It is widely known that California has expanded its legitimacy to the California Marijuana business. Hence the question pops up whether the Marijuana or other licensed cannabis businesses will enjoy equal/ same rights under federal law as in the case of other California businesses. That’s is the not case and reading through the below will explain in detail the background of these businesses and how they are restricted from declaring bankruptcy in their businesses.
Cannabis businesses and the California Law
Since 1996, possession of a small amount of marijuana has been decriminalized. Also, medical marijuana has been legalized from the same year. By making recreational marijuana legal in California, the state has become the largest legal market in the country since last year. The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) in the state of California recently approves of certain regulations with regards to the Cannabis businesses. Even though these laws now make the operation clearer and are able to impart stability to the operating vendors, the cost of operating marijuana businesses has shot up significantly. Hence the California Cannabis businesses face several challenges economically and they include regulations related to packaging, high state and local taxes, supply chain issues and loss of the business due to illegal sellers in the market.
Because of the aforementioned challenges, the marijuana market is struggling and running a business is turning tougher than expected. Irrespective of being part of the community that grows marijuana, or distribute or have any role to contribute to the Cannabis sector, it is tough to declare bankruptcy due to operating constraints and start afresh.
Marijuana businesses and the Federal Law
Possessing or selling marijuana is still a violation under the Federal Law, Controlled Substances Act 21, U.S.C. 801 and this is notwithstanding additional state licenses. So in the eyes of federal law, this is still a crime (if you are in accordance with your California state rules and are operating state-licensed marijuana business). The body of Federal court is yet to pursue these businesses that run with the support of state rules and are still violating their law.
A memo released in the last year January by Jeff Sessions indicates that there could be a change in this too. But as of now, the marijuana businesses cannot seek bankruptcy relief since they violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and this has been approved by the Office of the United States Trustee (the OUST). In addition, the OUST also takes the position that if anyone who is renting to a seller or a grower of marijuana is also violating the CSA. So take caution, if you are operating cannabis businesses under the state law or if you are renting to the dealers/ suppliers/ growers of marijuana – you cannot seek bankruptcy relief.
Further to Cannabis related Bankruptcy Restrictions
As per the Section 843(a)(7) of the CSA, “it is a federal crime to “manufacture” or “distribute” any “equipment, chemical, product or material which may be used to manufacture a controlled substance . . . knowing, intending, or having reasonable cause to believe, that it will be used to manufacture a controlled substance.” This was recently seen in the case of Way to Grow, Inc. who sought bankruptcy relief. The bankruptcy court in Colorado declined their petition even though, they were provisioning horticultural supplies to legalized marijuana businesses – this proved that the filers were also violating the CSA.
The court dismissed the case of Way to Grow, Inc. quoting that the filers cannot also make any further changes to amend the violations to the CSA as that would have adverse effects on the income that they are generating. This was a unique situation since the filing business was neither a grower/ supplier of marijuana directly nor were they renting the premises where the marijuana businesses ran. They were just merely supplying the equipment, that will help similar customers also grow other crops.
A different angle – where do the limits stop?
Another queer angle is seen with the Garvin v. Cook Investments case, where the bankruptcy trustee is not favoring a bankruptcy filing of a landlord who has leased the property to a tenant in the marijuana industry. This is a topic of debate where the power of the OUST and the court is questioned with regards to extending the restrictions of bankruptcy relief to beyond the distributors and sellers in the cannabis industry.
Working with bankruptcy attorneys from renowned firms such as Recovery Law Group will aid the process of seeking relief. They have the experience of dealing with clients of the varied portfolio in Los Angeles and Dallas.