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Hemp Crop Destruction and Legalization Analyzed in Recent Report

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Original Source: hightimes.com

A new report from New Frontier Data delves into the average number of plants that are considered to be “hot” and what the industry could look like in the near future.

New Frontier Data released new data on August 5 regarding crops and how many plants have gone “hot,” or exceeded the required limit of less than 0.3 percent THC, and needed to be destroyed. In its “Hot vs. Not?” research, the company states that the average percentage of plants that are considered hot in hemp harvests throughout the U.S. is 10.81 percent (based on data between 2018-2020).

New Frontier Data mentions that some states have either not been keeping detailed records of THC sampling in crops, or are not willing to publish the data, so the accuracy of these suggestions should be accepted with this in mind. 

2018: 111,912 acres of hemp licensed, 78,176 acres planted, (harvest data unavailable for 2018).

2019: 511,442 acres of hemp licensed, 242,565 acres planted, 134,059 acres harvested.

2020: 336,655 acres of hemp licensed, 70,530 acres planted, 33,845 acres harvested.

With what the data does offer, more than 4,000 acres of crops were destroyed in 2019 (out of the 242,565 acres that were planted) because they were considered to be hot crops. Although crops in 2020 decreased, hot crops still increased, which led to an even more devastating year with 6,234 labeled as hot.

New Frontier Data predicts that, based on the aforementioned numbers, 2021 could yield an estimated 11,675 hot crops (although it also suggests that if the USDA finalizes its methods of testing and sampling, that number could change). 

New Frontier Data alleges that the main reason why hot hemp crops have increased is largely due to the leniency of government organizations such as the USDA and state agricultural agencies.

“Consequently, the leniency of the USDA and respective state agriculture departments regarding genetics, and unwillingness to mandate certified seed like their Canadian counterparts, have led to both an excess of hot hemp acreage and an industry that has been almost singularly focused on one cannabinoid which U.S. consumers are otherwise projected to spend $121 billion on between 2020 and 2025,” New Frontier Data wrote.

Earlier this year, on January 15, the USDA Interim Final Rule was published. If a hemp crop was tested to have more than 1.0 percent THC, it would need to be destroyed. “Remediation refers to any process by which non-compliant hemp (THC concentration > 0.3%) is rendered compliant (THC concentration ≤ 0.3%). Remediation can be achieved by separating and destroying non-compliant flowers while retaining stalks, leaves and seeds or by shredding the entire hemp plant to create a homogenous ‘biomass’ that can be retested for THC compliance,” the USDA’s updated rule state.

ShutterstockHemp and Margin of Error 

New Frontier Data believes that the particular language used by the USDA could mean that there is an acceptable margin to allow industrial hemp to be used to make fiber. The organization notes that this year’s harvest season will be an interesting one, as many growers decided to plant hemp seeds from China. These particular strains usually test at, or above, the one percent THC limit; however, the genetics also have developed strong hemp stalks that could be extremely useful in fiber production. 

Analysts believe that the imminent discussions of legalizing cannabis on the federal level could mean new changes to the THC percentage limits to come as well. “…the current regulatory scheme is underpinned by the federal prohibition of high-THC cannabis as the rationale for the excessively low THC-threshold for industrial hemp,” said New Frontier Data Senior Industry Analyst Josh Adams. “Should high-THC cannabis be made legal, then there is little remaining justification for continued enforcement of the <0.3% THC threshold.”

Adams adds that if Senator Rand Paul’s proposed Bill, the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan Act of 2021, which was announced in March 2021 and would raised the threshold from 0.3 percent THC to 1.0 percent THC, is passed, “…it would effectively be moot in an environment where high-THC cannabis was no longer prohibited. In this scenario, continuing to regulate industrial hemp and cannabis separately based solely on THC content makes little sense.

“Once high-THC cannabis becomes legal, there will likely need to be some reconciliation of these policies to establish a more consistent regulatory framework for the cannabis plant as a whole,” he explained.

Original Source: hightimes.com

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Rhode Island Rakes In $1.6 Million in First Week of Recreational Pot Sales

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Rhode Island’s new adult-use cannabis market opened for business earlier this month, and so far, business is good. 

Local news station WPRI, citing the state’s Department of Business Regulation, reported this week that “Rhode Island’s six marijuana dispensaries — five of which are currently authorized to sell to recreational customers — collectively sold just over $1.63 million worth of marijuana from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7.” 

“Less than half of those sales were for recreational marijuana, at about $786,000. The rest, about $845,400, were sales to medical marijuana patients,” the station reported. “For comparison, during the last week of October — the most recent full week available prior to recreational sales — the dispensaries collectively sold $1 million worth of medical marijuana.”

Rhode Island legalized recreational cannabis use in May, when Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill that was passed by lawmakers in the state General Assembly

The law made it legal for adults aged 21 and older to cultivate and possess marijuana, while also establishing the regulatory framework for cannabis sales. 

“This bill successfully incorporates our priorities of making sure cannabis legalization is equitable, controlled, and safe,” McKee, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “In addition, it creates a process for the automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions. My Administration’s original legalization plan also included such a provision and I am thrilled that the Assembly recognized the importance of this particular issue. The end result is a win for our state both socially and economically.”

Additionally, the law “will give courts until July 1, 2024, to automatically expunge past convictions, and those who want their expungement sooner may request it,” the governor’s office explained in a press release at the time.

Late last month, McKee and the state’s Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced that “five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1.”

The five “compassion centers” that were given approval to begin adult-use sales are: Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls); Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence); Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket); Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth); and RISE Warwick (Warwick).

“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said last month. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”

Matt Santacroce, who is serving as interim deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, said last month that the state was “pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the Cannabis Act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators,” Santacroce said. 

The launch of recreational sales on December 1 was only one change to Rhode Island’s existing marijuana policy to arrive this month. 

WPRI reported that, on the same day, “the state also stopped charging medical patients to obtain or renew their medical marijuana cards,” adding that “there is an expected revenue loss from the pending plan to expunge marijuana possession charges, which will eliminate court fees from those crimes.”

The post Rhode Island Rakes In $1.6 Million in First Week of Recreational Pot Sales appeared first on High Times.

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D.C. Council Approves Cannabis Bill To Promote Equity, Provide Tax Relief And Eliminate Medical Marijuana License Caps

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On Tuesday, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., approved a bill that would significantly alter the city’s medical marijuana program. The bill would, among other things, remove licensing caps on cannabis businesses, reduce taxes for operators, increase efforts to promote social equity, and establish new categories of regulated businesses, such as on-site consumption facilities and cannabis cooking classes.

Additionally, it would allow current “gifting” operators, who sell non-cannabis items in exchange for “free” marijuana products, to transition into the permitted market while granting authorities the ability to crack down on those who continue to operate unlawfully.

The measure, which had been revised by the Committee of the Whole earlier in the day, was passed by the full D.C. Council by a vote of 7 to 4. 

A second reading vote by the Council is still required before it can be sent to the mayor’s office.

Pro-reform lawmakers have voiced concerns that the bill’s most recent iteration may have unintended consequences for social fairness by granting preferential treatment to already established medical cannabis outlets.

Legally, adults would be able to selfcertify their medical marijuana use according to the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act. 

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) introduced the legislation on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

A note prepared for the hearing by the Committee of the Whole states that the most recent print “retains a majority of the adjustments and additions made by” the Committee on Business and Economic Development (CBED), which passed the measure last week. 

It had progressed out of a different panel before.

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Dispensaries’ Cashless ATM Transactions Get The Ax

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Cannabis dispensaries in several states were left scrambling to find ways to process transactions without cash when a popular workaround to federal banking regulations known as cashless ATMs stopped working for many retailers beginning last week. Cashless ATMs, also known as “point of banking” systems, allow customers to use bank cards instead of cash at cannabis dispensaries, giving retailers and their patrons alike more flexibility when processing transactions for marijuana purchases.

But beginning last week, some of the biggest ATM transaction processors including NCR Corp.’s Columbus Data Services have shut down the ability of cashless ATM transaction processors to use their service, according to unidentified sources cited by Bloomberg. NCR declined to comment on the situation, according to the report.

“This is a pivotal point in cannabis banking,” Ryan Hamlin, chief executive officer of payment technology provider Posabit Systems Corp., told Bloomberg about the cashless ATM shutdowns.

Notice Given Last Year

Late last year, international payment processing giant Visa announced in a memo to retailers that it “was aware of a scheme where POS devices marketed as ‘Cashless ATMs’ are being deployed at merchant outlets.” 

The system worked by rounding up purchases, often to multiples of $20, to make the transaction appear to be cash disbursements. Instead, only the change from the transaction would be returned to the customer, and the dispensary would keep the rest to cover the payment for the purchase.

“Cashless ATMs are POS devices driven by payment applications that mimic standalone ATMs. However, no cash disbursements are made to cardholders,” the December 2021 memo continues. “Instead, the devices are used for purchase transactions, which are miscoded as ATM cash disbursements. Purchase amounts are often rounded up to create the appearance of a cash disbursement.

In April, Bloomberg reported that cashless ATM transactions were able to be processed because they were disguised by listing an address of a nearby business such as a fast food restaurant instead of the actual dispensary address. An estimate put the portion of cannabis sales processed through cashless ATM transactions at 25% of the $25 billion in projected annual dispensary sales.

“Those sales could generate more than $500 million in fees for payment processors, based on average purchase sizes,” Bloomberg reported.

Banking Laws Hinder Legitimate Cannabis Businesses

The popularity of cashless ATM transactions is indicative of the difficulty federal regulations pose for cannabis businesses, even those operating legally under state law. Federal banking and money laundering laws put restrictions on the banking industry, making it difficult for financial institutions to provide traditional services such as credit card processing, loans, and deposit and payroll accounts. But cashless ATMs fail to pass muster with the federal regulations.

“The cashless ATM trend is damaging to investors, dispensaries, and consumers, as when it comes down to it, it’s blatant money laundering,” CannaTrac CEO Tom Gavin told High Times. “Instead of creating loopholes and using a cashless ATM, dispensaries should take advantage of other solutions currently on the market that are safe, legal, and transparent. A proper financial solution should be registered with FinCEN and have a money transmitter license, or be the agent of a sponsor or bank with a money transmitter license in their state.”

Hamlin of Posabit said that signs of the cashless ATM shutdown began to appear in November and increased last week. He estimated that by the end of the weekend, only about 20% of the cannabis industry was still able to use cashless ATM payments.

Cannabis dispensaries in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts have reportedly been affected by the shutdown of cashless ATM transactions, with employees at those shops recommending that they pay for their purchases with cash instead. Curaleaf Holdings, one of the largest cannabis retailers in the United States, reported in April that approximately one-third of the company’s dispensary transactions were processed through cashless ATMs.

“It’s left merchants in the lurch because it happened overnight, but the writing has been on the wall for a while now,” said Peter Su, a senior vice president at Green Check Verified, a consulting and software company that specializes in cannabis and banking.

Sahar Ayinehsazian, a partner at Vicente Sederberg LLP and co-chair of the law firm’s Banking and Financial Services Access Group, said that the shutdown of the cashless ATM system illustrates the need for the passage of legislation now pending before Congress that would allow legal cannabis businesses access to banking services.

“This shutdown further underscores the ongoing need for banking and financial reform for cannabis businesses and the passage of the SAFE Act,” Ayinehsazian wrote in an email to High Times. “While there can be no guarantee that the Act will open up payment processing for cannabis operators, the industry is very optimistic that its passage will facilitate access to legal and legitimate cashless payment options for cannabis operators.”

The post Dispensaries’ Cashless ATM Transactions Get The Ax appeared first on High Times.

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