NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- This is a weekly roundup of news from the cannabis industry for the week of May 10.
NIDA Needs More Weed
The drug enforcement agency posted a notice on Monday that the National Institute of Drug Abuse, or NIDA, needs more pot. A lot more pot. They want their quota increased from 21,000 grams to 650,000 grams. So instead of roughly 46 pounds, they need 1,433 pounds.
NIDA oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of research-grade marijuana on behalf of the U.S. and NIDA needs more pot to meet its research efforts.
As of January, NIDA had funded 28 active grants related to therapeutic uses of marijuana in six different disease categories covering AIDS, pain, schizophrenia, seizures and hard drug withdrawal.
So, where does NIDA get its pot? At the University of Mississippi, the United States' only legal marijuana farm. But before Ole Miss starts planting more seeds, the DEA has opened this request for public comments until June 4th.
Colorado Approves Cannabis Credit Co-ops
Colorado legislators took the banking problem for cannabusinesses into their own hands by approving House Bill 1398 to create cannabis credit co-ops.
Marijuana businesses have had a difficult time when it comes to banking. The big banks remain uncomfortable dealing with businesses whose product is illegal on the federal level. The justice department tried to address the issue with a weakly worded memo which the banks did not find very reassuring.
The co-ops will have to get approval from the Federal Reserve in order to offer credit cards and checking accounts and that doesn't seem likely. If the Federal Reserve were to approve this, it could open up a huge can of worms for other illegal businesses to request their own special banks.
Many dispensaries in Colorado advertise that they accept credit cards even though the credit card companies insist they don't work with marijuana businesses. So, it seems as if they've resolved the credit card problem already. However, paying vendors and employees is still an issue.
The Colorado bill states that the credit co-op would only be available to entities that are licensed to own or operate a marijuana business. If you go out of business, you are out of the co-op.
And it isn't just about the businesses. Colorado also says in the bill that the lack of banking hurts the state's ability to track and verify the accounting of a licensed marijuana business.
Still the co-ops aren't all rainbows and unicorns. The deposits at the co-ops can be subject to seizure by the federal government and are not federally insured, plus the state of Colorado won't defend the co-op in the event of a seizure.
Minnesota Moves Closer to MMJ
The Minnesota Senate approved a bill to create a medical marijuana program. The vote was bipartisan with 48 in favor and 18 against. The Senate bill allows patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, epilepsy and MS to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana and toughens the penalty against patients that divert their supply. It would permit 55 distribution centers in the state.
The bill now goes to the Minnesota House where there is a different, more restrictive bill. The House bill would create a study, not a system of distribution. Smoking marijuana is prohibited by both bills.
The Minnesota Department of Health would be in charge of implementing the program if it is approved. Governor Mark Lawton had initially opposed the bill, but now says he'll consider the patients' needs too. The Minnesota House is expected to consider the measure on Friday. If the state legalizes medicinal marijuana, it will become the 22nd state to do so.
Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.