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Recreational marijuana could be legal in half of the United States if voters in five states approve ballot measures on Nov. 8, according to an Oct. 24 report from the Associated Press.

Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota would join 19 states and the District of Columbia if their recreational cannabis measures pass.

The road to the ballot in some of these states hasn’t been smooth. Here’s AP’s rundown of the ballot measures:

• Arkansas: The state’s Board of Election Commissioners rejected an adult-use cannabis initiative, even though supporters submitted far more than the necessary number of signatures on their petitions. Responsible Growth Arkansas, the sponsoring group, appealed the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which reversed the board’s decision on Sept. 22 and cleared the way for the measure to be placed on the ballot.

• Maryland: Legislators voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot earlier this year. It would allow recreational marijuana sales after July 1, 2023.

• Missouri: The state’s initiative would amend its constitution to allow adult-use cannabis and would allow people with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from prison, parole or probation, and have their records expunged.

• North Dakota: A recreational marijuana question was placed on the ballot after New Approach North Dakota submitted more than 15,000 petition signatures.

• South Dakota: Voters in this state passed a legalization amendment in 2020 by 54 percent, but a lawsuit backed by Gov. Kristi Noem led to a state supreme court ruling that it violated the state constitution. The Marijuana Policy Group is spearheading another attempt this year.

Advocates in Oklahoma submitted a petition to legalize recreational marijuana but didn’t turn it in on time for the November ballot. The measure will go before voters in March.

The only states where neither medical nor recreational marijuana has been approved are Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska.

Hope for banking relief

A new version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act expected to be introduced in Congress could protect financial institutions from being punished if they work with legal cannabis businesses, MJBizDaily reported Oct. 26.

The SAFE Banking Act, introduced by Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Dist. 7) in 2019, passed the House seven times, but the Senate has refused to take it up. 

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s announcement earlier this month asking federal agencies to review the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, Congressional Democrats think there is momentum to resolve the long-standing cannabis banking issue, the report says.

Details on the new bill aren’t known yet, but the measure is thought to include the core components of the SAFE Banking Act. It might also allow small business loans and assistance for veterans to access medical marijuana and widen expungement for nonviolent marijuana criminal records.

The updated act could be introduced during the lame-duck Congressional session after the Nov. 8 election.

Prospective sponsors think it has a better chance this time because of increasing support for banking reform.

A survey conducted in September by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Bankers Association found that 66 percent of respondents favor legislation that would permit cannabis businesses to access banking services in states where marijuana is legal. The ABA reported the results in an Oct. 20 release.

Read the full story at:

tinyurl.com/p7434m4j

Misleading investors

Lying to investors and the public about business deals to boost your stock prices is not OK in any industry, and the former CEO of a Denver-based CBD beverage company is in trouble for allegedly doing so.

Brent David Willis, former CEO of NewAge, was charged Oct. 18 in federal court in Denver with making “numerous materially false and misleading statements” about the publicly traded company during earnings calls, investors conferences and in the media from 2017 to 2019, MJBizDaily reported Oct. 26.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Willis made false claims about a national distribution deal with Walmart for its Marley Maté CBD-infused drinks and lied about a deal with the military to place NewAge drinks on base stores around the world.

The false information led to stock gains up to 38 percent, the SEC says.

The agency wants to permanently enjoin Willis from participating in public companies and wants the former CEO, who now works for a small space company in Florida, to pay back the excess gains and cough up financial penalties.

As of Oct 27, no hearing date had been set.

Read the full story at: tinyurl.com/2p8shmdv 

Jeanne Davant is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. She worked for daily newspapers in D.C., North Carolina and Colorado, and has taught journalism and creative writing. She joined the Colorado Publishing House in 2017.