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Does the Fair Labor Standards Act Apply to Cannabis Businesses? The U.S. Supreme Court May Decide

Cannabis isn’t federally legal. Companies who operate in the cannabis space really only have the protection of the state’s laws in which they operate. Even full compliance with state laws is no shield to federal penalties or enforcement. Also, there is always a risk that cannabis contracts may not be upheld in court because they […]

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helix cannabis

Cannabis isn’t federally legal. Companies who operate in the cannabis space really only have the protection of the state’s laws in which they operate. Even full compliance with state laws is no shield to federal penalties or enforcement. Also, there is always a risk that cannabis contracts may not be upheld in court because they involve a federally illegal substance. For these reasons, we see a lot of really strange things in cannabis law that don’t really happen anywhere else. I wrote about this late last year. See here.

One of the things that prompted my last post was the federal appellate court decision before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in  Kenney v. Helix TCS, Inc. For a full summary of that case, you can read our post here. For a cliff’s note version:

Helix TCS, INC. (“Helix”) provides security services to cannabis businesses. Kenney, an employee of Helix, was classified as an exempt employee, meaning Helix did not pay him overtime pursuant to the requirements of the FLSA. Kenney brought suit against Helix claiming he was misclassified as exempt and should have been paid overtime.

Helix moved to dismiss the case, arguing that Kenney was not entitled to the protections of the FLSA because cannabis was entirely forbidden under the CSA. The district court denied the motion to dismiss but certified the ruling for immediate appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Appeal, Helix contends that its employees are not entitled to the protections of the FLSA. Helix’s main argument is that all participants in state recreational marijuana industries assume the risk that their activities will subject them to federal criminal sanctions and therefore they are not entitled to benefits under federal law, and cannot expect federal court to aid their conduct. Essentially Helix is arguing that the federal government would be assisting employees in drug trafficking if they afforded the employees the protections of the FLSA.

On September 20, 2019, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion unanimously disagreeing with Helix and holding conclusively that the FLSA does apply to cannabis businesses. In one part of the Kenney opinion, the court noted that “case law has repeatedly confirmed that employers are not excused from complying with federal laws just because their business practices are federally prohibited.”

The opinion was concise and clear: “the FLSA is focused on regulating the activity of businesses, in part on behalf of the individual workers’ well-being, rather than regulating the legality of individual workers’ activities.” In conclusion, the court held that the FLSA does apply to cannabis companies and allowed the case to proceed. It seemed like this would be the end of the issue. It was not.

After the Helix opinion was issued, Helix asked the Tenth Circuit judges to rehear the case en banc. This is just a legal way of saying they wanted all judges in the appellate court to rehear the case unanimously. That request was denied earlier this year. Then, Helix filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court (i.e., they asked the Supreme Court to decide that the Tenth Circuit got the issue wrong).

To be clear, this case probably is going nowhere. The vast majority of Supreme Court certiorari petitions are not granted and those cases are not reheard. In those cases, the ruling of the applicable appellate court panel will stand. Chances are, the U.S. Supreme Court will not even review this case.

But what happens if the Supreme Court does review the case? Will the court actually disagree with the Tenth Circuit? Probably not. It’s hard to see how the Court would disagree that federal employment laws apply to cannabis businesses. It’s settled law at this point that tax laws apply to cannabis businesses, for example. Even though those laws are admittedly very different, we just do not think the Court would give cannabis companies carte blanche to not comply with federal wage laws.

Also very possible is the risk of drastically unintended consequences. If the Court takes the case up, it may reaffirm federal illegality in a manner that is very detrimental to states that have legalized cannabis and operators within those states. There is a lot we don’t yet know about how this will unfold. Stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog for more updates.

The post Does the Fair Labor Standards Act Apply to Cannabis Businesses? The U.S. Supreme Court May Decide appeared first on Harris Bricken.

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Growing

How to Identify Pests in Your Cannabis Grow

Experienced and novice cannabis growers alike understand that pests can ruin a crop, no matter how well watered, fed, or tended. One of the keys to making sure that your plants grow into healthy, robust, and consumable cannabis is to keep a close eye o…

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Experienced and novice cannabis growers alike understand that pests can ruin a crop, no matter how well watered, fed, or tended. One of the keys to making sure that your plants grow into healthy, robust, and consumable cannabis is to keep a close eye on any pests that might infiltrate your grow, then take the appropriate steps to eradicate them without ruining your garden. Not only will it help keep the plants alive, thriving plants have more energy to produce trichomes and terpenes, making for better bud

Let’s take a look at some common pests found on cannabis plants, how to identify them, and lastly, get rid of them for good. With just a little maintenance and vigilance, your cannabis garden can be pest-free.

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Common Pests Found on Cannabis Plants

According to the Smithsonian Institution, there are likely more unclassified insects in the world than classified, and the running guess is somewhere between 2 million and 30 million. Thus, this is by no means a definitive list of bugs that feed on cannabis but should serve as a good starting point for most pest problems. 

Caterpillars

Before a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly and flits away, it can be very hazardous to your cannabis plants. You know that book The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Turns out it’s a true story about how caterpillars eat everything in sight, including that tasty cannabis. Caterpillars can be very dangerous because they tend to go unnoticed, especially if they are a borer caterpillar, meaning they burrow into the plant and eat it from the inside out. But even caterpillars on the exterior will nosh away, potentially causing great damage to your plants. 

To figure out if caterpillars are ruining your plants, inspect the leaves weekly for holes from feeding, droppings on the leaves that look like tiny black specks, holes, and damage to the stems, and yellowing on upper leaves.

Natural enemies of caterpillars are wasps and praying mantises, and introducing those to the environment could make a difference. These options are typically easier for outdoor grows, but can also work indoors with some preparation. Other interventions include using a product like Bug Blaster spray or neem oil (which you can make at home).

Neem oil use has been controversial in some cannabis circles, as there is a belief among some that it may play a role in CHS (Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome), however, no definitive statements can be made without more research. The connection between neem oil and cannabis hyperemesis syndrome has yet to be fully explored or verified, but it’s still good to be aware and to be sure to closely follow usage directions.

Aphids

Even house plants have the occasional plague of aphids. Tiny and red, yellow, black, pale, green, or brown, these bugs can be easy to miss because they cling to the underside of leaves, reproduce quickly, and drain your plant of nutrients. Outdoor grows tend to fare a little better in the battle against aphids since natural predators are present, but indoor plants can be decimated quickly by these teensy pests. Not only do they siphon nutrients away from the plant, they leave a sweet substance called “honeydew” that attracts other insects and turns the leaves black and moldy

Aphids and their honeydew on a plant

The honeydew left behind from aphids leads to further damages to the plant by attracting even more pests. photo credit

Because that honeydew attracts other pests, if you begin to notice a lot of ants or ladybugs coming around your plants, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re well into an aphid problem. Aphids can be hard to shake, but wasps and ladybugs are natural predators. Nonetheless, you should visually inspect the underside of plant leaves at least once a week. If introducing predators doesn’t ameliorate the problem, there are a couple of natural solutions to get rid of cannabis pests to try, like garlic or tomato leaf water. 

Spider Mites

Spider mites are like the supervillains of cannabis pests: uber reproductive, zombie-like in their ability to come back from what you thought was death, capable of spinning webs while eating everything in sight then completely disappearing before turning up again – they’re nearly impossible to spot and even harder to eradicate. Spotting spider mites is difficult because they are minuscule, but doing a daily inspection of both sides of your plant leaves could help to prevent a massive infestation.

Signs of spider mites begins with speckles, then a browning or yellowing of leaves, and premature leaf death.

If any parts of your plant are covered in fine webbing, that’s a sure sign you’re in a bad spot. The best way to avoid mites is to stay vigilant with your leaf inspections. If you do notice signs of mites, try introducing a fan into the environment. Strong air currents make it difficult for mites to breed. Spider mites also prefer temperatures of 60-80 degrees, so experimenting with temperature might also slow an infestation down. Since mites are likely to come back, consider a spray like Azamax or Spinosad to get rid of them for good (again, be sure to follow use directions carefully).

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are just as hungry as caterpillars, but their gourmet meal is from the stem and roots of your plants and not the leaves. Beginning at the topsoil level, both larvae and adults will munch their way down into the root system, badly impact plant drainage, and compromise the structural stability of your plants. However, they’re nearly impossible to spot because they are dark in color, as is soil.

Fungus Gnats

Although fungus gnats are small, the damage they leave behind is mighty. photo credit

Seeing swarms of gnats near the base of your plant is one sign you’ve got a fungus gnat problem. Other symptoms are stems that weaken and simply fall over, adult plants that start to droop, wilt, spot, or yellow, or plants that stop growing altogether. 

Fungus gnats love moist conditions, so keeping the top layer of soil dry is a smart preventative measure. Some other hacks to try include placing a cloth on top of the soil to prevent female gnats from laying eggs or laying a sticky pad near the plant’s base to stick larvae. You could also mix some peroxide and water and spray it around the area of gnat infestation. A common-sense tactic for an indoor grow is to put screens on the windows and the doors closed to keep gnats out. 

Why Pests and Bugs Are Attracted to Cannabis

Something to keep in mind about pests, in general, is that they love a monoculture or a space dedicated to growing only one crop. Researchers from the University of California Davis theorize that if an insect makes itself at home in that one crop, it has a large food supply, creating an all-you-can-eat kind of scenario for the pest, making it that much harder to eradicate. As you likely don’t want to introduce other plants into a cannabis garden (for a number of reasons), this issue will always exist to some degree when dealing with weed. 

This is why, as mentioned, another option is to introduce other beneficial insects. Not only do they prey on harmful pests, but they are also an excellent chemical-free pest control option. The bugs already want to be there, you’re just bringing them to the dinner table. 

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The Wrap Up

Identifying pests should be a regular ritual, just like watering and delivering nutrients to your plants. When you keep them pest-free, all that hard growing work will hopefully pay off in healthy and efficacious plants. Once you’ve harvested, you can move on to other fun challenges like doing a proper cure for your cannabis harvest, and how to store your cannabis stash


How do you deal with pests in your cannabis grow? Share your techniques in the comments!

Photo Credit: ilovegrowingmarijuana (license)

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Connecticut

Governor of Connecticut Pushes For Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis In Budget Address

Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont proposed legalizing recreational cannabis in his budget address this week.

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Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont proposed legalizing recreational cannabis in his budget address this week.

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News

South Dakota Governor Delays Implementation of Medical Marijuana Initiative

It seems that Governor Kristi Noem isn’t quite done derailing voter-approved cannabis initiatives.

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It seems that Governor Kristi Noem isn’t quite done derailing voter-approved cannabis initiatives.

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