In this week’s cannabis news round-up, a new survey suggests cannabis rescheduling could boost President Biden’s ratings; New York’s delayed regulations cast shadow on homegrown hopes; and Maine considers bill to establish cannabis social clubs for tourists and residents.
If President Biden wants to improve his approval rating, he should make the move and reschedule cannabis, says a new nationwide survey. According to the survey by Lake Research Partners, such a change would boost his ratings by a considerable 11 points overall, including a sizeable 11-point positive shift among younger voters.
In August 2023, as a result of a review initiated by President Biden, the Food and Drug Administration made a recommendation to reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III within the framework of the Controlled Substances Act. Although cannabis would still be prohibited under federal law should this reclassification be adopted, it would represent a substantial reduction in constraints, including simplifying research endeavors and alleviating the federal tax obligations imposed on cannabis companies.
The findings of the survey revealed that a majority of American voters, standing at 58%, are in favor of the proposal to reschedule cannabis. The strongest support for this move comes from the 18-25 age group (65%). Despite some opposition among senior voters, there is still a significant level of support for rescheduling within this demographic.
Breaking down the data by political affiliation, 74% of Democrat voters expressed their support for the federal rescheduling of cannabis, with only 7% opposing it. Among independents, 55% are in favor, with 15% against. In the case of Republicans, 41% voiced their support for rescheduling, while 31% opposed it. This idea appears to find stronger popularity among young Republican voters and Republican women.
However, some respondents in the survey believe that the transition from Schedule I to Schedule III is merely a partial step, potentially benefiting pharmaceutical companies significantly and raising concerns about the possibility of leaving “hundreds of thousands of Americans behind bars for marijuana-related offenses.”
New York’s burgeoning cannabis industry hit a roadblock this week when the state’s Cannabis Control Board abruptly canceled its January meeting, throwing a wrench into plans for new retail licenses, homegrown regulations, and research permits. This eleventh-hour delay leaves businesses, consumers and advocates wondering what comes next.
While the official reason cited was finalizing a batch of adult-use licenses, the cancellation raised eyebrows on why the entire meeting was canceled, rather than simply pulling the specific agenda item.
“The Cannabis Control Board has decided to postpone the meeting to finalize review of adult-use license applications currently under consideration for approval by the board,” the Office of Cannabis Management said in a statement released just before 8 pm Tuesday. “While we have a batch of licenses ready for approval, there are many more we want to get across the finish line to jumpstart New York’s cannabis market in 2024.”
The most pressing concern, however, lies with homegrown regulations. Their absence puts the upcoming growing season at risk, jeopardizing the ability of legal adults to cultivate their own plants for the fourth year in a row. This, despite draft regulations already laying out a framework for limited personal cultivation—six plants, a mix of mature and immature, at each residence.
The proposed rules also clarify possession limits, allowing up to five pounds of homegrown cannabis flower. While seemingly generous, the regulations remain in limbo, leaving potential home growers in a state of uncertainty and risks dampening the industry’s economic and social potential in the Empire State.
Maine legislators are contemplating a bill that could permit both residents and visitors to enjoy cannabis in a social club-like setting. Rep. David Boyer (R-Poland) is behind this proposal, likening the concept to brew pubs. He envisions creating controlled and regulated spaces akin to brew pubs where adults can explore various cannabis options before choosing products to take home.
Rep. Boyer emphasized that these venues would help enhance public safety by reducing the chances of people consuming cannabis in inappropriate public places. The proposal is especially beneficial for tourists who might not have access to cannabis-friendly accommodations or renters who are prohibited from consuming or smoking cannabis in their units.
Fourteen other states, including Massachusetts, New York and Maryland, have already embraced the idea of cannabis hospitality establishments similar to what Maine is considering. Rep. Boyer’s legislation, known as LD 1952, would necessitate a distinct license for adult-use cannabis consumption. These “cannabis hospitality establishments” would have designated areas where employees can verify patrons’ ages. Staff would also undergo training to identify signs of impairment.
Opponents of the bill, including the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy, have voiced concerns about indoor air quality, the lack of sufficient training for servers and the potential for an increase in impaired drivers on the roads. John Hudak, director of the state’s cannabis office, argued that the legislation does not adequately address the serious public health and safety issues associated with permitting public cannabis consumption, which can impair critical thinking, memory, judgment, balance and coordination.
Maine currently permits both recreational and medical cannabis sales, with distinct regulations governing each sector. In 2023, the medical cannabis industry generated approximately $230 million in sales, while the recreational sector recorded nearly $217 million in sales, according to data from Maine Revenue Services and the cannabis policy office.