Expanding the Paycheck Protection Program to All Cannabis Businesses

Expanding the Paycheck Protection Program to All Cannabis Businesses

Earlier this week, MassRoots obtained a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), which has been critical to ensuring our employees are paid their regular salaries so they, in turn, have the money they need to support their families, cover medical bills, and pay rent. We believe that all cannabis-related businesses, both plant-touching and ancillary, should be able to obtain PPP loans in order to support the hundreds of thousands of employees that comprise the regulated cannabis industry.

Paycheck Protection Program Equality

We’re asking our supporters, both individuals and businesses, to take the following steps to raise awareness and help cannabis businesses obtain equal access to PPP funding:

  1. Tweet the reasons you support #PPPEquality to @realDonaldTrump, @PressSec and your Senators and Congressmen.
  2. Email the White House and President Trump’s campaign in support of #PPPEquality at [email protected] and [email protected].
  3. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and your Senators and Congressmen in support of equal access to PPP funding.
  4. If you’re employed in the cannabis industry, please record a video testimonial on how PPP funding would impact your life. You can submit it here or Tweet it, tagging @realDonaldTrump, your Senators and Representatives, and using #PPPEquality. 
  5. Post on Instagram, tagging the White House and your representatives, using #PPPEquality on the reasons why you support cannabis businesses having equal access to PPP loans.

Why is structural reform necessary?

When the U.S. federal government signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law on March 27, 2020, one of the measures included in the bill was the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP is designed to help small businesses and their employees survive during the stay-at-home orders and trying times of the pandemic, which is affecting businesses from all markets.

The PPP website describes the initiative as: 

“An SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis,” and “a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.”

While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, under the Controlled Substances Act, and the new law denies money from the CARES Act to businesses that are federally illegal, these businesses are not operating illegally at the state level. They are tightly regulated by the individual states.

Law-abiding, regulated cannabis businesses, whether plant touching or ancillary, and their employees should be granted the same access to government assistance as any other legally-operating business. 

Now is the time to tell the U.S. government that you think the Paycheck Protection Program should be expanded to include cannabis businesses. Stand up for #PPPEquality with us and all of the other small businesses that make-up the regulated cannabis industry in the United States.

Hemp-Derived CBD Now Allowed On Flights By TSA

Hemp-Derived CBD Now Allowed On Flights By TSA

TSA (Transportation Security Administration) now allows CBD (Cannabidiol) in airports and on flights. TSA clarifies that the CBD products must be hemp-derived “under the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018.” They recently updated a section of their website “What Can I Bring?” regarding medical marijuana shown below.

Possession of cannabis and “certain cannabis infused products” are still prohibited, but the wording opens up the possibility of some cannabis infused products being allowed. TSA has made it clear several times that their security officers are not searching for illegal drugs, including marijuana, when screening luggage. This tweet from February illustrates that, though their policy on hemp-derived CBD oil has changed.

Check out their website and the new policy for yourself here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medical-marijuana

Patients In Florida Can Finally Smoke Medical Cannabis

Patients In Florida Can Finally Smoke Medical Cannabis

Newly sworn-in Governor Ron DeSantis officially ended the statewide ban on smokable forms of medical cannabis in Florida, making good on the promise he made to patients.

On Monday, March 18, 2019, Gov. DeSantis signed Senate Bill 182 “Medical Use of Marijuana” into law. In doing so, medical cannabis patients are finally legally permitted to smoke dried cannabis flower if their doctor recommends that specific method of administration. Previously, it was illegal for patients to smoke their cannabis medication, according to the law.

“Over 70 percent of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016,” Gov. DeSantis said in a statement. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld. Now that we have honored our duty to find a legislative solution, I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state’s appeal and to vacate the lower court decision which had held the prior law to be unconstitutional.”

When Florida voters approved Measure 2 in 2016, effectively legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, they voted on legislation which permitted smoking. Before the medical cannabis program was up and running, however, legislators had made some edits against the will of the people. After the edited version was signed into law by then Governor Rick Scott, only forms of medical cannabis that could be ingested or vaporized, like edibles and concentrates, were allowed.

After two years of waiting, the patients of Florida have finally been granted access to smokeable forms of medical cannabis, but they still cannot go out and purchase it right away. Before patients can purchase dried flower from the dispensary, the Department of Health has to establish the guidelines for doctors to follow in making the recommendation for patients to smoke it as well as the regulations for dispensaries to follow when selling it.

Medical marijuana patients over the age of 18 who wish to smoke will be issued an informed consent form detailing the potential harms of inhaling smoke. Patients will only be allowed to purchase a maximum of 2.5 ounces of dried flower every 35 days.

It will remain illegal for patients under the age of 18 to smoke it, unless he or she is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has a recommendation from a doctor. Smoking in public will also remain illegal in the state.

It is unclear whether the wait for smokable forms will be weeks or months, but at least there is progress in the right direction.

Which conditions qualify for medical cannabis in Florida?

The following conditions are listed on the state’s website as qualifying a patient to apply for a medical marijuana card:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above
  • A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
  • Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition
Alaska Officially Adopts Regulations To Allow On-Site Cannabis Consumption at Dispensaries

Alaska Officially Adopts Regulations To Allow On-Site Cannabis Consumption at Dispensaries

Regulations were officially approved in Alaska to allow cannabis dispensaries to apply for on-site consumption permits.

While some city ordinances in states like California, where cannabis is also legal, have allowed some in-store cannabis use, Alaska is the first state to establish a statewide licensing system to permit patrons to use the cannabis products they purchase before leaving the dispensary.

The on-site cannabis consumption licensing process can be compared to the process used to permit bars and restaurants to serve alcohol on-site. The retail locations must meet certain requirements in order to operate.

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board approved the on-site-use regulations in December, and the Governor’s office recently signed off on them, making it official and allowing the process to proceed.

Retail shops may begin applying for an on-site consumption license as early as April 11 of this year, but Alaskans are not expected to see the new law in action before the middle of July, according to Erika McConnell, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

Executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association Cary Carrigan warns that Alaskans should not expect very many dispensaries to begin offering on-site use right away.  

“This is something that’s not happening anywhere else in the U.S. yet,” Carrigan told the Associated Press. “As we start to develop this, people are really looking at us, so I know that everybody wants to get it right.” Rolling out a program like this takes time and patience, and changes can still be made depending on the feedback received between now and then.

“I don’t want to have to get this pulled back and revisited,” Carrigan added.

The Rules

In order for an on-site consumption application to be considered for a permit, the dispensary must first meet several special requirements. For example, only dispensaries located in free standing buildings will be considered. Any shop that is located in a strip mall or connected in any other way to another business or building will not be allowed to apply for a license. It is possible that in the future dispensaries may be allowed to apply for edibles-only consumption permits even if they are not free standing.

In order to apply for a permit, the business will also have to install a high-quality ventilation system and take other security measures.

To comply with the state’s existing cigarette smoking laws, the cannabis-smoking section must be kept separate from the retail portion of the facility where patrons make their purchases. On top of that, assuming the retail location wants to allow patrons to smoke dried cannabis flower on-site, a separate, smoke-free area must also be built for employees to be able to monitor the consuming-section without being subjected to smoke inhalation.

Dispensary customers will not be permitted to use cannabis products that they bring from home or buy from a different location. All products that are used on-site must have been purchased on-site.

Local governments will be able to decide whether or not on-site consumption permits will be issued in their jurisdiction. They will also be able to ban only certain types of methods of administration like smoking. Those who choose to ban smoking may decide to allow vaporizing or eating edibles. Each municipality will be able to decide what fits best for their residents.

Allowing on-site consumption will be a game changer in Alaska, especially for tourists. Like in most states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use, it remains illegal to consume in public places like hotels, Airbnb rentals, parks, the sidewalk, etc. This often leaves tourists and property renters without a safe space to consume the cannabis products they can legally buy. Allowing for on-site use will change that.

Atlanta Police Department No Longer Rejects Applicants For Having Used Cannabis

Atlanta Police Department No Longer Rejects Applicants For Having Used Cannabis

In a surprisingly progressive move, the Atlanta Police Department announced that potential recruits will no longer be rejected for admitting that they have used cannabis in the past. In fact, the question regarding cannabis consumption has been completely removed from the department’s applicant pre-screening questionnaire.

Until recently, applicants were asked if they had consumed cannabis at any time in the last two years. According to the old policy, if the applicant answered ‘yes’ to that question, he or she was automatically rejected.

While seemingly groundbreaking for a department in a state where cannabis has not yet been legalized, the city’s police chief made clear this shift in policy does not give current Atlanta police officers the green light to start smoking marijuana. An applicant’s previous use of cannabis may no longer come into question, but active officers still may not consume the plant in any form.

“The use of, and attitude toward, both medical and recreational marijuana in the United States is rapidly evolving,” said Carlos Campos, the Atlanta Police Department’s director of public affairs.

“We’re not concerned so much that you used marijuana in the past, but you cannot work here as a police officer and use it,” continued Campos. “You cannot smoke marijuana if you’re an Atlanta police officer. Period. End of story.”

High Quality Officers Needed

The motivation behind the shift in policy comes from needing to attract more high-quality recruits, according to the announcement made by Chief Erika Shields. The Atlanta Police Department has seen a decline in applicants who are able to make it beyond the drug use screening in recent years. Before the policy reform, up to 60 percent of applicants had been rejected for answering ‘yes’ to the cannabis use question.

“Given the reality of this landscape, the Atlanta Police Department is increasingly encountering young applicants who are admitting to marijuana use, a question we have traditionally used to screen potential officers,” said Campos. “The result is that we are eliminating candidates who are otherwise qualified to become police officers.”

“We have to be practical about this, so that’s the change that we made,” said chief Shields after announcing the policy change. “Hopefully we’ll see it offset some of the numbers.”

Higher Salaries

Removing the cannabis screening from the hiring process isn’t the only thing the department is doing in an effort to attract more qualified applicants. They’re also offering more money. The starting salary for rookie officers in Atlanta was recently raised, and newly sworn in Atlanta police officers can expect to make $48,500.

The department has been sharing recruitment ads on its Facebook page which read, “JOIN THE ELITE APD: Looking for a fresh start in a law enforcement career? The Atlanta Police Department is hiring for police officers and we have competitive new salaries with starting officer pay beginning at $48,500.”

Higher pay and past drug use forgiveness aside, new recruits and veteran officers alike can expect to be drug tested. According to the Atlanta Police Department, there will be an increase in random drug testing to weed out officers who do not follow the law.

The department is hoping to fill 350 vacancies as soon as possible, and they expect the recent policy changes to make all the difference.

Decriminalization

While the state of Georgia may be slow moving when it comes to cannabis policy reform, the capital city of Atlanta continues to be progressive. The possession of up to one ounce of cannabis was decriminalized in Fulton County in October 2017. Instead of facing up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, the penalty for personal possession is now just a citation with a maximum fine of up to $75.

Photos Courtesy of Atlanta Police Department

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