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Maryland celebrates Juneteenth early with mass pardon

Plus, The Cannabist divests from Florida

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Good morning.

We hope all of you attending Benzinga’s New Jersey conference had an enjoyable time — we couldn’t be there this week, but do let us know if there were particularly interesting conversations.

In other news, we’ve got Juneteenth-eve pardons in Maryland, and The Cannabist is pulling back from Florida as part of a trend of large cannabis companies focusing on the geographies where they’re profitable or at least, close to profitable. 

Let’s get to it.


This newsletter is 1203 words or about a 7-minute read.

💡What’s the big deal?

Maryland Gov. Moore issues sweeping pardon

What happened: Maryland Governor Wes Moore pardoned over 175,000 cannabis-related convictions on Monday via an executive order.

This mass pardon will affect about 100,000 people with low-level charges, as many of these folks have multiple convictions. 

The pardons do not entirely provide a clean slate, though. 

Those pardoned will be removed from criminal background check databases but their names will still appear in public court records unless they apply for expungement, which is not automatic and is decided based on the individual’s case. 

What they’re saying: “I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs,” Moore told The Washington Post. “If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to disproportionately sit on communities of color.” 

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown said that the pardons were a “triumphant victory” for Black and Brown communities in Maryland as they were disproportionately convicted under previous cannabis laws, The New York Times reported. 

Back up: Maryland legalized cannabis in 2022 and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. 

Maryland is one of 24 states where cannabis is legal, according to The Associated Press.

Why it matters: Gov. Moore and Maryland join the Biden administration, nine other states, and numerous cities to pardon those with low-level convictions.

The pardons came only two days before Juneteenth, a federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the US. 

Black people were over three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than White people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

Over 70% of Maryland’s incarcerated citizens are Black, which is more than two times their proportion in Maryland’s population, according to The Washington Post.


Quick hits

Experts say Schedule III is a go
Experts believe that cannabis will be moved to Schedule III by November, according to a report from independent financial analyst Pablo Zuanic. The experts include David Culver of the industry trade group US Cannabis Council, Kelly Fair, a partner at Denton’s law firm, and John Sullivan of Cresco Labs. They say that there have been few credible challenges to the proposed change and that the DEA’s concerns will be “assuaged.” 

Once upon a time in the Netherlands
The Netherlands’ marijuana-selling coffee shops can now acquire regulated cannabis from licensed growers in eight more cities, expanding an ongoing trial allowing legal cannabis cultivation for the first time. Up to 80 coffee shops in 10 cities can source cannabis from three licensed suppliers under the “wietexperiment,” Dutch News reports

Brazilians want legalization
Protests in support of marijuana legalization took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sunday following the Brazilian Congress’s approval of punishment for possession of drugs regardless of the quantity or substance, which activists view as violent and an abuse of power. Watch the protests

Weed > alcohol
The lifetime prevalence of secondhand harms —  for example, family or marriage difficulties, traffic accidents, vandalism, physical harm, and financial difficulties — from cannabis (5.5%) was far less than those from alcohol (34.2%), opioids (7.6%), or other drugs (8.3%), according to an analysis of the 2020 US National Alcohol Survey published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Fighting against legalization
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, outlined its plan for pushing back against the federal government’s push to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III drug. They encouraged supporters to write in their opposition during the public comment period, which ends on June 22, and highlighted the fact that DEA Administrator Anne Milgram didn’t sign off on the proposed rule change, though her boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, did.

🚀 Deals, launches, partnerships

The Cannabist Company, formerly Columbia Care, announced it plans to divest from Florida to prepare for recreational sales in Ohio and Delaware and enhance its presence in what the company says are more profitable markets like Virginia and New Jersey. Florida was only around 5% of the company’s total revenue, though the company lost nearly $5 million in the state in the first quarter of this year. The company lost $34 million in total in Q1.

Verano Holdings Corp. announced plans to buy back up to $50 million worth of its Class A shares — up to 17,320,857 shares, representing 5% the total of its total shares — to support the stock, which it believes is undervalued, and return cash to shareholders.

Wana Brands, a cannabis-infused edibles company, is partnering with Happi, a hemp-derived beverage brand, to introduce hemp-derived THC gummies nationwide. This marks Wana's first foray into hemp-derived THC products. Some state and federal lawmakers have recently called for a crackdown on intoxicating hemp products

🏃‍♀️ People moves

Cannabiziac, a Black woman-founded cannabis industry incubator and event series, has removed Honeysuckle Magazine founder Ronit Pinto from its advisory board and removed her as a speaker at their upcoming Brooklyn event.

Videos have been circulating on social media of a dispute involving Pinto and Honeysuckle cofounder Sam Long with pro-Palestinian protestors in New York City.

Editor’s note: We have not independently verified the footage nor the immediate cause and broader context of the dispute so we will leave it at that.

😜 One fun thing

Joe Rogan and former drug kingpin Freeway Rick Ross discussed how some states that have legalized cannabis are moving to ban hemp-derived Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC on Rogan’s podcast.

📊 Chart of the day

Cannabis convictions in Maryland varied significantly by county, according to The Washington Post

Worcester County had the highest number of convictions per 10,000 people (1562.9) and Montgomery Country had the lowest (109.3). Baltimore City had the highest number of total convictions at 39,865:

📈 Earnings roundup

Canadian cannabis retailer High Tide reported its second-quarter results with a net income of $171,000 (CAD) on $124.1 million of revenue. The company touted its $9.4 million of free cash flow and says it generates the most revenue of any cannabis company reporting in Canadian dollars.

📰 What we’re reading

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