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Top Senate Democrats push for legalization ahead of 4/20

Plus, Tilray stock slides, GMO hemp, and more

Good morning.

Two stories that dropped yesterday have united all corners of the cannabis world in antipathy — from social equity advocates, to retail investors, to executives and everyone in between. 

The first, from The Atlantic, discusses why “no one” is happy with legal weed. Millions of consumers might disagree. 

The second, from Bloomberg’s CityLab, talks to urban officials in recently-legalized jurisdictions like New York City who say the smell of weed is ruining their fine cities. We’d say lighten up. 

Far be it from us to do media criticism, but this is what happens when journalists parachute into a difficult beat — they don’t get everything right, even if the actual story ideas have merit. They’re linked below for you to read, or hate-read.

Let us know what you think. 

- Jeremy Berke & Jay Rosenthal

💡What’s the big deal?

Top Senate Democrats want to move ahead of 4/20

What happened: Top Senate Democrats said in a letter to colleagues they’re planning on introducing a federal legalization bill, likely the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (COAO), this month ahead of 4/20.

The letter was signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, and Senator Cory Booker

The COAO was first introduced in 2022, though it never received a full floor vote

What they’re saying: “The question today is not whether cannabis should be legal — many states have already moved ahead. The question now is whether cannabis should be subject to the same high regulatory standards, based on preserving public health and safety, that apply to alcohol and tobacco,” the letter reads.

What does the bill do? The bill would fully remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively decriminalizing cannabis. 

It would also provide a federal regulatory framework for cannabis, including excise taxes that would gradually increase to 12.5% over five years, and expunge certain federal cannabis offenses. 

It’s a more progressive vision of cannabis legalization than other bills that have circulated through Capitol Hill, and it goes much further than the simple rescheduling that the Biden Administration and federal agencies have called for. 

Why it matters: Democrats from the President down are campaigning on cannabis reform, and they’re pushing hard. Expect a flurry of activity before the election. 

It’s a clear way to draw a distinction with Republicans, who are coalescing on an anti-legalization position

The final word: The prospects of a full-scale legalization bill passing the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate are slim.

A cynic’s take would say that introducing the CAOA would provide political cover for Democrats, who could say to their base they tried for legalization, but all they ended up with was rescheduling — and perhaps banking reform.

But hey, at least they’re trying. 


💬 Quotable

“When you compare marijuana to alcohol…the data is very, very clear that cannabis, by all metrics — whether you’re talking about DUIs, whether you’re talking about hospital visits, whether you’re talking about deaths, when you’re talking about long-term side effects — is significantly safer and should be an alternative that is offered to Floridians,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said on The Dales Report’s podcast, appearing to push back against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s opposition to legalization

Trulieve is the largest supporter of the Smart & Safe Florida initiative, which is seeking to legalize cannabis in the state. The company also contributed financially to DeSantis’s campaign. 

🥊 Quick hits

New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that would legalize cannabis and create 15 state-run dispensaries, similar to New Hampshire’s liquor sales. It’s the second time the state’s House has voted on this bill — it passed in February 239-141, reports The Concord Monitor

Cannabis sales growth in Massachusetts slowed in March, per statistics collected by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. Dispensaries in the state sold about $154 million worth of cannabis last month. 

Minnesota is set to expunge over 60,000 cannabis-related misdemeanors by May, The Star-Tribune reports

📈 Deals, launches, partnerships

Chicago Atlantic is lending $20 million to Nova Farms, a cannabis firm with cultivation and retail brands that operates in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Jersey. Of note: Chicago Atlantic also invested $150 million into New York’s cannabis social equity fund. 

Cannabis firm MariMed closed its acquisition of a second Maryland dispensary. 

Prodigy Processing Solutions is entering into a partnership with Solvent Direct to produce what the companies say are pharmaceutical-grade cannabis extracts. 

Hemp, Inc said it won USDA approval of a genetically modified hemp strain. The strain was developed at The University of Wisconsin, and is known as Badger G. 

📊 Earnings round-up

Canadian cannabis giant Tilray reported its third-quarter earnings. The stock fell about 20% as cannabis revenue fell and the company posted less revenue and larger losses than analysts expected. The company also updated its 2024 adjusted EBITDA target to $63 million.

📰 What we’re reading

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