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Lawmakers want Biden to hurry up on cannabis reform

Plus, Florida remains Florida

Good morning. 

President Joe Biden touted his cannabis pardons at a campaign stop, though he mistook the pardons for record expungement, while lawmakers from his party say he’s not doing enough to move the ball forward on cannabis reform.

All that, and more in today’s Cultivated. Drop us a line by replying to this email and let us know what you think of the newsletter. 

A 7.5-minute read from JB and JR

💡What’s the big deal?

Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Nadler want Biden to hurry up 🚀

What happened: Prominent New York lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice to hurry up the cannabis legalization process.

They’re pushing for removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances entirely, rather than rescheduling.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, appearing with Rep. Jerry Nadler at a Sunday afternoon press conference in Harlem, said she’s planning on writing a letter on Monday to the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration — the agency where the ultimate re- or de-scheduling decision will be made — to “turn up the heat.”

What they’re saying: I think it’s clear: It’s time to legalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions,” Gillibrand said. “I’ve been pushing this now for four years, and there’s no excuses left.”

Rep. Nader said the “original sin” was placing cannabis on Schedule I, the most restrictive classification in the federal Controlled Substances Act, in the first place. 

“No one should have to wear a cannabis conviction like a scarlet letter,” he said. “It is time to end the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana at the federal level.”

Back up: Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that cannabis be moved off of Schedule I — where it’s placed with far more dangerous drugs like heroin — to the less restrictive Schedule III.

The ball, however, is firmly in the DEA’s court. It’s up to that agency, which, as many Cultivated readers know, is no friend to legalization, to actually make the change.

What’s next: While it’s unlikely that the DEA’s head, Anne Milgram, a Biden appointee, would go against what the Administration and other agencies have suggested, crazier things have happened in US politics.

Still, rescheduling is a more likely outcome than straight up de-scheduling.

Read more: The HHS released 252 of un-redacted pages discussing its recommendation to move cannabis to Schedule III earlier this month. That recommendation affirmed that cannabis has medical use, perhaps the key to the rescheduling process. 

Schedule I drugs are those that are considered to have no medical use.

Attend CannaDataCon (for free)

Delta Emerald’s Second Annual CannaDataCon launches Thursday.

We like to think Cultivated Daily readers are some of the smartest people in the business. That’s why you’re here — to get even smarter every day.

That’s why we’re excited to offer you (free) livestream access to Delta Emerald’s second annual CannaDataCon.

There are two days of content featuring leaders from Curaleaf, GTI, Ascend, Cresco, Nabis, C3 Industries, and many many more. We’ll be tuning in and you can too.

The event launches Thursday, February 1 at 10 am Eastern.


Check out the full schedule here. To join the 400+ attendees register today.


🥊 Quick hits

An Oregon cannabis company has withdrawn its lawsuit challenging the federal ban on interstate cannabis commerce. When reached for comment, the company told Marijuana Moment that “big things are coming soon.” Alright. 

Virginia’s Senate has approved a proposal to create a commercial cannabis market for adults over the age of 21, nearly three years after former Gov. Ralph Northam signed legalization into law. 

Cannabis-infused seltzer brands are taking advantage of a loophole in Connecticut that allows them to be sold on store shelves across the state — not just in licensed dispensaries, CT Insider reports

Damian Fagon, the New York Office of Cannabis Management Chief Equity Officer, discusses why it’s important for cannabis regulators and policymakers to actually have experience with the product on the ISmokeNewYork podcast.

Florida GOP set to benefit big from cannabis

Driving the news: Florida Republicans are set to be the biggest beneficiary of legalization, according to a new report from the investigative outlet The Intercept

Major Republican donors are heavily invested in the state’s cannabis industry, including in big-name companies like Trulieve.

Trulieve execs have given at least $41 million to both Republicans and Democrats in Florida since 2017, and contributed at least $25,000 to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ state Political Action Committee. They also donated $450,000 to the state’s Republican Party, The Intercept reports.

Gov. DeSantis, who’s quixotic bid for the presidency crashed earlier this month, said he expects legalization to be on the Florida ballot this year, despite his personal opposition

Trulieve also bankrolls the Smart & Safe Florida initiative, the group pushing for legalization — the company is responsible for 97% of the funding, around $38 million. 

What they’re saying: “We should absolutely legalize recreational cannabis — my preference is for the system to be more open to everyday people and allow folks to grow their own cannabis versus have to purchase it from a distributor,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, a legalization supporter, told The Intercept.

“Clearly there are economic motives here, including for Republican donors, to maintain the current system of vertical integration and legalize cannabis for recreational use.”

Back up: Legalization was struck down in Florida a little over two years ago by conservative judges in the state, as well as Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody’s opposition.

Lawyers for the state said that voters wouldn’t understand the proposed ballot language, which would have legalized cannabis in Florida but not federally. 

But the ballot is coming back, perhaps with new-and-improved language. Recent polls show 57% of Floridians support legalization

There’s more: Trulieve has come under fire in the past for allegedly attempting to manipulate Florida’s laws to the company’s benefit. 

JT Burnette, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers’ husband, was released from federal prison in October after he was sentenced to three years on bribery and extortion charges. 

Burnette admitted to conspiring with a Florida state representative, a childhood friend, to keep Trulieve competitors out of Florida’s medical cannabis industry, by pushing language in the law that would create barriers for other companies and entrench Trulieve’s advantages.  

Our take: Legalization is far from simple, and it’s important for voters and legalization supporters to vote for the right legalization frameworks, and not the wrong ones.

Legalization that solely benefits a few companies and promotes the creation of oligopolies doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests, other than the companies that benefit. 

The conversation has shifted from whether or not states should legalize, but to how they should do it, where the tax revenue should go, and who should be able to benefit.

The Cultivated team would love to see careful legalization frameworks that balance the need for speed, consumer access, and tax revenue generation with the goals of eroding the illicit market, and providing economic opportunities to minorities and other groups harmed by the War on Drugs. 

It’s likely legalization will pass in Florida, given the strong majority support. It’s now crucial that consumer and social equity advocates are given the opportunity to help shape the process as well.

What else: Florida’s House passed a bill that would create more restrictions on where dispensaries can open their doors.


🎒 What we’re reading

📰 People moves

Cannabis tech company Springbig is shaking up its board after landing $8 million in debt financing: Matt Sacks, the co-managing partner of Lightbank, and Shawn Dym of Shalcor Management, who co-lead the financing round, are joining the board, replacing Phil Schwarz and Jon Trauben.

📈 Deal or no deal

Canadian retail cannabis firm High Tide released its fourth quarter results today, posting a $31.8 million net loss on $127 million in revenue.

💯 One cool thing

Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, Cresco Labs’ cannabis brand Good News is partnering with the Chicago sports bar The Fifty/50 to release THC-infused buffalo sauce in Illinois. Those wings have never tasted better.

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