Virginia Governor Northam Announces Industrial Hemp Company to Locate In Rockingham County

Governor Northam Announces Industrial Hemp Company to Locate in Rockingham County

VIRGINIA:  Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Shenandoah Valley Hemp, LLC dba Pure Shenandoah will invest nearly $3.3 million to establish an industrial hemp fiber processing and cannabidiol (CBD) oil extraction facility in the historic Casey Jones building in the Town of Elkton. The company will create 24 new jobs and has committed to purchasing 100 percent of its industrial hemp from Virginia growers, resulting in nearly $5 million in payments to Virginia farmers over the next three years. Pure Shenandoah will become the first participant in the Virginia’s Finest trademark program to source the hemp used in its products exclusively from the Commonwealth.

“Virginia’s industrial hemp industry continues to experience tremendous growth, creating a wealth of opportunity across our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Projects like this one are an important part of diversifying our economy and developing new markets for industrial hemp. Our administration remains committed to supporting growers and processors as we work to ensure this crop has a sustainable future in Virginia.”

Pure Shenandoah operates as a vertically integrated “seed to sale” company providing customers with safe and consistent hemp products of the highest quality. This includes strict regulatory control of crops, the application of certified good manufacturing practices, and complete traceability of each product back to the seed and farm from which it came.

“Pure Shenandoah is a great example of the many ways we are able to help innovative, agriculture-based companies grow and thrive in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased to see continued job creation and investment in Virginia’s industrial hemp industry and excited for the new market opportunities the industry is creating for our farmers.”

“Industrial hemp is gaining momentum across the country, and we are excited for Virginia to be a player in this up-and-coming industry,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Pure Shenandoah will provide quality jobs and enable the Commonwealth’s hemp growers to source extraction and processing within Virginia, further benefiting our economy and agricultural ecosystem.”

As part of its strategic marketing efforts, Pure Shenandoah is a participating member of the Virginia’s Finest® program. Created more than 30 years ago with more than 500 participating companies, this program helps consumers know they are purchasing top-quality Virginia-produced specialty food products whenever they see the classic blue and red VA check mark logo.

“We are honored to receive these funds and to work with such influential state programs that are helping push the industrial hemp industry forward in the Commonwealth,” said Pure Shenandoah CEO Tanner Johnson. “With this support, we will continue to educate and provide safe and effective products to consumers. We are excited to do our part and help expand the future of industrial hemp and all of its potential.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) worked with Rockingham County and the Rockingham County Economic Development Authority to secure this project for the Commonwealth. Governor Northam approved a $50,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund for the project, which Rockingham County will match with local funds. Funding and services to support the company’s job creation will be provided through VEDP’s Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

“Rockingham County is pleased with the announcement of 24 new jobs and the investment of $3.3 million in eastern Rockingham County,” said Chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors Bill Kyger. “This is a new and exciting industry that offers a great opportunity to diversify the agriculture base of the county for the future.”

“We should never forget or take for granted Virginia’s tremendous agricultural heritage and its economic viability that continues to push Virginia forward,” said Senator Emmett Hanger. “I am pleased the AFID funds will further promote industrial hemp and that Pure Shenandoah is committed to exclusively sourcing Virginia agriculture products for this project. Of course, there is no better county to partner with on this funding than the number one agricultural county in the Commonwealth, Rockingham County. We are proud of our deep agricultural roots here in Virginia and this economic announcement adds yet another facet to our diverse agriculture operations.”

Virginia Governor Northam Releases Report On Marijuana Legalization

Community-driven report reflects recommendations of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group

VIRGINIA:  Governor Ralph Northam today released the Administration’s report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The report is the final product of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group, and it results from a diverse, stakeholder-driven process that involved community leaders, healthcare professionals, policy experts, and government officials. This months-long effort was a key part of marijuana decriminalization legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, and follows Governor Northam’s recent announcement that he intends to advance marijuana legalization in Virginia.

“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”

The comprehensive report includes nearly 400 pages of meeting minutes and outlines various aspects of marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth, including taxation, banking, criminal justice, licensing and regulation, and consumer safety. It also provides additional details on the five key principles that Governor Northam wants to see in any final legalization bill:

  • Social equity, racial equity, and economic equity. Marijuana prohibition historically has been based in discrimination, and criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities. Legislation should focus on undoing these harms by including initiatives such as social equity license programs, access to capital, community reinvestment, and sealing or expunging records of past marijuana-related convictions.
  • Public health. Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities.
  • Protections for young people. As a pediatrician, Governor Northam will require any legislation include protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits, mandatory ID checks, and education campaigns.
  • Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use, which Governor Northam championed as a state Senator.
  • Data collection. Legislation should ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health, and equity.

The Virginia Marijuana Work Group consulted with dozens of subject matter experts in compiling its recommendations, including organizations focused on ensuring social and racial equity, such as the Minority Cannabis Business Association, NoLef Turns, and Decriminalize Virginia. Health experts, including public health policy consultants and practicing physicians were extensively involved, and the team worked closely with government officials from states that have already legalized marijuana, such as Washington, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

The Work Group was led by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security. The group held a total of 15 public meetings between July and October 2020.

The full report is available here. Additional information about the Virginia Marijuana Work Group and its membership can be found here.

Governor Northam Announces Support for Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana in Virginia

Governor says, “The time has come to legalize marijuana in our Commonwealth, and Virginia will get this right.”

VIRGINIA:  Governor Ralph Northam today announced that he will introduce and support legislation to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The announcement comes as the Northam Administration prepares to release a report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana, which was compiled with robust input from government officials, policy experts, healthcare professionals, and community leaders.

“It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health, and public safety. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this right.”

The Northam Administration is working closely with lawmakers to finalize legislation in advance of the 2021 General Assembly session. Today, Governor Northam made clear that any legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana will need to address the following five principles.

  • Social equity, racial equity, and economic equity. Marijuana prohibition has historically been based in discrimination, and the impact of criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities as result. A report of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) issued today found that Black Virginians are arrested and convicted for marijuana use at more than three times the rate of white Virginians. Legislation should focus on undoing these harms by including initiatives such as social equity license programs, access to capital, community reinvestment, and sealing or expunging records of past marijuana-related convictions.
  • Public health. Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities.
  • Protections for young people. As a pediatrician, Governor Northam will require any legislation include protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits, mandatory ID checks, and education campaigns.
  • Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use, which Governor Northam championed as a state Senator.
  • Data collection. Legislation should ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health, and equity.

In 2020, Governor Northam signed legislation that decriminalized simple marijuana possession in Virginia. The legislation also required the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security to convene a Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group to study the impact on the Commonwealth of legalizing the sale and personal use of marijuana and report the recommendations of the work group to the General Assembly and the Governor by November 30, 2020.

Virginia Governor Northam Signs Bold New Laws To Reform Criminal Justice

House Bill 972 decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana and creates a $25 civil penalty

VIRGINIA: Governor Ralph Northam has signed into law criminal justice reform legislation that he proposed in January. The package includes measures raising the felony larceny threshold; permanently eliminating driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines, fees, and court costs; raising the age of juvenile transfer to adult court; and reforming parole.

The Governor’s package also includes decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana and sealing the records of prior convictions. The Governor proposed that a study be completed to assess the impact of fully legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth.

“Every Virginian deserves access to a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” said Governor Northam. “These bills combat mass incarceration, increase support for returning citizens, and ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have a meaningful second chance. I thank the General Assembly for working with us to build a more just and inclusive Commonwealth.”

Governor Northam signed the following bills:

  • House Bill 1196 and Senate Bill 1 repeal the requirement that the driver’s license of a person convicted of any violation of the law who fails or refuses to provide for immediate payment of fines or costs be suspended. The bill requires the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles to return or reinstate any person’s driver’s license that was suspended prior to July 1, 2019, solely for nonpayment of fines or costs, without a reinstatement fee.
  • House Bill 477 and Senate Bill 546 raise the age when a Commonwealth’s Attorney can transfer a juvenile to be tried as an adult without court approval from 14 to 16.
  • House Bill 909 and Senate Bill 513 end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for non-driving related offenses, including drug offenses and theft of motor fuel.
  • House Bill 974 and Senate Bill 511 modify the current standards for writs of actual innocence. Currently, individuals may pursue writs of actual innocence under very narrow circumstances, which limits access to relief and places additional burdens on the pardon process.
  • House Bill 277 and Senate Bill 736 provide that a court may permit an inmate to earn credits against any fines and court costs imposed against him by performing community service. Under current law, credits may be earned only before or after imprisonment.

The Governor proposed two amendments:

  • House Bill 972 decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana and creates a $25 civil penalty. The bill seals the records of convictions and prohibits employers from inquiring about past convictions. The bill creates a work group to study the impact of legalization of marijuana. Governor Northam proposes to require that report by November 30, 2021.
  • House Bill 33 and Senate Bill 793, the “Fishback” bills, make individuals sentenced by juries between 1995 and 2000 eligible for parole consideration. Parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995, however juries were not instructed of this change until 2000 following a court ruling. The Governor proposes adding an “emergency clause” to the measure.

“As a lawyer, I believe in justice, and that means we must aspire to a legal system that promotes equality under the law,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “I also believe in fairness, transparency, and compassion. These new laws strengthen our criminal justice system, and I thank Governor Northam for signing them into law.”

“Virginia’s old laws often led to too many black and brown people getting harsher punishments than the majority of Virginians,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I appreciate Governor Northam signing these new laws that will help bring equity to our criminal justice system.”

“The Governor put forward a criminal justice reform legislative package that was historic and transformative,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “The elimination of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fees and fines and non-driving related offenses will affect hundreds of thousands of people, and the raising of the felony threshold is a simple matter of justice and fairness. This administration continues to demonstrate its dedication to comprehensive criminal justice reform.”

Altria Becomes Largest Shareholder in Cronos Group, A Leading Global Cannabinoid Company

VIRGINIA: Altria announced the completion of its approximately USD $1.8 billion (CAD $2.4 billion) investment in Cronos Group, a leading global cannabinoid company, following receipt of shareholder and Canadian regulatory approvals.

Altria’s investment represents an approximate 45% economic and voting interest in Cronos Group with a warrant to acquire additional ownership at a price of CAD $19.00 per share, exercisable over the next four years. If exercised in full today, the warrant would increase Altria’s ownership in Cronos Group to approximately 55%. The aggregate exercise price for the warrant is approximately USD $1.0 billion (CAD $1.4 billion).

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Under the terms of the transaction, Altria nominated four directors who were recently elected to serve on Cronos Group’s seven member board: Kevin C. Crosthwaite, Jr., Murray R. Garnick, Bruce A. Gates and Bronwen Evans.

“We’re excited to finalize our investment in Cronos Group and to support their talented team,” said Howard Willard, Altria’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Cronos Group is our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category and represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria.”

“We are delighted to close this transaction and kick-off a relationship that we expect to lead to significant growth and value creation,” said Mike Gorenstein, Cronos Group’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Altria’s investment and the services they will provide to Cronos Group will enhance our financial resources and allow us to expand our product development and commercialization capabilities and regulatory expertise to better position Cronos Group to compete, scale and lead the rapidly growing global cannabis industry. We look forward to the many opportunities we expect this relationship to create.”

 

 

Altria to Make Growth Investment In Cronos Group

Altria to Invest USD $1.8 Billion (CAD $2.4 Billion) for 45% Ownership Interest in Leading Global Cannabinoid Company with Warrant to Increase Ownership to 55% Over Next 4 Years

VIRGINIA: Altria Group today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire newly issued shares in Cronos Group, a leading global cannabinoid company, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The transaction represents a 45% equity stake in Cronos Group, at a price of CAD $16.25 per share, for an aggregate investment by Altria of approximately USD $1.8 billion (approximately CAD $2.4 billion).

As part of the agreement, at closing, Altria will have the right to nominate four directors, including one independent director, to serve on Cronos Group’s Board of Directors, which will be expanded from five to seven directors. The agreement includes a warrant to acquire an additional ownership interest in Cronos Group at a price of CAD $19.00 per share exercisable over four years from the closing date. If exercised in full, the warrant would increase Altria’s ownership in Cronos Group by 10% to approximately 55%.

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“Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria,” said Howard Willard, Altria’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “We believe that Cronos Group’s excellent management team has built capabilities necessary to compete globally, and we look forward to helping Cronos Group realize its significant growth potential.”

“Altria is the ideal partner for Cronos Group, providing the resources and expertise we need to meaningfully accelerate our strategic growth,” said Mike Gorenstein, Cronos Group’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “The proceeds from Altria’s investment will enable us to more quickly expand our global infrastructure and distribution footprint, while also increasing investments in R&D and brands that resonate with our consumers. Importantly, Altria shares our vision of driving long-term value through innovation, and we look forward to continuing to differentiate Cronos Group in this area.”

This investment positions Altria to participate in the emerging global cannabis sector, which it believes is poised for rapid growth over the next decade. It also creates a new growth opportunity in an adjacent category that is complementary to Altria’s core tobacco businesses.

Altria expects its investment to help Cronos Group accelerate its growth strategies and its R&D and intellectual property development. Additionally, Altria will provide expertise to help Cronos Group thrive in the growing global cannabis market. These services may include regulatory affairs, regulatory science, compliance, government affairs and brand management.

Study: Frequent Cannabis Use Unrelated To Brain Morphology

VIRGINIA:  The frequent use of cannabis is not associated with changes in brain structure, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

An international team of scientists from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States assessed the relationship between habitual cannabis exposure and grey matter volumes in seven regions of the brain – including the thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and the nucleus accumbens – in two large population-based twin samples.

Researchers reported, “[N]ormal variation in cannabis use is statistically unrelated to individual differences in brain morphology as measured by subcortical volume.”

By contrast, the repeated use of nicotine was positively associated with significantly smaller thalamus volumes in middle-aged males.

Authors wrote: “This is the largest exploratory analysis integrating brain imaging with self-report cannabis and comorbid substance use data. After correcting for multiple testing, there was no effect of cannabis use on the volume at any subcortical region of interest in young adults or middle-aged males.”

They concluded, “In the context of expanding medicalization and decriminalization and the concerns surrounding the consequences of increased cannabis availability, our findings suggest that normal variation in cannabis use is statistically unrelated to brain morphology as measured by subcortical volumes in non-clinical samples.”

The findings are consistent with those of prior brain imaging studies reporting that cannabis exposure appears to have little-to-no significant adverse impact upon brain morphology- particularly when compared to the dramatic effects associated with alcohol exposure.

The study’s findings fail to replicate those of a well-publicized 2014 paper which alleged that even casual marijuana exposure may be linked to brain abnormalities, particularly in the amygdala.

A meta-analysis published last week of 69 separate studies reported that cannabis exposure in adolescents and young adults is not associated with any significant, residual detrimental effects on cognitive performance. The results from a pair of recently published longitudinal twin studies similarly report that cannabis use is not independently associated with any residual change in intelligence quotient or executive function.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Testing associations between cannabis use and subcortical volumes in two large population-based samples,” appears in Addiction. NORML’s online fact-sheet, “Marijuana Exposure and Cognitive Performance,” is available online.

VA Congressman Introduces Bill To Remove Marijuana From Controlled Substances List

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Virginia’s 5th District CongressmanTom Garrett last week introduced legislation aimed at federally decriminalizing marijuana.

The short title for this legislation is cited as the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.” If passed, this bill would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list – joining other industries such as alcohol and tobacco.

Originally introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, this bill fulfills a responsibility to create a level playing field across the country.

Upon introduction of this legislation, Rep. Garrett released the following statement:

“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

Garrett went on to say, “this step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia. In the coming weeks, I anticipate introducing legislation aimed at growing the hemp industry in Virginia, something that is long overdue.”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to crack down on federal marijuana crimes. During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly. Garrett anticipates bipartisan support as his legislation makes its way to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving as the lead original cosponsor on this bipartisan legislation.

 

Marijuana Arrests On Rise In Va., Blacks Arrested Three Times More Than Whites

VIRGINIA: While the trend in much of the United States is moving toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Virginia is heading in the opposite direction: sharply rising arrest totals for possession of pot, and a disproportionate number of black people arrested in the commonwealth, according to a new study based on state data reported to the FBI.

Though marijuana arrests dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, possession arrests in Virginia increased by 76 percent in the same period, according to research by the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. And arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.

The statistics were compiled by Jon Gettman, a public policy professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and follow his national marijuana arrest analysis for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013. That study showed that black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana nationwide, and that 88 percent of the country’s arrests were for marijuana possession.

Va. Lawmaker Pushes Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana

VIRGINIA: A Northern Virginia lawmaker is bringing the debate over marijuana laws to the Virginia Senate.

“We cannot continue to hide behind the fear of a plant in our criminal code,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, who has proposed legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

Ebbin, who expects that the measure will be debated in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, said his constituents asked for the law change.

In past years, former Del. Harvey Morgan, a pharmacist from Gloucester, that were quickly killed in the House.

“This has never been discussed in the Virginia Senate in a decriminalization way, and it needs to be,” Ebbin said.