Federal Cannabis News Update, November 2022: Election Results Edition

American flag waving above a crowd photo for CWCBExpo 2022 November federal election update

Each month, Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) offers a convenient regional news round-up highlighting significant developments in federal cannabis policy. Get these updates in your inbox by subscribing to our email newsletter, or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to get the most recent edition when it’s published.

Adult-use legalization was on the ballot in South Dakota, North Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri and Maryland during the 2022 midterms. And as millions headed to the ballot box to vote on the issue, federal regulators continue to grapple with policy changes that have the potential to impact the cannabis industry. Here’s what you need to know about federal cannabis policies in November 2022.

Maryland, Missouri vote yes for adult-use cannabis

Maryland and Missouri are the latest states to legalize adult-use markets in their states.

In Maryland, voters weighed in on a constitutional amendment that would allow possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis or personal cultivation of two cannabis plants. Question 4 was overwhelmingly approved, with 65.5% voting in favor of the measure as of Nov. 9th, 2022 vote tallies. The nearly 2-to-1 margin mirrors New Jersey’s 67% approval when voters there opted to create an adult-use cannabis program in November 2020.

In Missouri, Amendment 3 passed by a healthy margin. As of the morning of Nov. 9th, 2022, the vote tally stood at 53% in favor and 47% against. The measure authorizes the sale of adult-use cannabis in the state and allows Missouri regulators to begin setting rules for a future program. The measure also approved the creation of an automatic expungement program for select cannabis-related offenses. The earliest adult-use cannabis can be sold in the state is February 2023.

The Dakotas, Arkansas vote against adult-use cannabis

Out of five states to vote on legal adult-use cannabis measures in the 2022 midterm elections, three of them did not vote to move forward with creation of these programs. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas’s failed ballot measures were soundly defeated at the ballot box. 

South Dakota previously voted to legalize both medical and adult-use cannabis in November 2020, but a state ruling, the result of a legal fight instigated by Gov. Kristi Noem (R),  prevented the adult-use program from launching.

All three states have medical cannabis programs. Arkansas has approximately 77,000 registered patients, while North Dakota has around 5,000 patients, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. South Dakota has around 4,000 patients.

FDA explains involvement in DEA’s substance classification system, talks reevaluation of cannabis

On the heels of the executive branch’s announcement Oct. 6th to explore a potential descheduling or rescheduling of cannabis, an official with The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says that the agency may have some “flexibilities” when it comes to the scheduling review.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has the final say on how substances are classified according to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As part of the reevaluation process, FDA principal deputy commissioner Janet Woodcock said that the agency is involved with an eight-factor check that helps the DEA make its final decision. If the FDA finds in its investigation that cannabis offers medical value, that would directly contradict cannabis’ current classification as a Schedule I substance. Schedule I classification means the federal government considers it to have no medical value and a high possibility of addiction. 

The Biden administration’s announcement to reexamine cannabis provided new hope for the advancement of cannabis on a federal level. The Schedule I classification has had a direct or indirect impact on all aspects of the emerging cannabis industry, from interstate trade to banking to the ability to conduct research on the plant, something the FDA noted is “very difficult” to do now.

Cannabis conviction histories getting a closer look

The U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), a federal agency that tracks and issues recommendations in regards to sentencing disparities, has made it a priority in its 2022-2023 session to study the impact of cannabis possession on how jail time is assessed. This priority was added to their agenda after the Biden administration announced executive action last month to pardon those with federal simple possession charges on their records.

If the USSC determines that cannabis possession should not be an enhancing factor, or should not be considered as highly as it is now, it could have significant impacts in courtrooms throughout the country.

Cannabis arrests account for more than half of all drug-related arrests made in the United States, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A significant majority of those arrests are for simple possession. Racial disparities are significant as well, with Black individuals arrested at 3.73 times the rate of white individuals.

Keep up with the latest federal cannabis news headlines

Even in an industry where so much happens on the state level, it’s crucial for entrepreneurs to keep an eye on federal trends. Although interstate commerce may not be a reality as of yet, tracking how cannabis policy moves elsewhere helps to make good business decisions.

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