Welcome back to Higher Law, our weekly briefing on all things cannabis. I'm Cheryl Miller, reporting for Law.com from Sacramento. Now that the Thanksgiving feast stupor has worn off, it's time to start planning for your holiday gift-giving. And if your inbox is like mine, there's no shortage of, um, interesting cannabis-related items to choose from, from the CBD dog treats to "Naughty and Nice" gummies.
This week we look at recreational marijuana's long-awaited arrival in Massachusetts. Plus, there's a patent run on marijuana products. And scroll down to see Who Got the Work.
Thanks as always for reading. Please keep the story tips, feedback and Christmas gift ideas coming. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call me at 916-448-2935. Follow me on Twitter at @capitalaccounts.
Recreational Pot Arrives in Mass.
It was a bit late—almost five months later than regulators originally intended—but just a couple days before Thanksgiving, two recreational pot shops opened in Leicester and Northampton, launching the legal adult-use market in Massachusetts.
"It has taken a little bit longer than people expected," said Scott Moskol, the Boston-based co-chair of Burns & Levinson's cannabis business advisory practice. "Some of the requirements, such as obtaining permission from host communities, has created some of the backlog."
Sales at the first two stores have been incredible—$2.2 million in the first five days, according to the state's Cannabis Control Commission.
>> Not everything has been smooth sailing.
"We're in hell," read one headline chronicling Leicester residents' complaints about traffic jams and long lines of pot-seekers snaking through neighborhoods near the Cultivate store.
Authorities said they hope the problems subside as the novelty of marijuana sales die down and more stores open. There's still no recreational outlet in Boston. That's expected to come soon, though, as regulators continue to green-light operations in a state with a dense population, plenty of tourists and lots of colleges.
For Moskol and Burns Levinson, the Massachusetts' launch is just another regional milestone for a firm that first started advising multi-state clients on corporate cannabis matters in 2013. The big issues at play right now, Moskol said, are the quick pace of consolidation, significant interest in the potential medical benefits of cannabis and cannabis derivatives and "the pent up demand in America to be part of this gold rush."
As for the top issue on his plate, Moskol said it's all the complex matters generated by "the ever-changing regulatory matters" in Canada and marijuana-legal states.
And what's next for Massachusetts? Cannabis Control commissioner Shaleen Title told The Boston Globe that it's time to start thinking about regulating the use of all drugs, not just marijuana.
Who Got the Work
• Canadian cannabis company Wayland Group has hired Matthew McLeod as its chief attorney. For the last two years, McLeod has served as legal counsel and vice president of legal and compliance for Toronto-based software company Sigma Systems. Burlington, Ontario-based Wayland has operations in five countries outside North America.
• The California Cannabis Industry Association has retained The Liaison Group of Washington, D.C. to lobby federal policymakers on issues ranging from tax laws to protections for state-legal marijuana operations. The Liaison Group already represents Acreage Holdings, the Oregon Cannabis Association and Tokken Inc., a mobile payments platform that serves the regulated marijuana industry.
• Weedmaps picked up its third lobbying shop in California. Santa Barbara-based Axiom Advisors, which also represents cannabis distribution company Herbl Inc., was retained by Weedmaps on Nov. 14, according to state filings. Axiom lobbyists Jared Ficker and Kevin Schmidt both previously lobbied for California Strategies and Advocacy, a Sacramento lobby shop that also counts Weedmaps as a client.
In the Weeds...
>> Get your cannabis patents here. With recreational marijuana now legal in Canada and some form of cannabis use allowed in 33 U.S. states, companies are "rushing to patent new formulations of the age-old botanical," Reuters reports. "This year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 39 patents containing the words cannabis or marijuana in their summaries, up from 29 in 2017 and 14 in 2016." And as we've reported, patent litigation has followed. Reuters
>> Recreational marijuana is legal in Canada and everyone wants an attorney -- not criminal attorneys, mind you, but lawyers who can advise corporate clients on all the M&A work involving Canadian companies. Toronto firms that may once have been reluctant to accept cannabis clients are seeing things differently now. “I’ve never seen an industry start to dominate our practice in the way that this one has,” Patricia Olasker, partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg told Bloomberg. Bloomberg
>> Does the blue wave mean real marijuana banking expansion is on the horizon? A lot of Democrats think so. The likely chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters, is expected to be more receptive to legislation protecting banks that serve the cannabis industry than her Republican predecessor. But there's still the Republican controlled Senate and President Trump to consider. And would legislative changes give financial institutions enough freedom from the current mountain of paperwork and reporting requirements? Stay tuned. Politico
>> Why not Minnesota? Michigan has authorized recreational marijuana. Illinois is on the path to doing the same. Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz says his state should become the next Midwest market for regulated cannabis. “I just think the time is here and we’re seeing it across the country," Walz told the Duluth News Tribune. "Minnesota has always been able to implement these things right."
Duluth News Tribune
>> Her campaign accounts may have been closed by two pot-wary banks but Florida Democrat Nikki Fried, a medical marijuana lobbyist, has prevailed in her race for state agriculture commissioner. Fried will be the first woman to ever hold the job and she says she's ready to move the issues of marijuana access and banking forward. The Washington Post
All the Calendar Things!
Dec. 1 - The Hawaii Hemp Conference takes place in Honolulu. Scheduled speakers include Earth Law founder Courtney Moran and Shawn Hauser, senior associate at Vicente Sederberg.
Dec. 6 - Marijuana becomes legal in Michigan following a 10-day wait from the Nov. 26 certification of the general election. The commercial, recreational-use market is still a year or so away as regulators work on licensing rules.
Dec. 7-8 - CBD Expo East will be held in Orlando, Fla. Cultiva Law counsel Heidi Urness and Gleam Law attorney Orion Inskip are listed as panelists.