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Wednesday October 14, 2020

By Andrew Ward


September was another active month for marijuana in America. Scores of legislative action developed on the state level, while historic action in Congress was pushed back a few months more. The same occurred on sovereign land, where tribal leaders and the nearby U.S. state agree on some potentially problematic hemp. Outside of the legal realm, cannabis faced threats from Mother Nature, while one reckless extracts producer faced the music for their actions in a costly 2019 fire. 

That said, let's whet your whistle by diving into just some of the standout marijuana news from the month that was.

House Punts MORE Act Vote To Lame Duck Session

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, which was supposed to receive a historic vote in the House in September, was punted until the lame duck session after the November election. If passed, the bill would, among several points, ensure banking protections for the industry and establish an expungement process for federal convictions and sentence rehearings.

the senate
The act's passage through the senate is very unlikely. photo credit

With the vote now delayed, lawmakers won't have to let their stance be known until after voters cast their ballots in the November election. The delay of the vote likely won't hurt the MORE Act from passing the Democrat-controlled House. However, its passage through the Senate and anti-cannabis Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is almost certainly unlikely to happen, even if the vote occurred in September as planned.

Mother Nature appears pissed at humanity after years of neglect. The primarily held belief is that weather conditions are intensifying each year due to climate change and humanity's effect on the planet. As such, extreme weather conditions pounded cannabis operators across the country in September. This year's deadly wildfire season has raged on in California and Western U.S., leaving scores of people at risk. 

Numerous cannabis grow sites and operators also saw or continue to see their businesses threatened, totaling millions in potential losses.

In Colorado, a 70-degree cold snap put numerous growers across the state on edge as well. With California, Colorado, and other states facing risks, we at PotGuide hope everyone and their businesses can safely make it through this arduous time and year. 

Man Sentenced To Pay Millions For Wildfire Caused By Pot Lab

Speaking of forest fires, don't let cannabis be the cause of one. While climate change is often blamed for many blazes, some are indeed created by careless human error. In Medford, Oregon, 24-year-old Michael Cashmareck lived up to the latter by causing the August 2019 East Evans fire, torching an estimated 155 acres and injuring a firefighter during its one day of uncontained burning. 

forest fire
Forest fires, natural and man-made, have wreaked havoc on the United States this year. photo credit

It is believed Cashmareck started the fire when his butane honey oil lab exploded near the Rogue River, quickly burning through the area, prompting nearby evacuations. On September 18, the DIY BHO producer-turned-accidental arsonist was handed a $4 million fine for his actions.

Navajo Nation, New Mexico Clash With Tribal Grower Over Hemp Farm Operations

A hemp issue is brewing in Navajo Nation and the surrounding area in New Mexico. This time, the sides appear united against one grower on Navajo land.

Recently, a New Mexico judge found that hemp grown on Navajo land near Shiprock was illegal as it used out-of-state, underage and/or immigrant labor. A ruling from the judge stated that Navajo Nation member and head of the Shiprock-area grow site, Dineh Benally, was temporarily blocked from operating the site.

Benally claimed the decision was disappointing and harmful to Navajo Nation revenues and over 200 tribal members' employment. However, Nation President Jonathan Nez said the hemp plants would be gone, noting his own concerns about out-of-state workers and the potential mistreatment of tribal members. 

Legislative Changes In Several States

September brought significant reform efforts to several state marketplaces, potentially ushering in enhanced equity access and cannabis sales. 

On September 22, Illinois listened to advocates from advocates to revise its license application process after claiming that the previous process favored affluent and politically connected individuals over minorities and veterans. Under the signed plan, rejected applicants will receive a second review despite some alleging they were ousted from the application process despite initially meeting qualifications for the license lottery.

Illinois State Capital
Illinois lawmakers have begun to make progress on social equity plans for their cannabis market. photo credit

Two days later, Michigan lawmakers approved legislation that allows for the automatic expungement of criminal records while easing the application process for applicants returning from prison sentences. The changes are expected to affect hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.

Under the approved plan, automatic expungements would start in roughly two-and-a-half years. Convictions for misdemeanors would be cleared seven years after sentencing, with felony charges expunged 10 years after sentencing or at the completion of the prison term, whichever comes last. 

Moreover, in Vermont, lawmakers rounded the final corner to allow for legal adult use sales to occur. On September 23, lawmakers in the state Legislature announced the approval of a bill setting up the legal marketplace, its taxes and a state control board. As we know, the bill then headed to Governor Phil Scott, who refused to sign or veto the bill, citing concerns over its lack of social equity measure. Nevertheless, recreational sales in Vermont are now legal thanks to action made in September! The first legal marijuana sales are expected to start in 2022.

Be sure to dive in on the rest of September's cannabis happenings by following PotGuide and the stellar sources and journalists mentioned in this month's edition. 

Any cool September cannabis stories we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Matthew Guay (license)


Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

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