OLCC Commission Bans Some Additives from Cannabis Vaping Products

Additives linked to potential harm to cannabis consumers

More transparent ingredient disclosure required going forward

OREGON:  At its regular monthly meeting on December 17, 2020, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission banned two ingredients immediately from further use in cannabis vaping products — squalene and squalane. In addition, the Commission approved rules designed to provide better protection for cannabis consumers by requiring recreational marijuana licensees provide more transparent disclosure of, screening for, and labeling of inhalable cannabinoid products that use non-cannabis additives. The Commission also ratified five stipulated settlements.

The action taken against squalene and squalane comes in the wake of an OLCC investigation (see December 11, 2020 press release) that uncovered the use of those ingredients in cannabinoid vaping products sold in Oregon. The OLCC found that squalene and squalane were not disclosed as ingredients and were included on product labels as “natural flavors.” Studies, including one commissioned by the OLCC, have shown that squalene and squalane can produce harmful chemicals when exposed to heat and inhaled, posing potential harm to consumer health.

If the OLCC discovers any remaining products in the marketplace that contain squalene or squalane, those products will be subject to an immediate recall, a provision included in the new rules. Squalene and squalane join Vitamin E acetate on OLCC’s list of banned adulterants; as a result of the Commission’s actions, propylene glycol (PG) and triglycerides, like MCT oil, will be added to the list effective April 1, 2021.

The Commission began examining the impact of non-cannabis additives in the wake of the e-cigarette use-associated lung injury (EVALI) health crisis in mid-2019. During 2020, the OLCC held a series of discussions with cannabis industry stakeholders, public health officials and OLCC cannabis licensees to contemplate an approach for identifying and screening out non-cannabis ingredients added to cannabis products that pose a potential danger to human health. A framework for applying those standards was used to create the rules.

The approved rules will help the Commission protect health and safety by compelling greater ingredient disclosure, and to address both the acute and chronic health effects of additive ingredients when heated and inhaled by specifying the standards for non-cannabis additives being used in inhalable cannabinoid products. Because of the disclosure requirements, licensees and consumers will have greater assurance that any additives used in cannabis vape products were manufactured with the intent that they would be inhaled.

The rules take effect December 22, 2020, and the OLCC on that date will immediately begin accepting label applications under new rules for inhalable cannabinoid products. The Cannabis Tracking System (CTS) will be updated by that time to include a category for designating inhalable cannabinoid products.

Any inhalable cannabinoid products made on or after April 1, 2021, will be subject to the new rules, including no use of PG or MCT and full disclosure of additive ingredients on the item’s label. By April 1, all inhalable cannabinoid products (regardless of manufacture date) must also be tracked in CTS with disclosure of the additive mix used in the cannabinoid product.

From April 1 to July 1, 2021, OLCC recreational marijuana licensees are allowed to “sell down” any inhalable cannabinoid products made before April 1, 2021. Beginning July 1, 2021, all inhalable cannabinoid products in the marketplace must comply with the new rules and standards, and anything that does not comply, regardless of manufacture date, must be destroyed.

The Commission also ratified the following violation fines and suspensions based on stipulated settlements (detailed information on specific cases can be found here on the OLCC website):

SHADOWBOX FARMS (#1467A) will serve an 32-day recreational marijuana producer license suspension OR pay a fine of $5,280 for one violation.

Licensee is: Rogue Valley Group, LLC; Tim Winner, Manager; Artemis Group, LLC, Member; Joseph Bundy, Member; Megan Bundy, Member; Bryan Bundy, Member.

FLOWERSMITH will serve a 14-day recreational marijuana producer license suspension OR pay a fine of $2,310 for two violations.

Licensees are: Flowersmith, LLC; Samuel Felton, Member; Gavin Henner, Member

BLACK MARKET DISTRIBUTION will serve a 69-day recreational marijuana wholesaler license suspension OR pay a fine of $11,385 for three violations.

Licensees are: Black Market Distribution, LLC; Aaron Mitchell, Member; Rosa Cazares, Manager.

COPPERHEAD ORGANIC FARMS will surrender its license at the earlier of the date of transfer of ownership of the business or February 19, 2021 for four violations.

Licensees are: CH Organics, LLC; Corey Tarr, Member; Debra Davis Estate, Member.

FTC Announces Crackdown On Deceptively Marketed CBD Products

Companies made unsupported claims that their oils, balms, gummies, coffee, and other goods could treat serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Federal Trade Commission today announced the first law enforcement crackdown on deceptive claims in the growing market for cannabidiol (CBD) products. The FTC is taking action against six sellers of CBD-containing products for allegedly making a wide range of scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.

The FTC is requiring each of the companies, and individuals behind them, to stop making such unsupported health claims immediately, and several will pay monetary judgments to the agency. The orders settling the FTC’s complaints also bar the respondents from similar deceptive advertising in the future, and require that they have scientific evidence to support any health claims they make for CBD and other products.

“The six settlements announced today send a clear message to the burgeoning CBD industry: Don’t make spurious health claims that are unsupported by medical science,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you hear from the FTC.”

The crackdown, Operation CBDeceit, is part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to protect consumers from false, deceptive, and misleading health claims made in advertisements on websites and through social media companies such as Twitter.

Each case the FTC is announcing today is described below:

Bionatrol Health, LLC

According to the FTC’s complaint against Utah-based companies Bionatrol Health, LLC and Isle Revive, LLC, and two former managers and owners, since at least December 2019 the respondents sold a CBD oil to consumers on two websites. Among other things, the respondents allegedly claimed without substantiation that their CBD product is safe for all users, treats pain better than prescription medications like OxyContin, and prevents and treats age-related cognitive decline and chronic pain. The respondents also claimed, without scientific evidence, that CBD oil is “medically proven” to improve a variety of conditions, according to the FTC’s complaint. In addition, the FTC alleges the respondents deceived consumers who ordered one bottle of their CBD oil by changing the order to five bottles without consumers’ consent.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs without human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. It also requires competent and reliable scientific evidence for other health-related product claims, and prohibits the respondents from misrepresenting the cost of any good or service and from charging consumers without their express, informed consent. Finally, it requires the corporate respondents and individual respondent Marcello Torre to pay $20,000 to the FTC and to notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

Epichouse LLC (First Class Herbalist CBD)

According to the FTC’s complaint against Utah corporation Epichouse, LLC, which operated under several names, including First Class Herbalist, and the company’s founder and owner, John Le, since at least September 2019 the respondents sold several CBD products on their website, including oils, a pain-relief cream, coffee, and gummies.

Among other alleged unsupported claims, Epichouse and Le promoted CBD as safe for all users, able to treat pain better than prescription medications such as OxyContin, and able to prevent a wide range of serious conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In their advertising, they also falsely claimed that CBD is scientifically proven to improve many serious health conditions—including chronic pain and hypertension—and provide neurological benefit—such as preventing age-related cognitive decline—according to the FTC’s complaint.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. It requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, the order requires the respondents to pay $30,000 to the FTC and notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

CBD Meds, Inc.

According to the FTC’s complaint against CBD Meds, Inc.; G2 Hemp, Inc.; and Lawrence Moses, a/k/a Lawrence D. Moses, Jr., individually and as an officer of the corporate entities, the two companies advertised CBD oil on their website and on YouTube. In their ads, the FTC contends, the Winchester, California-based firms made a number of false or unsubstantiated claims, including that CBD effectively treats, prevents, or mitigates serious diseases and conditions like artery blockage, cancer, glaucoma, autism, and schizophrenia, among many others. The respondents also falsely represented that some of the efficacy claims were scientifically proven or that the U.S. government has confirmed the health benefits of CBD.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. More broadly, it requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, the order requires the respondents to notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

HempmeCBD

According to the FTC’s complaint against EasyButter, LLC, also d/b/a HempmeCBD, and its owner and officer Michael Solomon, since at least January 2018, the respondents have sold CBD products on their website, including CBD-infused shea butter, gummies, lozenges, honey sticks, vape pens, and oils. The complaint alleges that HempmeCBD claimed its CBD products could treat or cure serious ailments like cancer-related symptoms, substance abuse, and AIDS. The complaint alleges HempmeCBD lacked the scientific substantiation for such health claims and falsely claimed to have studies showing CBD is effective at treating autism.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. It also requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, it requires the respondents to pay the FTC $36,254 and to notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

Reef Industries, Inc.

According to the FTC’s complaint against California-based Reef Industries, Inc.; Cannatera, Inc.; AndHemp, Ltd., and the companies’ three principals, the respondents have sold a variety of CBD products directly to consumers on their website and Twitter accounts since at least January 2019 and misrepresented the health benefits of CBD. The FTC alleges that the respondents made unsubstantiated claims that CBD can prevent, cure, mitigate, or treat diseases and serious health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, autoimmune disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. The complaint also alleges the respondents falsely claimed that studies or scientific research prove that CBD is effective at treating, curing, or mitigating these diseases and conditions.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. More broadly, it requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, it requires them to pay the FTC $85,000 and notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

Steves Distributing, LLC

According to the FTC’s complaint against Steves Distributing, LLC, d/b/a Steve’s Goods; and the company’s CEO Steven Taylor Schultheis, since beginning operations in 2018, the respondents have sold a variety of products containing both CBD and cannabigerol (CBG), which, like CBD, is a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp. The company advertises its CBD and CBG products, including tinctures, gummies, capsules, topical balms, suppositories, bath balms, and coffee, on its website and through social media companies like Twitter.

The FTC alleges that the respondents claimed, without adequate substantiation, that their CBD and CBG products are effective alternatives to prescription medications and treat a wide range of diseases and serious health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes. The complaint also alleges the respondents falsely claimed that their CBD and CBG products have antibacterial properties, prevent or reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases, and that certain of these claims were supported by scientific evidence.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. More broadly, it requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, it requires the respondents to pay the FTC $75,000 and notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

The Commission votes approving each of the six administrative complaints and proposed consent orders were 5-0, with Commissioner Rohit Chopra and Commissioner Christine S. Wilson issuing separate, concurring statements. A complete list of respondents can be found in the complaint for each respective case.

The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register soon. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Instructions for filing comments will appear in the published notice. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.

Ohio Board Of Pharmacy Publishes Updated Patient & Caregiver Numbers For November 2020

Update from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program

OHIO:   The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy today published updated patient & caregiver numbers for November 2020. These numbers include:

  • 204,114 Recommendations
  • 154,376 Registered patients
    • 10,598 Patients with Veteran Status
    • 11,205 Patients with Indigent Status
    • 832 Patients with a Terminal Diagnosis
  • 131,398 Unique patients who purchased medical marijuana (as reported to OARRS by licensed dispensaries)
  • 17,463 Registered Caregivers

For the full list of program numbers, please visit the Program Update page.

Washington: Cannabis Testing Lab Praxis Shut Down For Falsifying Test Results

More than 1200 sample tests given elevated THC potency results by lab in Lewis Co.

WASHINGTON:  The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) issued a summary suspension of Praxis Laboratory’s certification to conduct quality assurance located in Centralia, Washington was found to have falsified testing data to provide high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency results for more than 1200 samples of cannabis.

During the investigation the lab owner attempted to destroy evidence of falsified data in an effort to obstruct LCB’s ability to conduct a complete investigation.

Labeling cannabis with falsely high THC potency levels is a form of consumer deception and is prohibited under Washington law. THC is the natural chemical compound responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive effect. Because of this, cannabis users seeking more pronounced psychoactive results may choose to buy cannabis with higher levels of THC.

The summary suspension is effective for 180 days beginning December 10, 2020 until June 8, 2021. During that time the WSLCB will seek permanent revocation of the “marijuana laboratory” certification due to fraud, and the subsequent investigation obstruction. Moving forward, the lab will no longer be allowed to test cannabis for licensees in Washington.

The LCB educates licensees to reach compliance and enforces Washington’s liquor, cannabis, vape and tobacco laws and regulations. The WSLCB is mandated to ensure that licensees in Washington State follow state laws and regulations. When licensees fail to comply with state law, the Board, under state authority can take action including the issuance of suspensions to ensure public health and safety.

House Approves Blumenauer’s Medical Marijuana Research Act

Legislation removes barriers to much-needed research on health benefits of marijuana.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:Today (12/9/2020), the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Medical Marijuana Research Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD) to address burdensome impediments to legitimate medical research.

Although 99 percent of Americans now live in a state with some form of legalized marijuana, current federal law greatly limits researchers’ ability to study the health benefits of cannabis. Current barriers include the overly burdensome registration process, redundant protocol reviews, lack of adequate research material, and unnecessarily onerous security requirements.

“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, especially those that deal with research. It’s illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or any other substance. But we do not have a good test for impairment because we can’t study it … This is insane and we need to change it,” Blumenauer said today on the House floor. “At a time when there are four million registered medical cannabis patients, and many more likely self-medicate, when there are 91 percent of Americans supporting medical cannabis, it’s time to change the system. Our bill will do precisely that.”

While the United States leads the world in biomedical research, research on cannabis lags far behind. A 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report found that “research on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids has been limited in the United States, leaving patients, health care professionals, and policy makers without the evidence they need to make sound decisions regarding the use of cannabis and cannabinoids.”

The Medical Marijuana Research Act will address these limitations by:

  • Providing a pathway for researchers to study the cannabis products consumers are using from state-legal programs.
  • Streamlining the burdensome and often duplicative license process for researchers seeking to conduct marijuana research, while still maintaining all necessary safeguards against misuse and abuse.
  • Addressing the woefully inadequate, both in quantity and quality, supply of medical-grade marijuana available for use in such research.
  • Requiring a report by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the status and results of new research on marijuana benefits.

This was the second vote held by the U.S. House of Representatives in the past week on Blumenauer’s federal cannabis reform priorities, following the passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on Friday, December 4.

The full text of the Medical Marijuana Research Act can be found here.

Washington: Joint Law Enforcement Operation Finds Illegal Marijuana Operation In Puyallup Home

More than 100 pounds of marijuana, 678 plants, grow equipment and car seized

WASHINGTON:  Officers from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) and the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force (TNT) served a search warrant on a Puyallup residence that was found to be growing marijuana without any type of cannabis production, processing, or retail license. The illegal grow was located in unincorporated Pierce County on the 12000 block of Woodland Avenue East, Puyallup, WA.

Officers identified and seized 687 plants and approximately 100 pounds of marijuana that had been commercially packaged. In addition, officers seized a significant amount of growing equipment and a car associated with the illegal operation.

Officers found pesticides on site that would not be legal to apply to marijuana plants in a licensed operation in Washington State. Illegal electrical and other modifications to the house and outbuildings indicated that the residence was repurposed solely for the illegal production of marijuana.

A Kent resident who was associated with the growing operation was arrested and felony charges for the illegal manufacture and possession of a controlled substance have been recommended.

The Thurston County Drug Task Force and the Liquor and Cannabis Board received multiple complaints regarding the illegal marijuana grow. Neighbors complained that a strong odor of marijuana had been emanating from the house since 2017, after the cash sale of the residence to a person who never resided there. The LCB officers obtained a search warrant for the home which was served in conjunction with the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force.

The LCB educates licensees to reach compliance and enforces Washington’s liquor, cannabis, vape and tobacco laws and regulations. The WSLCB is mandated to ensure that licensees in Washington State follow state laws and regulations. When licensees fail to comply with state law, the Board, under state authority can take action including the issuance of suspensions to ensure public health and safety.

DCFS And Illinois Courts Refusing To Follow New Cannabis Anti-Discrimination Law: Parents Risk Losing Children Over Cannabis Use Despite Legalization

By Jay Lindsay, CROSSROAD LEGAL

ILLINOIS: On June 25, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into a law sweeping new legislation legalizing personal recreational use of Cannabis in Illinois. Under the law, Illinoisans can now use cannabis not only for medicinal purposes, but also recreationally. The law also prohibits discrimination based on cannabis in certain situations. Specifically, the anti-discrimination provision is strategically drafted to avoid cannabis users from suffering negative or adverse impacts in Illinois family and juvenile courts, including actions by Child Protective Services. Despite passage of this law, DCFS and courts remain unwilling to comply with these anti-discrimination rules.

To fully understand why this is important and how it affects Illinois parents, a little background is necessary.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act of 2019

Effective the first day of 2020, Cannabis became legal for personal use in Illinois. The new law is entitled the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, and the personal use provisions are found in the Illinois Code at 410 ILCS 705/10-5 et seq. Under the new law, Illinois residents are legally permitted to use and possess Cannabis and Cannabis-related products. There are, of course, limitations.

POSSESSION OF CANNABIS

  • Up to 30 grams of Cannabis in raw form
  • Cannabis-infused product or products containing no more than 500 mg of THC
  • Five grams of cannabis product in concentrated form 

PRIOR INCARCERATIONS

Under House Bill 1438, which ultimately became the new law last year, the Governor has created a clemency process that will ultimately help to exonerate and clear the records of hundreds of thousands of people convicted of minor Cannabis charges. 

  • Automatic expungement for any possession charge of up to 30 grams
  • Potential clemency for possession of 30-500 grams, but only upon petitioning a court to vacate the conviction.

The Marijuana Policy Project estimates that this will result in an estimated 770,000 overturned convictions. This is perhaps the most notable part of the legislation, because it could effectively re-enfranchise almost a million Illinois residents of things like voting and gun rights. Under current law, drug-related convictions can be used as a reason for the Illinois State Police revoking or denying a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID).  Likewise, for felony convictions, many people lose the right to vote. Many of these rights are now likely subject to restoration.

Public Support for Cannabis

Before directly addressing the issue of discrimination, it is worth noting that the majority of Illinoisans support legalization. Even in the most rural and conservative reaches of the state, Cannabis is gaining wide-spread acceptance. According to the advocacy group, Legalize Illinois, the following statistics were reported in relation to resident approval of legalization:

  • Chicago: 77% support and 22% oppose legalization
  • Downstate: 58% support and 40% oppose legalization
  • Statewide: 66% support and 32% oppose legalization

Anti-Discrimination Provision

Now that the background and legislative underpinnings are clear, we turn to the problem at hand.  Under the new law, there’s a specific provision that directly applies to family courts and actions by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The provision found at 410 ILCS 705/10-30(a) outlines the precise ways that the government may not use a person’s conduct under the statute. Below, the statute is broken into three parts for clarity:

Neither the presence of cannabinoid components or metabolites in a person’s bodily fluids nor possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia, nor conduct related to the use of cannabis or the participation in cannabis-related activities lawful under this Act by a custodial or noncustodial parent, grandparent, legal guardian, foster parent, or other person charged with the well-being of a child . . .

. . . shall form the sole or primary basis or supporting basis for any action or proceeding by a child welfare agency or in a family or juvenile court, any adverse finding, adverse evidence, or restriction of any right or privilege in a proceeding related to adoption of a child, acting as a foster parent of a child, or a person’s fitness to adopt a child or act as a foster parent of a child, or serve as the basis of any adverse finding, adverse evidence, or restriction of any right of privilege in a proceeding related to guardianship, conservatorship, trusteeship, the execution of a will, or the management of an estate . . .

. . . unless the person’s actions in relation to cannabis created an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor or otherwise show the person to not be competent as established by clear and convincing evidence. This subsection applies only to conduct protected under this Act. 

Juvenile Court Act vs. Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

In a landmark Supreme Court decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, that there is “a fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).

Moreover, the Court wrote, “[t]he liberty interest at issue in this case-the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children-is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. See id. at 65. 

It is with this context from the Supreme Court that we next must address how Illinois law treats removal of children for abuse and neglect allegations.

Under the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987, DCFS is charged with protecting minors from abuse and neglect. When there is a credible report of abuse, DCFS will investigate the allegations and, if founded, may remove a child from their home, place them into emergency protective custody, then turn the matter over to the local States Attorney for the appropriate county. At this time, the prosecutor will file a petition to adjudicate the minor a ward of the court. If successful, the child will be placed into foster care, while a provider agency, such as Caritas or Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS), will take over managing the casework associated with the matter. A service plan is created, and parents must complete the service plan and meet all requirements of the agency before the children can be returned.

Under the Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/2-18(2)(f), the court deciding the matter at the adjudicatory hearing may consider:

proof that a parent, custodian or guardian of a minor repeatedly used a drug, to the extent that it has or would ordinarily have the effect of producing in the user a substantial state of stupor, unconsciousness, intoxication, hallucination, disorientation or incompetence, or a substantial impairment of judgment, or a substantial manifestation of irrationality, shall be prima facie evidence of neglect.

Under the Juvenile Court Act drug is not a per se or automatic reason for removal of children. Drug use must create a “substantial” effect on the parent, to the point that the Department feels that the parent cannot properly care for a child. In practice, this is very different, however. Typically, ANY use will be enough for DCFS to remove a child. Historically, this included Cannabis. 

Breaking it Down

Since there are now two potentially conflicting laws, Courts are left to decide whether or not they will follow the new anti-discrimination provision by simply disregarding evidence of Cannabis use, or whether they will continue to view Cannabis as a drug that supports removal of minor children.

Case Examples from Practice

 The author is a former Assistant Public Defender for a rural county in downstate Illinois. In the first year since legalization, numerous cases have come before the court with little evidence of drug use except minor Cannabis possession or positive THC test results. Consider the following* examples:

  • Young mother has argument with boyfriend, and children are removed due to allegations of domestic violence. After 6 months, all services are complete. There was no evidence of illegal drug use, alcohol abuse or other substance-related issues. While under oath, a case worker testified that the sole reason why the children have not yet been returned to the mother from May 2020 to November 2020 is her positive drug tests for THC. At a hearing, one child was returned to a father, in part due to the fact that mother was alleged to have continued using Cannabis.

Rationale – According to DCFS, the mother had a service plan that required her to remain free from all drugs, including Cannabis; therefore, it is the State’s position that even though Cannabis is legal, she is prohibited from using it.

  • Judge orders young mother to receive overnight visits and have children returned within 30 days, due to minimal nature of the case. DCFS refuses to honor the court’s order, based on allegations that the mother is still using Cannabis. A single positive test for THC from several months earlier used to argue that she is unfit to have the children go home. The court allowed the matter to be continued for another 90 days and decided not to return the child.

Rationale – According to DCFS, there were concerns about the mother using Cannabis, because she is underage (18) at the time, and thus use would be considered illegal.

  • Young mother has a messy home and is accused of being under the influence while caring for her small child. Notably, under oath, the police officer repeatedly referred to discovering evidence of illicit drug use in the home. On closer cross-examination, it turned out the mother had an empty vape pen on her nightstand. No Cannabis was located on the property. The mother did admit to using Cannabis at times, but no evidence was provided to indicate she had used Cannabis that day or that she was in possession of Cannabis. While other reasons were used for removing the children, such as the condition of the home, this was a critical piece of evidence heard by and relied upon by the court.

Rationale – According to DCFS, simply having marijuana paraphernalia in reach of a minor child was sufficient to remove the children, as it indicated a drug addiction.

Facing the Dilemma Head-On

With these examples squarely before us, it’s important to note a few things. First, possession of 10 grams or less of Cannabis by a person under the age of 21 is considered a civil violation, punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200. See 720 ILCS 55/4. In fact, possession doesn’t even reach Class A misdemeanor status (comparable to a first-offense DUI) until a minor possesses between 30 and 100 grams of Cannabis. With this in mind, it’s difficult to understand how DCFS and the courts can deprive a parent of such a fundamental liberty as the right to raise one’s own child over such a minor offense. Likewise, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act clearly outlines that Cannabis use should not be considered in these court proceedings. The law makes no exception for age of the user.

Where We Go Next 

Ultimately, the problem is that although Cannabis has been fully legalized for recreational use, judges and DCFS are still very much using Cannabis as the sole reason (or at a minimum, a substantial reason) for removing children from parents. And once removed from their parents, children are often kept in foster care for years. If the parent tests positive for Cannabis even once, the courts and DCFS will invariably argue that the parent is failing to make reasonable efforts and substantial progress toward the return of the child. This key language is used to eventually terminate parental rights for good.

It is imperative that the fundamental liberties of parents in Illinois be protected at all costs. As Justice O’Connor wrote in 2000, the right to raise one’s own children is perhaps the oldest recognized liberty in our country’s history. Indeed, this fundamental right is being breached every day in courtrooms across the state, because the clear text of the law is being ignored. Despite Illinois passing a law that prohibits consideration of Cannabis use or possession in DCFS proceedings and juvenile court hearings, state agencies and judges remain completely unwilling to disregard it. In doing so, one could certainly argue that the courts are re-criminalizing Cannabis. In fact, the outcome is that one can lose their children forever for something that amounts to little more than a civil fine if done underage. Imagine losing your children for burning without a permit or littering.

It’s high time that the Illinois legislature put some teeth in the law by creating some form of penalty for state agencies that disregard the law. It also raises the possibility that some parents may have significant civil actions against the State of Illinois where DCFS and provider agencies disregard the law and remove children due to Cannabis use in the home. Illinois NORML continues to advocate and fight hard for the residents of the state every day.

*Due to confidentiality of juvenile court records, the author is unable to discuss specific cases or names of participants.


Jaye R. Lindsay is the founding attorney for CROSSROAD LEGAL, a general practice law firm based in O’Fallon, IL.

Congressman Blumenauer Reacts To New Report Detailing Vast Economic Benefits To MORE Act

CBO projections show that cannabis reform will lead to huge growth in revenue, cuts to federal prison spending, and more.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Following a historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to end the federal prohibition on cannabis last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, released a new report today detailing vast economic benefits to the legislation.

Among other things, the agency found that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would increase revenues by about $13.7 billion, cut federal prison spending by $1 billion, and reduce time served in federal prison among existing and future inmates by 73,000 person-years.

U.S. Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and a key sponsor of the MORE Act, lauded these findings today on the House floor.

“It was sad that my Republican colleagues were unable to understand why we voted to reform our failed prohibition of cannabis. They don’t care about honoring the will of the people and they are unable to grasp the enormity of the racial injustice and damage by selective enforcement against young Black and Brown Americans,” Blumenauer said. “But the CBO score may have some other reasons for them. It shows that the MORE Act would reduce 73,000 person-years of prison time. It would increase revenues by $13.7 billion. It would provide $3 billion for job training and legal aid to people harmed by the war on drugs. While doing all of this, it would reduce the deficit by $7.344 billion.”

If the MORE Act becomes law, the CBO report also estimates that from 2021 – 2030, the U.S. Department of Justice would spend $3 billion from the MORE Act’s Opportunity Trust Fund to provide job training, legal aid, and other services to people harmed by the “War on Drugs.” During this same period, the legislation would lead to $2.7 billion in Small Business Association funding for state and local grants to make loans to cannabis businesses and help governments develop cannabis-licensing rules.

“Even if you don’t care about reducing the damage to Black and Brown Americans, or honoring the will of the people, the economics make it clear,” Blumenauer continued. “Once again, the people are right, and the people deserve strong Congressional support.”

The report released today by the CBO can be found here.

Full text of the MORE Act can be found here.

Pelosi Statement On House Passage Of MORE Act To Federally Decriminalize Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the House passed H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, while taking long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices of the criminalization of marijuana and the vastly disproportionate impact it has had on communities of color:

“Today, with the bipartisan MORE Act, the House has proudly passed one of the most important criminal justice reform bills in recent history.  This momentous step helps end the devastating injustices of the criminalization of marijuana that have disproportionately impacted low income communities and communities of color, and reflects the overwhelming will of the American people — 47 states have recently reformed marijuana laws, with California at the helm of this justice effort.  
“The MORE Act builds on these advancements and finally secures justice for those negatively impacted by the brutal, unfair consequences of criminalization.  This landmark legislation will also open the doors of opportunity for all people to participate in the growing cannabis industry and provide revenue and resources to communities to grow.
“Guided by the tireless voices of advocates and young people, and the leadership of Democrats, the House has achieved an extraordinary victory for our fundamental values of justice, equality and opportunity for all.  Our Majority will fight to enact this vital legislation as we work to lift up communities of color and advance progress for all.”

Chairman Nadler Statement In Support Of H.R. 3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment And Expungement (MORE) Act Of 2020

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued the following statement in support of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2020:

“Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have introduced H.R. 3884, the ‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020,’ or the ‘MORE Act of 2020.’

“This long overdue legislation would reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and would take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color.

“The MORE Act would make three important changes to federal law:

(1) remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally controlled substances;

(2) authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on marijuana, to address the needs of communities that have been seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and

(3) provide for the expungement of Federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health.  Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust.

“This issue is not new to Congress.  There have been many Members who have introduced bills upon which provisions in this bill are based.  For instance, Representative Barbara Lee has sponsored bills that are the foundation of key provisions of the MORE Act, and I thank her for her longstanding leadership on this issue.  Representative Earl Blumenauer has also been an indefatigable advocate and has supported everything we have done to get to where we are today.  I thank him, as well.

“Federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable.  Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis.  Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.

“Marijuana is one of the oldest agricultural commodities not grown for food, and it has been used medicinally all over the world since at least 2700 B.C., but its criminalization is a relatively recent phenomenon.

“The use of marijuana, which most likely originated in Asia, later spread to Europe, and made its way to the Americas when the Jamestown settlers brought it with them across the Atlantic.  The cannabis plant has been widely grown in the United States and was used as a component in fabrics during the middle of the 19th century.  During that time period, cannabis was also widely used as a treatment for a multitude of ailments, including muscle spasms, headaches, cramps, asthma, and diabetes.

“It was only in the early part of the 20th century that marijuana began to be criminalized in the United States—mainly because of misinformation and hysteria, based at least in part on racially-biased stereotypes connecting marijuana use and people of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos.  In 1970, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, the federal government placed marijuana on Schedule I, the most restrictive schedule that is attached to the most serious criminal penalties, where—unfairly and unjustifiably—it has remained ever since.

“As a consequence of this decision, thousands of individuals—overwhelmingly people of color—have been subjected, by the federal government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses.  It is time for this manifest injustice to end.  The MORE Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I and the Controlled Substances Act altogether, thereby decriminalizing it at the Federal level.

“This is only fair, particularly because the same racial animus motivating the enactment of marijuana laws also led to racially disproportionate enforcement of such laws, which has had a substantial, negative impact on communities of color.  In fact, nationwide, the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana enforcement are benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace.

“The MORE Act would address some of these negative impacts, by establishing an Opportunity Trust Fund within the Department of Treasury to fund programs within the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to empower communities of color and those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. These programs would provide services to individuals, including job training, reentry services and substance use disorder services; provide funds for loans to assist small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and provide resources for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

“The collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana possession—and even sometimes for a mere arrest—can be devastating.  For those saddled with a criminal conviction, it can be difficult or impossible to vote, to obtain educational loans, to get a job, to maintain a professional license, to secure housing, to receive government assistance, or even to adopt a child.

“These exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans.  This is unacceptable and counterproductive, especially in light of the disproportionate impact that enforcement of marijuana laws has had on communities of color.  The MORE Act recognizes this injustice and addresses these harmful effects by expunging and sealing federal convictions and arrests for marijuana offenses.

“It is not surprising that over the past two decades, public support for legalizing marijuana has surged.  In the most recent Pew Research Center poll—which was released at the end of 2019—67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in Pew’s 2018 poll.  And just this November, there were ballot measures pertaining to marijuana in several states; they were all approved by voters.  Indeed, the states have led the way—and continue to lead the way—on marijuana, but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change.  We need to catch up because the public supports reform and because it is the right thing to do.

“In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to our society.  The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill today.”