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Rand Paul Pushes Hemp Banking Amendment



Federal authorities would no longer be able to punish banks that work with businesses that grow, process and sell hemp products under an amendment up for consideration in the U.S. Senate this week.

The measure, submitted on Tuesday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), seeks to include the protections for hemp banking in the large-scale Farm Bill, which is currently on the Senate floor. The legislation, as currently drafted, already includes provisions that would legalize the cultivation of the non-psychoactive marijuana cousin.

Paul’s fellow home-state senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been the leading force for hemp legalization in Congress this year.

“American consumers are buying hemp but thanks to heavy-handed regulation, the only option at scale is importing hemp from foreign producers,” he said in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday. “Enough is enough.”

Watch Mitch McConnell Push Hemp Legalization On The Senate Floor

It is unclear if Paul’s amendment will receive a floor vote.

See the full text of the new hemp banking amendment below:

  SA 3198. Mr. PAUL submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by 
him to the bill H.R. 2, to provide for the reform and continuation of 
agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture 
through fiscal year 2023, and for other purposes; which was ordered to 
lie on the table; as follows:

       At the end of subtitle F of title XI, add the following:


       (a) Safe Harbor for Depository Institutions.--A Federal 
     banking regulator may not--
       (1) terminate or limit the deposit insurance or share 
     insurance of a depository institution under the Federal 
     Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1811 et seq.) or the Federal 
     Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.) solely because the 
     depository institution provides or has provided financial 
     services to a hemp-related legitimate business;
       (2) prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a 
     depository institution from providing financial services to a 
     hemp-related legitimate business or to a State or Indian 
     tribe that exercises jurisdiction over hemp-related 
     legitimate businesses;
       (3) recommend, incentivize, or encourage a depository 
     institution not to offer financial services to the owner, 
     operator, or an individual that is an account holder of a 
     hemp-related legitimate business, or downgrade or cancel 
     financial services offered to an account holder of a hemp-
     related legitimate business solely because--
       (A) the account holder later becomes a hemp-related 
     legitimate business; or
       (B) the depository institution was not aware that the 
     account holder is the owner or operator of a hemp-related 
     legitimate business; and
       (4) take any adverse or corrective supervisory action on a 
     loan to an owner or operator of--
       (A) a hemp-related legitimate business solely because the 
     business owner or operator is a hemp-related business without 
     express statutory authority, as in effect on the day before 
     the date of enactment of this Act; or
       (B) real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a 
     hemp-related legitimate business solely because the owner or 
     operator of the real estate or equipment leased or sold the 
     equipment or real estate to a hemp-related legitimate 
       (b) Protections Under Federal Law.--
       (1) In general.--In a State, political subdivision of a 
     State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, 
     production, manufacturing, transportation, display, 
     dispensing, distribution, sale, or purchase of hemp pursuant 
     to a law (including regulations) of the State, political 
     subdivision of the State, or the Indian tribe that has 
     jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable, a 
     depository institution and the officers, director, and 
     employees of the depository institution that provides 
     financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business may 
     not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law (including 
       (A) solely for providing the financial services pursuant to 
     the law (including regulations) of the State, political 
     subdivision of the State, or Indian tribe; or
       (B) for further investing any income derived from the 
     financial services.
       (2) Forfeiture.--A depository institution that has a legal 
     interest in the collateral for a loan made to an owner or 
     operator of a hemp-related legitimate business, or to an 
     owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased 
     or sold to a hemp-related legitimate business, shall not be 
     subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of 
     that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing 
     the loan or other financial services solely because the 
     collateral is owned by a hemp-related business.
       (c) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section shall 
     require a depository institution to provide financial 
     services to a hemp-related legitimate business.
       (d) Requirements for Filing Suspicious Activity Reports.--
     Section 5318(g) of title 31, United States Code, is amended 
     by adding at the end the following:
       ``(5) Requirements for hemp-related businesses.--
       ``(A) Definitions.--In this paragraph--
       ``(i) the term `financial service' means a financial 
     product or service, as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-
     Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 
     U.S.C. 5481);
       ``(ii) the term `hemp' has the meaning given the term in 
     section 10111 of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018;
       ``(iii) the term `hemp-related legitimate business' has the 
     meaning given the term in section 11618(e) of the Agriculture 
     and Nutrition Act of 2018;
       ``(iv) the term `Indian country' has the meaning given the 
     term in section 1151 of title 18; and
       ``(v) the term `Indian tribe' has the meaning given the 
     term in section 102 of the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe 
     List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 479a).
       ``(B) Reporting of suspicious transactions.--A financial 
     institution or any director, officer, employee, or agent of a 
     financial institution that reports a suspicious activity 
     related to a transaction by a hemp-related legitimate 
     business shall comply with appropriate guidance issued by the 
     Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The Secretary shall 
     ensure that the guidance is consistent with the purpose and 
     intent of this paragraph and does not inhibit the provision 
     of financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business 
     in a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian 
     country that has allowed the cultivation, production, 
     manufacturing, transportation, display, dispensing, 
     distribution, sale, or purchase of hemp, or any other conduct 
     relating to hemp, pursuant to law or regulation of the State, 
     the political subdivision of the State, or Indian tribe that 
     has jurisdiction over the Indian country.''.
       (e) Definitions.--In this section:
       (1) Company.--The term ``company'' means a partnership, 
     corporation, association, (incorporated or unincorporated), 
     trust, estate, cooperative organization, State, or any other 
       (2) Depository institution.--The term ``depository 
     institution'' means--
       (A) a depository institution as defined in section 3(c) of 
     the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1813(c));
       (B) a Federal credit union as defined in section 101 of the 
     Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1752); or
       (C) a State credit union as defined in section 101 of the 
     Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1752).
       (3) Federal banking regulator.--The term ``Federal banking 
     regulator'' means each of the Board of Governors of the 
     Federal Reserve System, the Bureau of Consumer Financial 
     Protection, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the 
     Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National 
     Credit Union Administration, or any Federal agency or 
     department that regulates banking or financial services, as 
     determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.
       (4) Financial service.--The term ``financial service'' 
     means a financial product or service, as defined in section 
     1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer 
     Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481).
       (5) Hemp.--The term ``hemp'' has the meaning given the term 
     in section 10111.
       (6) Hemp product.--The term ``hemp product'' means any 
     article which contains hemp, including an article which is a 
     concentrate, an edible, a tincture, a hemp-infused product, 
     or a topical.
       (7) Hemp-related legitimate business.--The term ``hemp-
     related legitimate business'' means a manufacturer, producer, 
     or any person or company that--
       (A) engages in any activity described in subparagraph (B) 
     pursuant to a law established by a State or a political 
     subdivision of a State; and
       (B)(i) participates in any business or organized activity 
     that involves handling hemp or hemp products, including 
     cultivating, producing, manufacturing, selling, transporting, 
     displaying, dispensing, distributing, or purchasing hemp or 
     hemp products; or
       (ii) provides--
       (I) any financial service, including retirement plans or 
     exchange traded funds, relating to hemp; or
       (II) any business services, including the sale or lease of 
     real or any other property, legal or other licensed services, 
     or any other ancillary service, relating to hemp.
       (8) Indian country.--The term ``Indian country'' has the 
     meaning given the term in section 1151 of title 18, United 
     States Code.
       (9) Indian tribe.--The term ``Indian tribe'' has the 
     meaning given the term in section 102 of the Federally 
     Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 479a).
       (10) Manufacturer.--The term ``manufacturer'' means a 
     person or company who manufactures, compounds, converts, 
     processes, prepares, or packages hemp or hemp products.
       (11) Producer.--The term ``producer'' means a person or 
     company who plants, cultivates, harvests, or in any way 
     facilitates the natural growth of hemp.
       (12) State.--The term ``State'' means each of the several 
     States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, any territory 
     or possession of the United States.
Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)


Marijuana Companies Urged Governor To Ban Cannabis Home Cultivation, Document Shows



New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took marijuana reform supporters by pleasant surprise when he endorsed legalization last year after previously calling cannabis a “gateway drug” that should remain prohibited. But for advocates, there was at least one major disappointment in store when he got around to revealing the details of his plan: the proposal, unveiled as part of his budget last month, would ultimately include a ban on home cultivation of recreational marijuana.

Home growing—seen by many as a commonsense policy that ensures access to cannabis for individuals who can’t afford retail prices, live too far from a dispensary or just want to flex their green thumbs—has been a feature of almost all legal adult-use marijuana systems operating in the U.S., with the exception of Washington State’s. So what’s behind the New York governor’s opposition to letting adults cultivate their own crops?

It could be that Cuomo took a page from the commercial cannabis industry. Literally.

Roughly a month before the governor announced the details of his legalization proposal, a New York-based marijuana business association—led by the executives of the state’s major licensed medical cannabis providers—sent a policy statement to Cuomo’s office in the interest of offering “some thoughts on various issues associated with a transition from medical to adult-use.”

One of those thoughts centered on the businesses’ desire to prevent consumers from growing their own marijuana.

Politico first reported the existence of the document, created by New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA), in December. This month, Marijuana Moment obtained the full 29-page memo through a state freedom of information law request.

There are some broad recommendations that most legalization supporters would take no issue with, such as encouraging individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition to participate in the legal industry and leveraging partnerships to expand research into medical cannabis.

But a chapter titled “The Fallacy of Home Grow” makes very specific—and, in the eyes of advocates, misleading—arguments against allowing marijuana cultivation for personal use.

The group recognized that people want home cultivation because of “currently high prices of medical marijuana” or because they see it as an “individual civil liberty.” But according to NYMCIA, home cultivation “creates a significant public safety and black market risk.”

The industry organization listed five claims to support that argument:

1. Home grow will make it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market.

2. Home grow will make it impossible for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal products, thus frustrating enforcement efforts.

3. Home grow will undermine the state’s harm reduction goal of ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is grown without noxious pesticides or other contaminants.

4. Home grow will undermine the state’s public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and and labeled correctly.

5. Home grow will cost the state tax revenue, thus hindering the state’s ability to fund priorities such as drug abuse treatment and community investment.

Per that last point, it’s entirely reasonable to assume that New York state would miss out on some sales tax revenue if residents decided to grow their own plants. But the other side of that dilemma is that it’d likely mean missed profits for cannabis businesses, including those affiliated with NYMCIA.

“From our perspective, it’s really hard to see any real reason—other than individual and corporate greed—to be against home cultivation at this point,” Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “There’s not a lot of rational concerns when it comes to allowing a limited amount of plants for an individual to grow at home.”

Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, also pushed back against NYMCIA’s claim that a home grow option would make eliminating the illicit market “impossible.”

It’s the “fallacy of ‘The Fallacy of Home Grow,'” as she put it. It would make more sense to attribute difficulties reducing illicit market sales to state tax rates on retail cannabis, she said in a phone interview.

“It’s really disingenuous to try to say that it would not be possible to eliminate the illicit market if we allow for home grow. That certainly hasn’t been the experience of other states that allow home grow.”

Moreover, NYMCIA’s position is not consistent with that of other marijuana industry groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), which argues that allowing home growing can actually benefit businesses.

“NCIA does not oppose limited home cultivation,” Morgan Fox, media relations director at the group, said in an email. “In fact, it can act as an incubator for people to develop skills which can be used in the legal cannabis industry, which benefits businesses as well as individuals looking to enter the market. Much like home brewing has helped spur interest the craft beer market, limited home cannabis cultivation can do the same in legal states.”

Who is involved in NYMCIA and why do they want to ban home cultivation?

Marijuana companies Columbia Care, Etain, PharmaCann, The Botanist and Acreage NY, Vireo Health and MedMen were all listed as members of NYMCIA in the memo to Cuomo’s office. (MedMen later acquired PharmaCann, and more recently, NYMCIA urged MedMen to leave the association amid a controversy over racist remarks allegedly made by the company’s executives).

(A separate controversy previously enveloped Columbia Care, which owns dispensaries and grow facilities in multiple states, after its Massachusetts-based subsidiary, Patriot Care, was discovered to be advocating against letting certain people with past drug convictions work in the legal cannabis industry).

Acreage Holdings, a cannabis firm that Republican former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner joined as a board member, declined to comment for this story through a public relations firm that represents the company.

A MedMen spokesperson said in a statement to Marijuana Moment that it “respects the right of those who choose to cultivate cannabis for their personal use,” but did not respond to specific questions about the company’s involvement in drafting the policy statement that urged New York officials to continue prohibiting such activity.

Jeremy Unruh, director of public and regulatory affairs at PharmaCann, told Marijuana Moment that the document “was our industry association’s first go at formulating some broad policy positions” prior to meeting with the governor’s office and that the company’s “position on home grow is far more nuanced than a simple approve/oppose.”

“Those policy points you have are sound, but our positions have evolved (and will continue to do so) as we’ve had a chance to socialize these concepts” with other stakeholders, Unruh said. He argued that New York has superior quality control standards in place for medical cannabis and that while the company recognizes “the nature and value of civil liberty” of home cultivation, allowing it would pose public health risks.

But ultimately, “Our position is this: We support the governor’s homegrow proposal,” he wrote in an email.

While recommending that lawmakers ban personal cultivation of recreational marijuana, Cuomo did include a home grow option for medical cannabis patients in his budget plan.

(Full disclosure: Several members of the companies involved in NYMCIA support Marijuana Moment through monthly Patreon pledges, or have in the past.)

Cannabis reform advocates aren’t buying NYMCIA’s claims.

It is quite obvious that NYMCIA’s affiliates have a financial stake in the shape of whatever marijuana law eventually emerges from the New York legislature. And their opposition to a home grow option is a point of concern for advocacy groups.

“[T]o advocate against home cultivation given all we know about how it works in practice from the industry side really just is kind of despicable and illustrates their greed, that they’re willing to sacrifice individual freedoms for the slightest increase in their profits,” NORML’s Altieri said.

The association’s recommendation also runs counter to what Marijuana Moment was previously told by the vice president of corporate communications for Vireo Health, Albe Zakes.

Asked about the memo following the initial Politico report that only vaguely described the document, Zakes wrote in an email that “our CEO and COO assured me that we’ve never lobbied against home grow and in fact support home grow as part of larger legislation, as long as it is regulated and controlled in a responsible manner, the same way medical or recreational markets would be, in order to protect consumers.”

(Vireo CEO Aaron Hoffnung signed an Internal Revenue Service financial disclosure form for NYMCIA last year as one of the association’s directors.)

Marijuana Moment sent a follow-up request for comment after obtaining the policy statement through the public records request, but Zakes said the he was unable to reach the company’s executives and so Vireo would have to decline the opportunity for further comment.

Advocates question whether NYMCIA leveraged its influence for the right reasons.

Is the worry really that a home cultivation policy would sustain an illicit market or complicate law enforcement activities in New York? Are concerns about the public health impact genuine? Or is it that cannabis businesses want the entire market to themselves?

We need to make sure that we have a check on the potential greed of the industry that we can already see in these early stages based on this advocacy document,” Altieri said. “We need to make sure that the market in New York not only begins to address all the harms caused by the war on cannabis but also is oriented toward the consumer and not large industry interests.”

Banning home cultivation benefits no one but corporations and large industry groups.”

Despite Cuomo including the home grow ban in his proposal, it seems that advocates may get more time to voice their concerns about the policy. Some leading lawmakers such as Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) are increasingly doubtful that marijuana reform will make it into the final state budget, meaning that negotiations on separate legalization legislation could end up resulting in a law that allows consumers to grow their own cannabis.

Marijuana Moment reached out to NYMCIA itself, Cuomo’s office, Etain and Columbia Care for comment, but representatives did not respond to multiple inquiries by the time of publication.

Read the full NYMCIA policy statement, including the section on home cultivation, below: 

New York Medical Cannabis I… by on Scribd

New York City Council Members File A Dozen Marijuana Proposals In One Day

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Marijuana Businesses Plea For Congress To Provide Banking Access



Marijuana business owners and those working closely with the growing cannabis economy were on Capitol Hill last week, asking for the same access to financial services as any other business in America.

Their testimony was submitted for a meeting of a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, during which lawmakers heard statements on the difficulties of opening and maintaining bank accounts for marijuana-related businesses.

Due to the marijuana’s current status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, many banks, which are federally insured and regulated, avoid providing services to businesses in or operating adjacent to the cannabis market. Regardless of what state law says, in the eyes of the federal government, funds deposited from cannabis businesses can be considered money laundering and are subject to enforcement action—even if no such actions have yet been carried out against the small but growing number of financial institutions that are willing to work with the marijuana industry.

In nearly 100 separate pieces of written testimony compiled by the National Cannabis Industry Association, marijuana business owners from states including California, Utah, Washington, Tennessee, Michigan and Maryland talked about the hurdles placed in their path by not having a place to store their money.

Leah Heise of 4Front Ventures told lawmakers that not only has the current federal prohibition caused problems for her business, but the she also “had my personal bank account shut down just for being employed by a cannabis company.”

Another statement came from Stephen Madigan, the senior vice president of Kidder Matthews, a real estate firm with offices on the west coast. Madigan has 20 years of experience as a real estate broker in southern California and, over the past two years, has represented landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers in cannabis-related commercial real estate. He described the roughly $50 million in transactions he’s been associated with as “a small piece of the larger Orange County/LA market” and said that the lack of banking is “the single biggest hurdle to growth, second only to the removal of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.”

Madigan said businesses looking for real estate to house their cannabis operations are unable to provide credit or banking history and are treated as high credit risks. As a result, many must provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in security deposits and prepaid rent. Since they are not entitled to the same loans as other peer industries, they are limited to taking loans with interest rates at nine to 15 percent, due in as little as three years. 

“This is one step above predatory lending terms,” he said.

Victoria W. of Materia Medica Laboratories, Inc. described the rude awakening she experienced in moving from food safety testing into cannabis testing.

“I did not expect that we would have such a hard time simply opening a checking account in order to do basic things like paying vendors and receiving payments from customers,” she wrote. “In food testing there is no way we could have told our customers that we strongly prefer cash over check or card, but that’s what many cannabis labs have to do.”

Many of the complaints from other cannabis businesses that submitted testimony centered on feelings of physical insecurity at hauling around large quantities of cash to pay bills, employees or taxes.

“Our drivers deliver product and can collect as much as $80,000 in a day,” wrote Metrik Feurtado, the chief financial officer of Big Pete’s Treats, a brand of THC-infused cookies based in Santa Cruz, California. “We do not have an armored delivery van so our drivers face significant risk from criminals who may find them an easy target. Banking would allow our drivers to deliver product and not touch cash. Safe banking is common sense.”

Other testimony came from law firms that don’t sell marijuana—or “touch the plant,” in industry parlance—but have had their bank accounts closed simply because they represent clients who do.

The statements were part of broader discussion at the hearing about the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, a draft bill that Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) plans to file soon. He and bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a version of the legislation last year that generated a long list of cosponsors but didn’t receive a vote.

According to the draft’s text, federal regulators would be prohibited from punishing banks for providing services to a cannabis business or from discouraging financial institutions from working with marijuana industry clients.

Advocates are optimistic about the legislation’s chances under the new Democratic House majority, though it’s unclear what its prospects are in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Key Moments From The First Marijuana Hearing Of The New Congress

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New Mexico Republicans Say Legalize Marijuana, But Let The Government Sell It



In lockstep with a growing number of legislators across the country, Republican state lawmakers in New Mexico want recreational marijuana to be legally sold in stores, but with a unique big-government twist: in what would appear to be a first in the United States, they’re proposing that the state government own and operate cannabis dispensaries.

Medical marijuana has been legal in New Mexico for more than a decade, but with new Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s encouragement, legal cannabis commerce is growing significantly—and is accompanied by a growing chorus in support of outright legalization.

A bill in the state House of Representatives backed by Democrats, which would legalize marijuana for all adults 21 and over, was recently approved by a committee.

As the Santa Fe New Mexican reported, a competing marijuana legalization proposal in the Senate, introduced on Thursday by Sen. Mark Moores (R) and co-sponsored by two colleagues, including a Democrat, would follow a similar model to how alcohol is sold in at least two other U.S. states.

In Utah and New Hampshire, hard alcohol is available only at state-run liquor stores, Moores told the newspaper. Pointing out the obvious—New Mexico is next door to Colorado, where recreational cannabis has been legal for half a decade, and where border towns like Trinidad, Colorado have dozens of marijuana retail stores catering to visitors from other states like his own—Moores observed that legalization is inevitable.

“It’s just a matter of how we do it,” he said. “We should do it in a smart way.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what benefit—aside from putting a serious kibosh on the prospects for a marijuana industry in New Mexico—Moores hopes to provide by limiting sales to government-run outlets.

In Canada, where recreational marijuana went on sale in October, some provinces, including New Brunswick, allow sales only at government-run retail locations, according to CBC. Other provinces allow private commercial operators to sell marijuana online and at brick-and-mortar locations without appreciable ill effect.

In Uruguay, legal marijuana sales are limited to private pharmacies as opposed to separate, marijuana-only retail stores.

The New Mexico proposal would be a new model for the United States. In nearby Nevada as well as California, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, where recreational marijuana is legal and available in stores, it’s sold at government-regulated, privately run businesses.

The closest analogue seems to be found in North Bonneville, Washington, which is the first and only city to open a government-run dispensary in the country. Faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, the city’s mayor launched the cannabis shop in a last-ditch effort to amass badly needed revenue.

In New Mexico, excluding entrepreneurs like Duke Rodriguez, president of Ultra Health LLC, the state’s largest medical marijuana company, seems a discordant move for an ostensibly business-friendly Republican.

New Mexico has been a reliably blue state in recent presidential elections, but like many other states in the West, it also has a deep, small-government libertarian streak.

With that in mind, Rodriguez isn’t sure if New Mexico’s state government is up to the task of running what’s become a billion-dollar industry in other states.

“The state has problems sending [medical cannabis] cards on time,” he told The New Mexican. “Are they really ready to build and open a couple of hundred stores across the state?”

Vermont Bill To Legalize Marijuana Sales Approved By Key Committee

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