Cannabis legalization in the United States is an ever-changing landscape for current and prospective business owners within the industry. Staying ahead of these changes as they develop, particularly as it relates to intellectual property rights, is integral for remaining competitive.
While there has yet to be any concrete movement at the federal level, individual states are continually changing their respective laws as they relate to cannabis use, possession, production, and distribution. As of this writing, only 7 states have yet to pass legislation affecting the legal status of non-CBD cannabis within the United States. This means that 43 states (or 86%) have on some level changed (or agreed to change soon) their laws on how they handle cannabis within their legal system, be it in regards to decriminalization, medicinal use, or recreational use.
As cannabis is still defined as a schedule 1 drug by the Federal Government, business owners are unable to directly protect their cannabis-related intellectual property on a nationwide scale via a U.S. Trademark Registration but must do so on a state-by-state basis.
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. States generally do not allow for state trademark applications to be filed until the specific brand of product or service has been sold or provided within that state. As you expand your operations to newly legalized states, it is paramount that you have preparations in place to protect your brand/product via a state trademark registration as soon as legally possible.
For additional strategies for protecting your cannabis-related intellectual property see our previous article, What Cannabis and Cannabis-based Product Companies Need to Know about Federal Trademark Registration.
And here is a link to a good site by The NORML Foundation that summarizes cannabis laws state by state: https://norml.org/laws/