After weeks of a hostile takeover drama, Saskatchewan’s Aurora Cannabis has taken over CanniMed Therapeutics for $US 852M, making the combined entity the new number-one global cannabis-centric firm (current market cap at CAN $7.4B) surpassing fellow cannabis giant Canopy Growth, with a current market cap of CAN $6.7B.

Investor deals have moved nearly US $1B in new capital into Canada since New Years, with a stock run-up which continues to expand. Meanwhile, CanniMed has said it will suspend its own (friendly) bid for another Canadian licensed producer, New Strike Resources.

Two measures to bring legal recreational marijuana sales to the East Los Angeles city of Compton failed in voting, Jan. 23rd, and the city will retain its ban on local sales and grow. Measure C, losing with a 76% NO vote, would have placed a ten percent retail tax on cannabis sales, and installed a maximum of 10 dispensaries, and required 30% of MJ workers to be hired locally. The 97,000 citizens of Compton also voted against (by 77%) a second Measure I, which would have allowed warehouse grows, and installed a 5% local tax on cannabis.

As one of the regions highest poverty-bound communities (at 26% compared with California‘s 15%), Compton statistics cite a household income of $43,500, a median age of 28 years and ethnic demographics of 65 percent Hispanic, and 30% African American.

The Washington State Attorney General‘s office has begun collecting any impact statements from industry members and consumers who report negative reactions to the Jan. 4th recession of the Cole Memo. Observers think the Washington AG may be considering a class-action suit against the feds.

The notice reads:

On January 4, 2018, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions guidance from the Department of Justice to United States Attorneys outlining federal priorities for the enforcement of federal statutes relating to marijuana. The Liquor and Cannabis Board has not made any changes to its state marijuana regulatory program but is monitoring the impact of this federal action on Washington residents and welcomes your comments. If you have experienced a change in your business practices or customer relationships that you believe is connected to the Sessions Memo, we invite you to share your experiences at marijuanaimpacts@atg.wa.gov.

The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Aczar, has been confirmed by the US Senate. A former pharmaceutical executive and twice-confirmed veteran of George W. Bush’s HHS, the 50-year-old Azar earned bipartisan support given his experience with the sprawling agency and a stated desire to reset relations with lawmakers. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who has disagreed with Azar over the merits of drug reimportation, was the only Republican present to oppose Azar. Azar will oversee the FDA’s action in all matters surrounding CBD marketing, testing and potential licensing. Azar’s appointment gives HHS its first permanent leader since September when Tom Price resigned in the wake of his charter jet scandal.

Link of the Week: Huffington Post reports “Women Are Leading The Charge For Racial Justice In Legal Weed” (by Amanda Duberman) highlighting the efforts of ground-breaking retailers, scientists and designers. Read it here.

According to a report in The Sacramento Bee, the California Growers Association has filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court, alleging that the California Department of Food and Agriculture has defied the will of voters by allowing large-scale marijuana farms. According to Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, the caps on farm-size are essential to “stop the industry from becoming ‘Big Tobacco 2.0,’” the Bee reports. State regulations released last year restrict licenses for grows one acre or larger for five years. However, back in November, the Department of Food and Agriculture released emergency regulations which allowed for a single entity to apply for an unlimited number of small-grow licenses, essentially creating a loophole for larger grows.

According to an AP report published by Leafly, New Mexico Democrat, Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces has proposed eliminating criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replacing them with a meager $50 fine. The hope is that removing criminal penalties will free law enforcement and judicial resources and let them focus on more serious issues. New Mexico already has a medical marijuana program in place. Three Democratic candidates for governor, including Cervantes himself, have come out in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Republican gubernatorial candidate Congressman Steve Pearce and outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez are both opposed to legalization.

Weed News reports that the Arizona Legislature, which began its 2018 legislative session last week, has several marijuana bills under consideration, some of which, the report claims, might undermine the state’s current medical program. One bill being considered would allow prosecutors to determine whether individuals on parole or probation can access medical marijuana. Another bill would make anyone who publishes the address of a dispensary that is different from that on file pay a $10,000 fine – even if it’s just a typo. And another would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to $100, essentially decriminalizing marijuana.

According to the Phoenix New Times, Arizonians consumed a record 43 tons of marijuana in 2017. That figure is 50% higher than in 2016, when residents burned through a ‘mere’ 29 tons of cannabis. At the end of December 2017, the state counted 153,000 registered patients, a 34% increase over the same month in 2016. Many attribute the sudden rise to the defeat of the state recreational initiative, making marijuana consumers impatient.

State lawmakers in Illinois held their fourth public hearing on the legalization of marijuana Monday morning. The hearings are meant to legislators with input to help them create a bill which is expected to be proposed in early February. According to a local ABC News report, Democratic Sen. Heather Steans said the bill’s goal will be “to reduce black market, keep teens away, and bring in revenue to a safe and secure environment,” pointing to the up to $700 million in tax revenue that could be generated. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sees the bill as a means of ending racial disparities in the criminal justice system, saying, “Rarely do we see white college students or young professionals, suburban high school students or their prosperous parents arrested or detained for the use or possession of marijuana.”

Legislators in Massachusetts have responded to Jeff Sessions’ recent trashing of the Cole Memo by introducing a bill that would prohibit state and local police from participating in federal cases against licensed operators who follow state marijuana laws, making it much more difficult for federal agents to harass them, according to a report in Weed News. The “Refusal of Complicity Act,” as it’s called, was introduced by Representatives Dave Rogers and Mike Connolly. “We have a state law, it’s valid, and we think it should be respected,” said Connolly. “If federal law enforcement has something different in mind, they can use their own resources, because Massachusetts taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to do something that goes against our laws.” The State Police and the Boston and Worcester Police Departments have already indicated that they will not participate in federal interdiction.

Florida Politics reports that the fate of a medical marijuana smoking ban is now in the hands of Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. A hearing held in Tallahassee on Thursday was held to consider a motion by the state to dismiss the case. The case is bankrolled by Orlando attorney John Morgan, who also bankrolled the campaign to pass legislation which vastly upgraded Florida’s medical marijuana program. The judge has not ruled on the motion, but intends to make a decision “as soon as possible.”

In similar news by Florida Politics, a state circuit court judge ruled Wednesday that another case involving Florida lawmakers meddling with marijuana laws (separate from the case involving smoking) will go to trial. The suit, filed by Tampa adult club entrepreneur and activist Joe Redner, challenges Florida’s ban on home grows. Judge Karen Gievers, who is also hearing the case involving a smoking ban, denied a motion by the Florida Department of Health to dismiss the case. Gievers also rejected Redner’s motion for an emergency temporary injunction. Grievers also ruled, however, that Redner, himself a stage 4 lung cancer patient, has a constitutional right as a “qualifying patient” to possess a live cannabis plant, stating, “The greater weight of the credible evidence supports some of the factors inherent in the proper granting of the temporary injunction sought, specifically the constitutionally recognized right of the plaintiff, as a qualifying patient to possess growing plants.” Gievers gave the DOH two weeks to respond, at which point a trial will be scheduled.

A newly released report introduced by members of France’s parliament has concluded the obvious – that current legislation is not working – and recommends reducing fines for possession to under 200 euros, effectively decriminalizing marijuana. France has the toughest cannabis laws in Europe, however, a full 40% of the French population consumes cannabis. France’s law enforcement agencies are overburdened with the bureaucracy that comes with the country’s tens of thousands of drug-related arrests each year, only one in three of which ends up in a conviction. No European country has yet fully legalized marijuana. According to a 2016 Ipsos poll, more than 80% of French voters believe current laws are ineffective, and 52% favor legalization.