmarked in 2022. Additional standards include:

●       Growing and Cultivation of Cannabis Plants

●       Manufacturing and Extraction of Cannabis

●       Manufacturing of Cannabis Dietary Supplements

Illinois lawmakers have proposed the creation of 75 new cannabis retail licenses to give disadvantaged and minority applicants a second chance at licensing following the controversial licensing lottery to issue an initial 75 dispensary licenses, according to The Pantagraph.

State regulators announced in September that 21 social equity applicants would be included in a lottery to win the initial group of 75 cannabis retail licenses in a move that has since faced backlash and lawsuits. As a result, the original 75 licenses have not yet been issued.

A work group made up of lawmakers and members of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration met this week to finalize details of a bill that would allow the state to issue 75 additional dispensary licenses, The Pantagraph reported. The legislation will be introduced in a lame-duck session that starts Jan. 8, before new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 13, according to the news outlet.

Applicants would qualify for the new licensing round by achieving a certain score on their applications instead of receiving the highest overall scores, as in the first licensing round, when only applications with perfect scores qualified for the lottery, The Pantagraph reported.

Those who applied in the last licensing round would not have to reapply or pay the licensing fees again, according to the news outlet, but applicants would only be able to submit two applications in an effort to spread the licenses among more companies.

PRESS RELEASE - New Jersey Assembly and Senate committees passed legislation Jan. 7, addressing some technical issues and altering youth penalties that were passed in last month’s cannabis legalization and decriminalization bills, bringing New Jersey one step closer to legalizing cannabis in practice.

RELATED: New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Fines for Underage Cannabis Use in Adult-Use Legalization Bill

The bill seeks to impose fines and driver’s license suspension on cannabis possession and use for youth aged 18-21 and divert youth under 18 pre-booking.

ACLU-NJ Policy Director Sarah Fajardo said, “Cannabis arrests need to end, and they need to end now – we need legalization and decriminalization signed into law immediately. Today’s clean-up bill is part of that process, but we need to make sure that we do not lose sight of the ultimate goals of ending cannabis prohibition: to ensure that no one is ensnared unjustly in a criminal legal system marked by inequities, and that includes young people.

“Today’s clean-up bill reduces the range of fine amounts for youth aged 18-21 from the originally proposed amount in S21/A21, creates a diversionary program for youth under 18 for cannabis possession.

The state of Michigan has passed a law allowing veterinarians to consult with pet owners on using marijuana or hemp—including cannabidiol (CBD)—products for their animals.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed H.B. 5085 into law in late December 2020.

According to a legislative analysis of the new law, veterinarians were previously unable to consult with pet owners on the use of marijuana or hemp. This law would open up their freedom to either recommend or advise against giving animals cannabis in various forms.

“The current restriction on veterinarians’ ability to discuss the benefits, as well as the risks, of treatments for pets derived from marijuana or industrial hemp results in incomplete and inadequate pet health care,” the legislative analysis says. “Allowing veterinarians to become a trusted source of information, in a marketplace with many competing and confusing claims, would ultimately benefit both pets’ health and their owners’ peace of mind.”

Michigan’s law currently bans selling CBD animal and pet feed products, including pet treats. However, residents in the state can add CBD products, like oils, to their pet’s food, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The agency notes that “safe levels for animal consumption have not been established.”

A report released in February 2020 by Nielsen, a global data analytics company, and Headset, a data and analytics service provider for the legal cannabis industry, showed projected growth in the pet CBD market. The report found that hemp-based CBD pet products will represent 3-5% of all hemp CBD sales in the U.S. by 2025. Other findings from that report include:

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont renewed his push for adult-use legalization during his State of the State address Jan. 6, announcing that it is a priority for the new legislative session, according to a Patch.com report.

Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session opened Jan. 6, and Lamont, a Democrat, kicks off the session with increased majorities in the House and Senate, which could increase his chances of passing an adult-use legalization bill, Patch.com reported.

Lamont outlined legalization as a priority in his 2020 State of the State address, as well, and worked alongside the chairmen of key legislative committees last year to draft comprehensive legislation that would have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older and supported social and criminal justice reform efforts.

RELATED: Connecticut Tries Again to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis: Legalization Watch

While much of the 2020 legislative session was derailed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 session will be conducted both in-person and virtually, according to Patch.com.

Virginia Del. Steve Heretick (D-Portsmouth) has reintroduced a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, according to a local WAVY report.

Heretick has proposed legislation related to decriminalization and legalization in the past, and this year’s bill would legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis in the state, WAVY reported.

The bill proposes licensing cultivation and retail businesses in an adult-use market, and would legalize home cultivation, according to the news outlet.

RELATED: Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition Hopes State Builds on Existing Medical Program to Launch Adult-Use Market: Legalization Watch

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has announced his support for legalization, and signed a decriminalization bill into law last spring to lessen penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of cannabis.

TORONTO, Jan. 07, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PRESS RELEASE -- WeedMD Inc., a federally licensed producer and distributor of medical-grade cannabis, has announced it has reallocated all medical packaging, labelling and distribution activities from its Bowmanville, Ontario site to its Aylmer, Ontario facility which also houses the company’s extraction hub. These strategic steps are part of WeedMD's ongoing plan to maximize the utilization of its facilities, improve operational efficiencies and further align its cost structure while focusing on growth, following the successful integration of WeedMD and Starseed Holdings Inc.

RELATED: WeedMD's Bold Pivot in Canada's Evolving Market

These structural changes, completed in January 2021, now centralize production activities at WeedMD’s flagship London-area sites, which also includes the company’s cultivation center of excellence in Strathroy, Ontario. With the exiting of its Bowmanville facility, which served as WeedMD’s medical distribution hub, the company has offered relocation and severance packages, where applicable, to about 20 employees.

“Following an internal assessment of our entire organization, we took the decisive action to close our Bowmanville operations in order to optimize our production, reduce costs and accelerate our profitability goals,” said George Scorsis, executive chairman and interim CEO of WeedMD. “We are now centralizing and fully utilizing our cannabis production sites and our talent to their fullest potential. While our Aylmer site will focus on product distribution, processing and extraction activities, our Strathroy facility will continue to be the center of excellence for quality cultivation, biomass production and dried flower processing. For 2021, we are establishing enterprise-wide targets as part of our focus on maximizing margins and increasing revenues. We thank all our dedicated employees for their commitment to their craft as we continue to produce and supply cannabis Canada with our premier Color, Saturday and Starseed Medicinal products.”

WeedMD confirms that all Starseed Medicinal patient orders began shipping from the company’s Aylmer facility, commencing Jan. 4, 2021. Visit Starseed here for more information about its medical product offerings.

TORONTO and PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., Jan. 05, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PRESS RELEASE -- North America’s first research and development facility dedicated to advancing cannabis cultivation techniques and systems has been completed by The Flowr Corporation and Hawthorne Canada Limited. Hawthorne is a subsidiary of the Hawthorne Gardening Company division of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. Scotts Miracle-Gro is a marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products and indoor growing solutions. Flowr cultivates and sells premium cannabis to medical and adult-use markets in Canada, Europe and Australia.

Located on Flowr’s cultivation campus in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, the R&D Center includes laboratories, indoor grow suites and training areas in a single building. Flowr will test cultivation systems and techniques using Hawthorne’s lighting, fertilization and irrigation systems, growing mediums, and research protocols. In addition, Flowr intends to focus its own research on cannabis genetics and integrated growing systems in line with its goal of delivering premium quality cannabis products through highly efficient cultivation.

“We built Hawthorne to help cultivators of all sizes grow quality plants with high levels of efficiency and consistency. Completing the industry’s only dedicated R&D facility gives us a distinct advantage. We will leverage Flowr’s cultivation expertise and our technical capabilities into real world testing and results that will make a difference to growers,” said Chris Hagedorn, SVP & General Manager of Hawthorne Gardening. “We are proud of this collaboration with Flowr, a leading international cannabis company, with extensive growing experience indoors, in greenhouses and at-scale outdoors. Flowr is also one of a few companies that have had experience growing diverse genetics in different countries. We believe this experience will benefit our companies and the growers we serve.”

“The completion of the R&D Center brings our work with Hawthorne fully to life and will help keep both companies on the leading edge of cannabis cultivation for years to come,” commented Lance Emanuel, President and Interim Chief Executive Officer of Flowr. “Operationalizing the R&D Center is a major accomplishment for our organization and strengthens our competitive advantage in cultivation. We believe the long-term success of Flowr will be rooted in our ability to maximize the cannabinoid and terpene expression of genetics without sacrificing yield. The work we will do at the R&D Center will help us build upon the success we’ve had producing high quality, premium cannabis like our award-winning, flagship-strain BC Pink Kush beloved by budtenders and consumers throughout Canada. Leveraging our work at the R&D Center will be imperative to our eventual entry into the United States once federally permissible by law.”

The R&D Center is the centerpiece of a strategic R&D partnership formed by Flowr and Hawthorne in March 2018. It brings two of the world’s leading experts together to be at the forefront of cannabis cultivation. The operations will be led by Dr. Deron Caplan, the first person in North America to earn a PhD focused on cannabis cultivation and production. Caplan was awarded his doctorate by the University of Guelph in August 2018 and is Flowr’s Director of Research and Development. The R&D Center will be staffed by Flowr’s scientists, five of whom have PhDs in various plant biology, plant genetics and plant biochemistry disciplines. Hawthorne R&D will lead the research design and methodology.

TORONTO, Jan. 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PRESS RELEASE -- MJardin Group, Inc, a licensed cannabis producer, has announced the completion of a major supply agreement with the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) to supply the provincial wholesaler with premium cannabis products in two formats: 3.5 grams whole flower and 5 x .5 gram pre-rolls.

MJardin is entering the BC market with its new flagship brand, Flint & Embers. The Flint & Embers brand is recognized for its high-quality cannabis varieties, and has received interest from both legal aged consumers as well as Cannabis retailers across Canada. Flint & Embers remains on schedule to be available for purchase in Alberta and Ontario in Q1 of 2021.

Flint & Embers products are non-irradiated and crafted without the use of harmful sprays. The product is slow cured and delicately trimmed, producing high quality whole flower and whole flower products.

On Dec. 8, 2020, the company launched a multi-channel digital marketing campaign to attract traffic to the Flint & Embers website, a series of landing pages that provides information about the Flint & Embers brand and allows consumers in Canada to learn more about Flint & Embers strains. The company intends to scale up advertising and communications initiatives for retailers following its distribution launch in British Columbia.

“Today's announcement with the BCLDB further demonstrates that our experience growing cannabis for over a decade and our subsequent data-driven value proposition is in touch with industry demands,” commented Pat Witcher, chief executive officer of MJardin. “It's exciting to be a new supply partner with the BCLDB for the recreational cannabis market and it truly speaks to our focus on creating a brand and producing products that resonate with Canadian consumers. We look forward to introducing our brand and our family of products to customers across British Columbia.”

New Jersey lawmakers have proposed fines for underage cannabis use in a new version of an adult-use legalization bill in an attempt to meet the demands of Gov. Phil Murphy, who refused to sign an earlier version of the bill unless such penalties were added, according to an NJ.com report.

RELATED: Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Bill Delayed in New Jersey

The New Jersey Legislature gave final approval Dec. 17 on legislation to regulate the commercial production and sale of adult-use cannabis, sending the bill to Murphy for his signature, but the governor’s office sent a proposed change to lawmakers last week that would implement fines for those younger than 21 who are caught with cannabis.

The new version of the bill, A.5211, imposes a fine of at least $250 for those ages 18 to 20 who possess up to 6 ounces of cannabis, NJ.com reported, and a fine of $500 or more for those who possess more than 6 ounces, which is the legal limit under New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis law.

Those under the age of 18 would not be subject to the fines, according to the news outlet, but could be penalized with juvenile delinquency dispositions, such as community service, if charged with cannabis possession.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again calling for cannabis legalization this year, with plans to announce his proposal Jan. 6 as part of his upcoming State of the State agenda, according to the Independent Tribune.

This is Cuomo’s third attempt in three years to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, the news outlet reported. Last year, Cuomo included a legalization proposal in his state budget, but the plan was ultimately cut in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuomo’s latest proposal calls for the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the medical and adult-use cannabis programs in the state, according to the Independent Tribune, and it would offer licensing opportunities for applicants in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

Some lawmakers have criticized the fact that Cuomo’s proposal does not set aside funds to specifically support communities that have suffered from disproportionate cannabis arrests, the news outlet reported. However, the governor’s plan does set aside tax revenue in a fund that is earmarked for encouraging minorities to participate in the industry and public health campaigns, among other efforts, according to the Independent Tribune.

Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler is again renewing his push to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, announcing plans to reintroduce a legalization bill this year, according to a WCCO report.

Winkler’s legislation will not only establish a regulated cannabis marketplace in the state, but will also address criminal justice issues, the news outlet reported.

Ahead of last year’s legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers held a series of discussions across the state to gather public input on legalization, and Winkler introduced a legalization bill last spring that incorporated feedback generated from those discussions.

Winkler told WCCO that he sees “Senate leadership as being the number one obstacle,” but said that if lawmakers agreed to place an adult-use legalization initiative on Minnesota’s 2022 ballot, “it would pass overwhelmingly.”

Minnesota’s legislative session kicked off Jan. 5.

A years-long dispute over a cannabis cultivation license is headed to the Illinois Supreme Court as Curative Health Cultivation LLC and Medponics Illinois LLC battle over a license to grow cannabis for the state’s medical and adult-use markets, according to an NBC Chicago report.

Curative, which is based in Aurora, Ill., and owned by multistate cannabis operator Columbia Care, won the cultivation license in 2015, lost it following a dispute in a lower court and ultimately won it back on appeal, NBC Chicago reported.

Medponics wants to establish operations in Zion, Ill., and has been backed by the city in its bid for the license, according to the news outlet.

The license could potentially be worth $100 million, NBC Chicago reported, and the arguments in the case focus on the vetting process used to issue the initial cultivation licenses in 2015.

Medponics has argued that although Curative received the highest score on its application, it should have been disqualified because its operations would be too close to a residential area, according to NBC Chicago.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Dec. 31 that he would expunge nearly half a million cannabis records and issue pardons for thousands more low-level cannabis convictions, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which passed in 2019 to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois, mandated that 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records between 2013 and 2019 be expunged by Jan. 1, the news outlet reported.

Pritzker’s New Year’s Eve announcement pardoned 9,129 low-level cannabis conviction records and expunged 492,192 cannabis arrest records, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Alabama Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) plans to reintroduce a medical cannabis legalization bill this year, according to an Alabama Public Radio report.

Medical cannabis legislation passed the Alabama Senate during the 2020 session, but failed to clear the House.

Melson’s bill would create a new board, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, to license and regulate the industry, Alabama Public Radio reported.

Currently, only industrial hemp is legal in the state.

Missouri Rep. Shamed Dogan has filed legislation that would place an adult-use cannabis legalization measure on the state’s 2022 ballot, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The measure, House Joint Resolution 30, is a constitutional amendment. It would leave Missouri’s medical cannabis program intact, but would repeal the text of the 2018 constitutional amendment that legalized medical cannabis, which would ultimately scrap the state’s controversial licensing process and limited license structure, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Instead, Dogan’s proposal would set up a cannabis licensing process that is similar to licensing any other business in the state, according to the news outlet.

The measure also directs the state to release anyone incarcerated for “non-violent, marijuana only offenses that are no longer illegal in the state of Missouri,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, as well as to stop monitoring those on probation or parole for those offenses.

In addition, the proposal would require Missouri courts to expunge civil and criminal records related to “all non-violent, marijuana-only offenses that are no longer illegal” within 60 days of the ballot measure’s passage, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) has introduced legislation to reduce doctor visits for the state’s registered medical cannabis patients, according to a BayNews9.com report.

The bill, S.B. 214, would reduce required doctor visits from twice a year to once a year, the news outlet reported, and disabled veterans would only need to see a state-certified medical cannabis physician once every other year.

The legislation would also increase the maximum supply of cannabis that doctors can recommend from seven months to 350 days, BayNews9.com reported.

Rhode Island has received 45 applications for six new medical cannabis dispensary licenses, according to an AP News report.

If all applicants meet state requirements for a license, six will randomly be selected in a lottery to operate retail locations in different regions across the state, the news outlet reported.

Officials with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation have not yet set a date for the lottery, according to AP News.

RELATED: Rhode Island Opens Application for New Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

To qualify for a license, applicants had to submit detailed financial information, proof of a physical retail site and a $10,000 application fee, the news outlet reported.