War on Weed: AG Jeff Sessions Creates Reefer Madness

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has caused chaos in the marijuana industry and is forcing those who have made efforts to create legalized businesses in compliance with state laws to ponder whether their anticipated profits will go up in smoke. In a memo to all U.S. attorneys, Sessions rescinded Obama-era decrees that restrained prosecutors from enforcing federal drug laws in states that acted to legalize marijuana under their own laws. The decrees created an environment in which states felt they had the freedom to legalize marijuana without interference from federal authorities. Nonetheless, all aspects of the marijuana industry – for example, growing, manufacturing related products, distributing, advertising, and managing property used to grow, manufacture or distribute marijuana – have remained illegal. The updated guidance from Sessions now encourages federal prosecutors to resume enforcing these laws.

It is no coincidence that Sessions, a longtime opponent of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, issued his guidance just days after California allowed recreational marijuana businesses to open their doors. Those who follow this issue know Sessions also has his sights set on enforcing federal drug laws against those engaged in the medical marijuana industry. Sessions requested Congress remove a budgetary provision currently prohibiting the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using funds to “prevent certain states ‘from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana[.]’”[1]

This new guidance highlights the conflict that exists between federal law and the laws of state, local and tribal governments that have seemingly legalized marijuana both recreationally and medically. This should be cause for concern for those involved in the marijuana industry. Federal drug laws prevail over the comparable laws of states, cities and tribal communities; so, compliance with those laws is not a defense to the violation of federal laws prohibiting every aspect of the fast-growing marijuana industry. A key factor for its future is what happens to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, also known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits the DOJ from spending federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The law will expire on January 19 absent its annual re-authorization from Congress.

Ultimately, the manner in which the guidance from Sessions will be implemented by federal prosecutors around the country is uncertain. However, now that the prosecutors have the freedom and the instruction to enforce the drug laws against the marijuana industry, it is likely they will flex their muscles. This will result in substantially adverse legal and economic consequences for the businesses and individuals engaged in that industry. If you are concerned about the impact this new guidance may have on you, your business or an investment of yours, please contact your Dinsmore attorney. We have many attorneys experienced in this area, including multiple former federal prosecutors, who can assist you with your needs and concerns.


[1] Jeff Sessions’ letter regarding Department of Justice Appropriations is available at https://www.scribd.com/document/351079834/Sessions-Asks-Congress-To-Undo-Medical-Marijuana-Protections.

 

© 2017 Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. All rights reserved.
This post was written by Robert G. Marasco and Marisa K. Fenn of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP.

Preparing for the Repeal of Cook County’s Beverage Tax: Requesting Credits and Refunds

Earlier this fall, the Cook County Board voted to repeal its constitutionally suspect, politically unpopular one cent per ounce sweetened beverage tax (Tax). The short-lived Tax will expire at the end of the County’s fiscal year on November 30, 2017.

Having been tasked with implementing the Tax, the Cook County Department of Revenue (Department) is now charged with unwinding it. Distributors and retailers who have paid the Tax are entitled to credits or refunds on their unsold inventory at month’s end. The Department recently issued guidance on the credit/refund procedure.

Retailers that have paid Tax to their distributors may claim a credit/refund from their distributors for Tax paid on their unsold inventory by completing the Department form entitled “2017 Sweetened Beverage Retailer Inventory Credit Request Form and Schedule A.” Retailers should complete and submit the form to their distributors, not the Department.

Distributors must file a final Tax return with the Department on or before December 20 (Final Return). To the extent a distributor already has refunded or credited Tax to its retailers, the distributor may claim a credit for the amount refunded on the “other deductions” line of its Final Return. Distributors must file the Department’s standard refund application, found on the Department’s website, to claim refunds for amounts refunded or credited to retailers after December 20. The Department has issued a new form (the “Sweetened Beverage Tax Distributor Credit Form Schedule”) to be submitted by distributors to the Department in support of any credit or refund claims. The form requires distributors to identify the retailers to which it has provided credits/refunds and the amounts thereof.

Retailers who self-remit the Tax may take a credit on their Final Return with supporting documentation. In addition, retailers that have unsold inventory as of December 1, on which they previously remitted floor tax, may obtain a refund of the floor tax through the Department’s standard refund procedure.

Practice Notes:

  1. To the extent possible, Taxpayers should take advantage of the opportunity to claim a credit on their Final Returns in order to avoid the time and expense associated with the County’s standard refund procedure.
  2. Since the Tax was repealed, enthusiasm has waned for various Illinois House Bills (HB 4082-84) proposing to limit the authority of localities to impose beverage taxes. It’s difficult to predict whether the bills will be enacted.
  3. However, the State of Michigan has passed legislation, signed into law by Governor Snyder on October 26, 2017, which prohibits municipalities from levying local taxes on food or beverages.
This post was written by Lauren A. Ferrante & Mary Kay McCalla Martire of McDermott Will & Emery., © 2017
For more legal go to The National Law Review

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and the Pupillary Light Reflex

According to a recent review study of Pubmed Central/National Library of Medicine databases, the pupillary light reflex provides an optimal opportunity to investigate mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Based on the findings of the review, the pupillary system may provide a noninvasive “window” to mTBI, in terms of documenting its existence and the often-accompanying symptom of photosensitivity. When an individual experiences mTBI, visual dysfunction may occur, and the pupillary light reflex may be affected. Pupils are routinely assessed for abnormal size and responsivity to determine the neural integrity of the visual system. Investigating pupillary light reflex in the mTBI population, researchers found that pupillary response was significantly delayed, slowed, and reduced, symmetrically, with a smaller baseline diameter. These findings may indicate dysfunction of the pupillary pathway.

Several objective biomarkers for the presence of mTBI and photosensitivity provide further insight into neurological dysfunction. In mTBI, photosensitivity may be due to dysfunction in the baseline neural sensor. Photosensitivity as a perceptual phenomenon can be confirmed through objective, noninvasive, rapid, vision-based, pupillary biomarkers.

Pupillary light reflex in mTBI may be investigated with pupillometers to assess subtle abnormalities in pupil size as well as pupillary responses. The resulting information can provide diagnostic or prognostic indicators relating to the extent of the injury, and neurophysiological linkages. Pupillometers offer precise and extensive pupillary testing for the mTBI population, especially those individuals who experience photosensitivity. The major drawback is cost. Development of a more inexpensive hand-held pupillometer would help with diagnosis of mTBI and improve patient care.

With such instrumentation, pupillary light reflex could be used to investigate the possibility of a very early, acute-stage mTBI/concussion in emergency rooms, in the workplace, and even on the sideline of sports games. Such information can be relevant to a worker’s compensation determinations, social security disability determinations, and return-to-play/work/learn standards for both adults and children.

This post was written by Bruce H. Stern of STARK & STARK., COPYRIGHT © 2017
For more Biotech legal analysis, go to The National Law Review 

USDA Withdraws Biotech Regulation Proposal

  • As previously covered on this blog, on January 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a proposed rule to update its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and the Agency’s understanding of the plant pest and noxious weed risk posed by genetically engineered organisms.  These requirements have not been comprehensively revised since they were established in 1987.
  • On November 7, 2017, APHIS published a notice in the Federal Register (82 Fed. Reg. 51582) announcing its withdrawal of the January 19th proposed rule.  In withdrawing the proposed rule, APHIS cited stakeholder feedback critical of the proposed revisions.  As previously covered on our blog this summer, in comments submitted to APHIS, industry stakeholders applauded the Agency’s proposed rule as underscoring the need to promote innovation in biotechnology and for proposing to ease regulation of gene-edited products.  But at the same time, industry called out a number of proposed revisions as improperly expanding USDA’s review process in certain respects which could effectively hamstring developers before they can even begin testing products.
  • In its November 7th withdrawal of the proposed rule, APHIS stated that it is committed to exploring “a full range of policy alternatives” and that the Agency will “re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health.” Now that APHIS has decided to go back to the drawing board, industry has an opportunity to work with APHIS to develop revised requirements to facilitate a regulatory framework that promotes innovation in biotechnology.
This post was written by Food and Drug Law at Keller and Heckman of Keller and Heckman LLP., © 2017
For more Biotech, Food & Drug legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

EPA Approves Flint Hills Resources’ Plant For Cellulosic Ethanol Production

On October 12, 2017, Edeniq, Inc., a leading cellulosic and biorefining technology company, announced that Flint Hills Resources, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), received approval from EPA for cellulosic ethanol production at its Iowa Falls ethanol plant.  The 100 million gallons per year plant will use Edeniq’s Pathway technology to produce the cellulosic ethanol and will be eligible to qualify its cellulosic gallons for generating D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN).  Iowa Falls is the second Flint Hills Resources plant, and the fifth overall, to receive approval for cellulosic ethanol production using Edeniq’s technology.  Edeniq announced in December 2016 that EPA approved Flint Hills Resources’ registration of its Shell Rock ethanol plant for cellulosic ethanol production.  According to Edeniq, its Pathway technology “remains the lowest-cost solution for producing and measuring cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber utilizing existing fermenters at existing corn ethanol plants, and has already proven cellulosic ethanol yields of up to 2.5% or higher, as a percentage of its customers’ total volume output.”  Additionally, the technology allows for increases in corn oil production and greater overall ethanol yields.

This post was written by Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D. of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., ©2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

DOE Announces $8.8 Million In Funding For Algae Technology Innovation Projects

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected an additional four Productivity Enhanced Algae and Toolkits (PEAK) projects to receive up to $8.8 million.  The projects aim to develop high-impact tools and techniques that will increase the productivity of algae organisms to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.  In total, DOE has awarded over $16 million in funding to the initiative.

The project winners include:

  • Colorado School of Mines, in partnership with Global Algae Innovations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Colorado State University, which will use advanced directed evolution approaches in combination with high-performance, custom-built, solar simulation bioreactors to improve the productivity of robust wild algal strains;
  • University of California, San Diego, which will work with Triton Health and Nutrition, Algenesis Materials, and Global Algae Innovations on the development of genetic tools, high-throughput screening methods, and breeding strategies for green algae and cyanobacteria, targeting robust production strains;
  • University of Toledo, in partnership with Montana State University and the University of North Carolina, which will cultivate microalgae in high-salinity and high-alkalinity media to achieve productivities without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide, and deliver molecular toolkits, including metabolic modeling combined with targeted genome editing; and
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which will ecologically engineer algae to encourage growth of bacteria that efficiently remineralize dissolved organic matter to improve carbon dioxide uptake and simultaneously remove excess oxygen.
This post was written by  Kathleen M. Roberts of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. ©2017
For more Environmental & Energy legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Bioplastics Industry Responds To Revised European Parliament Report On Waste Legislation

European Parliament EU BioplasticsOn June 9, 2016, European Bioplastics (EUBP) announced the support of a European Parliament (EP) report emphasizing the role of bioplastics in the creation of a circular bioeconomy. The report, produced by Italian MEP Simona Bonafè¨, outlines legislation that is needed to use waste more efficiently to create bio-based materials. Increasing the value of waste by promoting its use to create other bioproducts will help shift the linear bioeconomy to a circular, more efficient, bioeconomy. The report suggested defining composting and anaerobic digestion of organic waste as recycling, and requiring the collection of biowaste by 2020 in order to increase organic recycling of biowaste to 65 percent by 2025. On June 15, 2016, the EP debated possible new definitions of litter, with the intent of reducing both land and marine based litter by 50 percent by 2030.

©2016 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.