Nov 7, 2019

USDA Issues Hemp Rule

Blog_Hemp Rule

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the long-awaited interim final rule for the domestic production of hemp. As an interim final rule, it took effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register on October 31, 2019. The rule allows for domestic hemp to be grown under the USDA program or a federally-approved State or Indian tribe’s plan. States and Indian tribes wishing to have primary regulatory authority over hemp production must submit a plan for approval by USDA that is in compliance with the rule’s requirements. The rule regulates where hemp can be grown,… Read more

Oct 24, 2019

New Mexico Environment Department Announces Draft Hemp Final Rule

Hemp Harvest

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has released a draft final rule on hemp post-harvest processing, extraction, production, transportation, warehousing, and testing. The draft can be found here. NMED is currently accepting comments on the proposed final rule. Comments should be submitted by email to and reference a page and line number. NMED will also hold three public meeting to discuss the proposed final rule. The public meetings will be held on October 29, October 30, and November 5. Details on time and location can be found here. For more information contact Steve O’Day or Vickie Rusek.

Sep 25, 2019

James Bratton Honored by State Bar Environmental Section


On September 26, 2019, the Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia will be hosting its Annual Luncheon at which it will announce this year’s winner of the Environmental Law Section’s lifetime achievement award for high achievement, professionalism, and dedication in the area of environmental law.  As part of presenting this year’s award, the Environmental Law Section will name the award after James Bratton who was the founder of the Environmental Law Section of the Georgia Bar, was a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP for over 50 years and passed away in January 2019 at the… Read more

May 24, 2019

The New Hemp Licenses

Hemp Field

On Friday, May 10, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the Georgia Hemp Farming Act into law, legalizing the licensing of industrial hemp growers in the state. The law sets forth the requirements for grower licenses and processor permits, which will be administered by the state Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture has not yet promulgated the application forms for grower licenses and processer permits, and is currently working on developing rules and regulations governing hemp production and the application process. Growing and processing hemp without a license remains illegal. Grower licenses will be issued for one calendar year, at… Read more

Dec 17, 2018

ACA Ruled Unconstitutional By Texas Court-What’s Next?

HRA: Health Reimbursement Arrangements ACA

Hours before the end of annual enrollment in the federal health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a Texas district court judge ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional because the ACA’s individual mandate was eliminated. (The individual mandate is reduced to zero on January 1, 2019.) In Texas vs. United States, Judge Reed C. O’Connor struck down the law, siding with a group of 18 Republican state attorneys general and two GOP governors that the tax bill passed by Congress last December effectively rendered the entire ACA unconstitutional. Judge O’Connor ruled that, because the U.S. Supreme Court upheld… Read more

Nov 7, 2018

Breaking News: Post-Election IRS Issues Final ACA Rule Regarding Religious Exemptions

ACA Affordable Care Act

The IRS has just released new final regulations regarding religious exemptions and accommodations from the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rule, to be officially published on November 15th, currently in unpublished form, is available here. This final rule, released post-midterm elections, will provide a way forward for religious organizations that object to certain contraceptive coverage required under the ACA. More details soon.

Jun 21, 2018

Excited About Association Health Plans?

Association Health Plans

Not So Fast, Says New York and Massachusetts Many commentators and businesses welcomed the new final regulations on association health plans (AHPs) released by the US. Department of Labor (DOL) on Tuesday, (see here and here). The new rules allow small businesses and self-employed individuals to band together to purchase health insurance, even across state lines. This insurance potentially is more cost-effective than the current Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace policies, and the policies offered to the small group and individual markets.  These policies may be less expensive because the AHPs are not required to provide all of the essential benefits required under the… Read more

Jun 20, 2018

Association Health Plans Reinvigorated-New Options for Many Employers

White House: Executive Order Reinvigorates Association Health Plans

Association Health Plans have been reinvigorated by the new regulations released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). As I mentioned in my blog entry yesterday, these regulations are the result of President Trump’s executive order last year instructing the DOL to allow for more flexibility related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and health insurance. As we are parsing the 198 pages of comments and final regulations, it is clear that the final regulations loosen many restrictions on “association health plans” (AHPs). Now, more small businesses, including self-employed (sole proprietors) employers, can either become members of, or even establish… Read more

Jun 19, 2018

Breaking News: New Association Health Plans Rules Expand Health Care Options

Association Health Plans

Today, the US Department of Labor (DOL) released new association health plans (AHPs) rules that allow small employers and self-employed individuals to join together to purchase health insurance coverage.  These rules are the result of President Trump’s executive order last year requesting the DOL to provide more access and choice in the health insurance market, including the AHP regulations. As the DOL stated in the press release accompanying the regulations “under the Department’s new rule, AHPs can serve employers in a city, county, state, or a multi-state metropolitan area, or a particular industry nationwide”. This includes self-employed individuals who now… Read more

Jun 14, 2018

Judge Says “No” to ACA Reimbursements for Insurers

Court Ruling

Today, a Federal Judge ruled that the Federal government does not need to reimburse insurance companies for over $12 billion in the “risk corridor” program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As background, the risk corridor program was designed to lessen financial losses for insurers during the initial years of the ACA. However, Congressional Republicans have likened this program to a “bail-out” for insurance companies and were instrumental in blocking its funding. The Federal Circuit Court agreed that Congress could lawfully withhold funding from this program. While this decision applies only to the cases brought by health insurers Moda Health Plan and… Read more