Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

We begin with the claim that the Justice Department brought antitrust actions against cannabis companies due to Attorney General Bill Barr’s antipathy towards the industry.? The state of New Jersey is contemplating decriminalization, and Montana may have cannabis on the ballot.? The city of Denver gets into the R&D business.? Should the FDA issue a CBD rule quickly?? Some consumer groups say no.? Medical marijuana is now permitted to those on parole or probation.? And finally, we have an update on the Oklahoma fake email story!

antitrust and marijuana

DOJ attorney John Elias testified this week that the department was improperly investigating cannabis companies for antitrust violations. Video of the hearing is available here.? Written testimony is available here.? The DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility looked into the matter earlier this month and found no evidence of wrongdoing.? The memorandum is available here (subscription required).

new jersey

New Jersey is considering decriminalizing marijuana possession.? The state Assembly recently passed a bill substituting a fine for arrest for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana.? The bill now moves to the state Senate, where opinions against the legislation have recently shifted.


New Approach Montana submitted over 130,000 signatures in support of two ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis in the state.? This is far above the number of signatures needed to put the measures before the voters, so it seems likely that they will make the November ballot.

research & development

The city of Denver awarded its first license for medical marijuana R&D.? MedPharm hopes to start work on its first project, studying marijuana’s effect on Alzheimer’s and dementia, by the end of 2020.

cbd rule

For years, the hemp and CBD industries have been waiting impatiently for the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations on cannabidiol.? Now several consumer groups are suggesting they need to wait a bit longer.? The groups sent a joint letter to members of Congress, urging them not to push the FDA to issue regulations, as their attention has been diverted due to the pandemic.


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a county law forbidding the use of medical marijuana by those on probation or parole.? The unanimous decision applies throughout the state.

and finally

Regular readers of this column will doubtless recall that the general counsel of the Oklahoma Department of Health sent herself threatening emails, which she claimed were from cannabis advocates.? She’s now been suspended from practicing law (subscriptoin required) for one year.? You just can’t make this stuff up.

Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!

As we previously reported, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a trademark examination guide last year, broadening the class of cannabis-related goods for which cannabis companies could register their trademarks. The examination guide explained that, because certain hemp-based products with less than 0.3% THC–including CBD–are no longer controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), companies could apply to register trademarks in connection with those goods.

The examination guide included a caveat that this expansion only included hemp-based products, and that CBD derived from marijuana was still unlawful under federal law. Furthermore, the USPTO warned that because CBD use as a food additive is still under investigation by the FDA, the use of CBD in foods or dietary supplements is still unlawful and marks seeking registration for such use should be refused.

The USPTO has now issued refusals of several applications for marks that are used in connection with CBD oils. These refusals offer some clarification of the examination guide. The USPTO generally takes the position in these refusals that CBD oils are flavored and in most cases designed to be added to food and drinks, and therefore the goods are unlawful. Because the goods are unlawful, the USPTO will not issue a registration in connection with those goods.

One popular CBD company appealed their refusal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) recently, but the TTAB affirmed the refusal in a precedential opinion, finding that, even if the CBD has less than 0.3% THC, it is unlawful to offer CBD as a dietary supplement. The TTAB acknowledges that the hemp-derived product applicant produces may well be lawful, but once CBD is sold as a dietary supplement or added to “food” under the definition of the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act, it becomes unlawful. Accordingly, whether an applicant’s CBD is derived from hemp or marijuana seems to be irrelevant if the product is designed to be added to “food.” The TTAB also noted that, so long as there are “substantial clinical investigations of CBD” ongoing, the USPTO will consider CBD oils to be unlawful for purposes of federal trademark protection.

One important takeaway here is that the TTAB’s practice is to presume the goods are lawful unless the application record indicates a violation of federal law or when the activities involve a per se violation of federal law. The latter was true in this case, but the TTAB seems to be signaling that there may be a path forward should the FDA ever carve out an exception for certain types of hemp-derived CBD.

Welcome back to the Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

We’ve got a wide range of news this week.? Members of the Cannabis Caucus asked for consideration of cannabis legalization in the policing reform bill.? Nevada is issuing pardons for marijuana offenses.? Minnesota has introduced a legalization bill, and South Dakota has started the campaign to legalize by ballot initative.? The United Nations will be evaluating its classification of marijuana in the near future.? And sparkling CBD water is now a thing.

policing reform

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to their fellow House members, asking them to consider marijuana reform as a means towards racial justice.? They support passage of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.


Earlier this week, the?Nevada State Board of Pardons Commissioners passed a resolution put forth by Governor Steve Sisolak pardoning those convicted of minor marijuana offenses.? Pardon documents will be free of charge and available online.


Senator Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis late last week.? The Senator hopes that legalizing marijuana will allow for greater scientific research.

south dakota

The campaign to bring cannabis to South Dakota has officially started.? Voters will have two options on the November ballot: full legalization or medical marijuana.

united nations

The United Nations will meet next week to discuss the World Health Organization’s? cannabis recommendations.? This is the first in what is scheduled to be a series of meetings ahead of December’s vote to reschedule marijuana.

and finally

You knew it was only a matter of time.? Ocean Spray is testing a line of sparkling CBD water.? One flavor is called Elevate and one is called Descend, so you’re covered no matter which direction you want to go.? No word yet on when the beverages will be available in stores.

Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!


THC, CBD, CBN…the Cannabis industry is quite familiar with acronyms. But it’s another nasty little four letters, TCPA, that are – or should be – on the top of mind for every dispensary, delivery service, CRM platform, and private equity holding company. This as the US Supreme Court decides what the byzantine 30-year-old law will look like following a landmark decision expected by the end of June or July. Continue Reading Mass Texts: How the Cannabis Industry Must Deal with the Surge of TCPA Class Actions During Covid-19

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

Our big news this week is that the American Bar Association asked the Small Business Administration to make marijuana-related companies eligible for relief funds.? There’s plenty of state news also. Iowa votes to reform its medical marijuana program.? Maine faces lawsuits over its out-of-state licensing. New Jersey considers decriminalization.? We have a look at which states are most likely to legalize cannabis and there’s more on the Petsmart saga.? Plus, we have the latest on an Oklahoma trademark dispute.

aba/sba correspondence

As regular readers know, marijuana businesses, including what the SBA refers to as “indirect marijuana businesses” (non-plant touching businesses, such as law firms and accounting firms that provide advice and services to plant touching businesses) ?are not eligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) relief funds.? The American Bar Association would like to change that, at least for those law firms that advise cannabis companies.? The organization sent a letter this week to the SBA asking them to reconsider their policy barring companies that have any dealings with cannabis firms from receiving money under the PPP.? The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) supports a lawsuit to force the issue with the agency.


The Iowa Senate passed a bill making changes to the state’s medical marijuana program.? It sets a THC cap of 4.5 grams per patient over a 90-day period, which is more restrictive than the current limit.? Terminally ill patients could get a waiver.? It also broadens the number of conditions eligible for medical cannabis prescriptions.? There’s some question over whether Governor Reynolds will sign the legislation, as she vetoed a similar bill last year.


Maine recently dropped a residency requirement for ownership of recreational marijuana businesses.? This has been met with a lawsuit filed by the Maine Cannabis Coalition, arguing that the state had no right to eliminate the residency requirement absent action by either a court or the state legislature.

new jersey

Legislators introduced a decriminalization bill this week that would remove criminal penalties for crimes involving possession of less than one pound of marijuana.? It also includes expungement of past crimes and sealing of criminal records.? This move comes ahead of a vote on legalization this November.

where is legalization likeliest?

Speaking of New Jersey, it tops Motley Fool’s list of four states most likely to legalize cannabis in 2020.? Although they emphasize the “wow” factor of Mississippi showing up on the list, South Dakota’s appearance is even more surprising.? They and Idaho are the only states in the country that allow no form of cannabis whatsoever.? It will doubtless be an interesting Election Day.

cbd for pets

PetSmart has appeared more in this blog lately than one might have expected, given that it mostly sells pet food and supplies.? They attempted to branch out into the CBD oil market, but were met with two lawsuits, alleging their products did not work as advertised and were not approved by the FDA.? Both plaintiffs dropped their actions without prejudice (meaning we may not have seen the last of them) and without a reason.? Further bulletins as events warrant.

what’s in a name?

The dispensary formerly known as the Dank of Oklahoma will choose a new moniker.? The Bank of Oklahoma filed a trademark infringement suit against the company, alleging it tarnished the good name of the bank and confused customers.? No word yet on a new name.

On May 29, 2020, the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of an employee’s lawsuit against his former employer after it terminated him for refusing to submit to a reasonable suspicion drug test, even though his “bizarre” behavior could have been attributed to other causes. As employers are becoming increasingly concerned about marijuana use in states with recreational or medical marijuana laws, the decision serves as a reminder to employers to develop a process for making and defending a reasonable suspicion determination (including manager and supervisor training and objective and clear documentation).


The plaintiff, who worked as a “supply delivery driver,” suffered an injury to his arm and back while making a delivery. As a result of injuries he sustained while in the military, he previously had applied for and received a medical marijuana card. Although he used marijuana for medicinal purposes, the plaintiff claimed he never used it “on the clock or the job” and was never “under the effects of marijuana” while working. While his managers questioned him about the work-related injury, the plaintiff exhibited “bizarre” behavior, prompting them to request that he submit to a drug test. The plaintiff admittedly got quite angry as a result of their request and had sworn “excessively” during the conversation. Once at the drug testing site, the plaintiff submitted to a breathalyzer, but refused to submit to a urinalysis drug test. The employer terminated him for refusing the test.

The plaintiff claimed in his lawsuit (Colpitts v. W.B. Mason Co., Inc.) that the employer did not have reasonable suspicion to send him for the drug test. Rhode Island’s drug testing statute states that employers may require employees to submit to a drug test if the employer “has?reasonable grounds?to believe based on specific aspects of the employee’s job performance and specific contemporaneous documented observations, concerning the employee’s appearance, behavior or speech that the employee may be under the influence of a controlled substance, which may be impairing his or her ability to perform his or her job . . .” The plaintiff argued that his behavior was not indicia of drug use, and seemed to suggest on appeal that the behavior on which an employer relies to support a request for a reasonable suspicion drug test “must lead ineluctably to the conclusion that the employee is under the influence of a controlled substance and not to any other conclusion.”

The Trial and Supreme Court Uphold the Termination

The trial court admittedly struggled with the case because some of the plaintiff’s behavior could have been due to substance use but also could have been due to the pain he suffered as a result of the work-related injury. In finding for the employer, however, the trial judge said that “reasonable grounds [do not] have to be the only grounds,” and that while there might have been competing explanations for the plaintiff’s behavior, this does not mean the employer’s request was unreasonable.

The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court based on what it described as contemporaneous observations and other evidence concerning the plaintiff’s appearance, including: (1) testimony at length about the plaintiff’s “odd” behavior; (2) the plaintiff’s failure to call the warehouse to report his injury despite it being his habit to do so; (3) the plaintiff’s inability to clearly articulate what had occurred when he was injured; (4) the plaintiff’s bending over, repeated use of obscenities, staggering and saying that he was going to “puke”; and (5) his superiors’ belief that he was under the influence.

Turning to the issue of whether the behavior could have been the result of pain from the injuries, the Supreme Court wrote:

The employee’s behavior does not need to be such that it could lead to?only?a conclusion that he or she is under the influence of a controlled substance. The statute at issue clearly and unambiguously does not require actual knowledge that the employee is definitely under the influence, nor that the employee manifest the specific symptoms usually associated with being under the influence;?the statute requires only that there be reasonable grounds to believe that the employee is under the influence of a controlled substance.

To hold otherwise, according to the court, would require managers and supervisors to “possess that degree of medical sophistication” that would allow them to distinguish between symptoms of pain and symptoms of drug use.

Employer Takeaways

Given that marijuana legislation is sweeping the nation, many employers are presently updating their policies and procedures as they expect to see increased marijuana usage among their employees. There is a state law trend towards requiring employers to prove impairment to justify adverse action based on marijuana use. This follows from the widely recognized view that a marijuana-positive result by itself says virtually nothing about impairment at work. As a result, a best practice for employers who test current employees for marijuana, or any drug, is to establish a strong record of impairment independent of a positive result. That would include thorough, contemporaneous documentation of the reasons employees are sent for reasonable suspicion testing. It also could include an accident investigation report that rules out non-drug-related causes where circumstances warrant that conclusion.

Employers should consult outside counsel for help in revising policies, addressing new marijuana challenges in the workplace, and ensuring compliance in states (like Iowa, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, among others) with comprehensive and highly technical drug and alcohol testing statutes.

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

Louisiana is expanding medical marijuana, and the United Nations may reschedule cannabis.? Meanwhile, PetSmart faces a lawsuit over pet CBD.? MedMen has campaign finance problems, and the 9th Circuit looks at taxes.


The Louisiana legislature passed two cannabis reform bills this week.? One allows doctors to decide whether to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.? The other ensures the state will not prohibit or discourage banks and credit unions from providing financial services to legitimate cannabis businesses.? Supporters expect the governor to sign both bills.

united nations

Marijuana is currently classified as both a Schedule IV drug and a Schedule I drug on the international level.? Schedule IV is analogous to Schedule I in the United States.? Last year, the WHO recommended relisting marijuana as a Schedule I drug only.? Member states pushed back on that recommendation.? The full United Nations is scheduled to vote on revising cannabis policy in December, assuming that COVID-19 doesn’t delay the vote.

cbd for pets

As we reported earlier, PetSmart is now selling CBD oil for pets.? Well, things have not been going well.? Two lawsuits filed in federal court in Florida allege that the products did not perform as advertised.? They also note that the products cannot be sold because they have not been approved by the FDA.

campaign donations

Did MedMen executives give illegal campaign contributions to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak?? The Secretary of State is trying to find an answer to that question.? The allegations were made in 2019, as part of a lawsuit in California.? The office only recently learned of them, when they were made public in a news article this past weekend.

tax litigation

Cannabis industry groups urged the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down Section 280E of the tax code as unconstitutional this week.? They filed an amicus brief in support of Harborside Health Center’s appeal of a U.S. Tax Court ruling.

and finally

Did Jesus smoke pot?? Biblical scholars may have a new question to ponder.? A recently published article reports that residue found at the Judahite Shrine of Arad in Israel contains THC, CBD, and CBN.

Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!

On May 11, 2020, a Pennsylvania court upheld the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review’s order granting a CBD (cannabidiol) user unemployment benefits after being terminated for testing positive for marijuana (Washington Health System v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review). The decision highlights that employers must tread carefully before taking action against applicants or employees using medical marijuana or CBD products to treat various ailments.

The claimant, a licensed occupational therapist, tested positive for marijuana after submitting to a random drug test under the employer’s drug and alcohol testing policy. That policy prohibited employees from “being under the influence of drugs or having drugs in one’s system while at work,” and defined “drug” to mean “any substance producing effects on the central nervous system, or any controlled substance.” The policy did not prohibit the use of legal drugs, but did require employees to advise the employer if such use would “pose[] a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or to others” or “render[] the Employee unable to perform the essential functions of the job.” Before the test, the claimant advised her employer that she used over-the-counter CBD for symptoms related to cancer. Regardless, the employer terminated her for testing positive for marijuana.

The Board found, and the court agreed, that the claimant was entitled to benefits because the employer did not prove the claimant violated any company policy. Both pointed to the failure of the employer to present admissible evidence at the hearing that the claimant had tested positive for marijuana. That the claimant testified that she had been advised of the positive test result was not sufficient, and the Board and the court rejected the employer’s efforts at proving the fact of the positive test through hearsay evidence. The claimant maintained all along that she never used marijuana. Instead, she testified to using what she believed to be a legal, over-the-counter product to treat cancer symptoms, although she acknowledged that she had been advised that CBD use could result in a “false positive” test result for marijuana. Thus, because the employer did not present the test result or evidence that the claimant used an illegal drug, the Board concluded the employer failed to prove the claimant violated the drug and alcohol testing policy and awarded the claimant benefits. In upholding the Board’s decision, the court added that the employer also had failed to prove the claimant’s use of CBD would have affected her ability to perform the job.

As previously reported here, CBD is projected to be a $22 billion industry by 2022. However, employers remain hazy about this extremely popular product and the implications it has on their employees and businesses. CBD is now being marketed and sold in a variety of forms, including oil (the most popular), health and beauty products, vapors, beverages, and infused edibles, such as chocolates and gummies.

CBD derived from hemp usually will not report a positive test result for marijuana assuming the THC concentration in the product does not exceed .3%. However, if the CBD product contains a sufficient amount of THC, it is entirely possible the product could cause a positive drug test result for marijuana. In our prior blog, we reported studies showing that some over-the-counter CBD products did in fact have THC in them, which might explain the claimant’s positive test result in the Pennsylvania unemployment case. Regardless, before taking any action against medical marijuana or CBD users, employers should review the laws of the states in which they operate and work with employment counsel to help navigate this complex and rapidly evolving area of the law.

Seyfarth Shaw will continue to monitor legal developments at the federal and state level.

On January 17, 2020, Hawaii Senators Rosalyn Baker (D) and Brian Taniguchi (D) introduced Senate Bill 2543, which proposes to provide employment protections to job applicants and employees who use medical cannabis. If enacted, Hawaii would join the growing number of states to pass similar laws.

Specifically, the most recent version of the bill provides that unless a failure to do so would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under a contract or federal law, it would be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, other than contained in a collective bargaining agreement, if the discrimination is based upon either:

  • the person’s status as a cardholder; or
  • a registered qualifying patient’s positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites, unless the registered qualifying patient was impaired by cannabis during the hours of employment or in a “potentially dangerous occupation.”

If enacted, the law would allow an employer to use a fit for duty test as a risk-based assessment tool for a registered qualifying patient, but only in “potentially dangerous occupations,” a term the bill does not define.

The current version of the bill contains numerous carve-outs, stating that it will not apply to:

  • Law enforcement officers in the state or counties or employees of a state correctional facility;
  • Firefighters employed by the state or counties;
  • Water safety officers, lifeguards, swimming instructors, or other employees of the state or counties responsible for the safety of the public at swimming pools or on beaches;
  • Employees authorized to carry or use, or both, firearms on the job;
  • Emergency medical services employees of the state or counties;
  • Employees who administer or may administer controlled substances or other drugs to patients, whether in hospitals, nursing homes, or in emergency situations such as would be encountered by emergency medical services personnel;
  • Employees who work with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations;
  • Civil defense emergency management personnel; and
  • Employees who operate or are in physical control of any of the following:

(1)??????? Any combination of vehicles that have a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit or units with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds, whichever is greater;

(2)??????? Any single vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight that does not exceed 10,000 pounds;

(3)??????? Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of class A or class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is transporting material that has been designated as hazardous under title 49 U.S.C. section 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 C.F.R. part 172, or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 C.F.R. part 73;

(4)??????? Public utilities, such as the electrical power grid or the water source;

(5)??????? Machinery or power equipment; or

(6)??????? A motor vehicle.

Employers with operations in Hawaii should closely monitor the bill’s movement through the state legislature. If enacted, the law will join the growing list of states and localities enacting specific laws that provide clear employment protections to cannabis users.

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

The news is mostly happening in the states this week. Oklahoma is having some medical marijuana issues.? Massachusetts recreational shops reopened.? Virginia decriminalized marijuana.? Ohio may not put cannabis on the ballot this November.? In federal news, the marijuana banking provisions in the latest relief bill may not be dead on arrival.? And you can now buy face masks made out of hemp.


Governor Stitt vetoed medical marijuana reform legislation late last week, and the legislature decided not to override that veto.? The bill would have allowed deliveries to patients and prevented the Department of Health from sharing patient information with other agencies.? The bill had bipartisan support, but it lacked the votes for an override.


It wouldn’t be “The Week in Weed” without a look at Massachusetts.? As we all know, the state allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to remain open during the pandemic, but recreational shops were forced to close.? Now, those shops have reopened.? Customers order online and pickup curbside, and the demand is intense.? So if you need to buy cannabis in Massachusetts, bring your patience with you.


Regular readers will recall that we reported last month on Virginia decriminalization.? And yet, we are reporting on it again.? Governor Northam signed the original bill in April, with amendments.? Those amendments went back to the legislature for a vote, and now the governor has signed the bill again.? If you’re as baffled by this system as I am, have a look at this diagram from the University of Virginia.


It’s been a roller coaster ride for ballot measures in Ohio recently.? Proponents of decriminalizing marijuana won more time and the right to use e-signatures at the federal district court.? Their hopes were dashed by the Sixth Circuit, which stayed the lower court order, pending appeal.? So now the original deadline of July 1 remains, and e-signatures are not allowed.? I suspect we’ve not heard the last of this – further bulletins as events warrant.


We expressed some doubt last week as to the success of the SAFE Banking provisions in the latest pandemic relief bill.? Saphira Galoob, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, is more optimistic.? Her reasons?? Cannabis banking’s strong bipartisan support and the view that it’s both a public safety issue and an economic boost.

and finally

If you’re looking for face masks (and who isn’t?), have a look at some hemp products.? Comfortable and sustainable, they just need a few more stylish designs.

Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!