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  • by NORML September 20, 2019

    Marijuana and Money

    Majority Leader Hoyer on Friday announced that members of the House are anticipated to hold a floor vote next week on The SAFE Banking Act (HR1595), which explicitly permits banks and other financial institutions to work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses.

    “The upcoming banking vote is an important first step by Congress, but in no way should it be the last,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Much more action will still need to be taken by lawmakers, in particular efforts to move forward and pass comprehensive reform legislation like The MORE Act — which is sponsored by the Chair of the House Judiciary — in order to ultimately comport federal law with the new political and cultural realities surrounding marijuana.”

    Today, almost no state-licensed cannabis businesses can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or take standard business deductions on their federal taxes. This is because federal law continues to inappropriately define all marijuana-related endeavors as criminal enterprises, including those commercial activities that are licensed and legally regulated under state laws.

  • by NORML June 28, 2019

    House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez along with Representatives Jared Golden and Dwight Evans introduced a package of legislation, (H.R. 3540, H.R. 3543, and H.R. 3544, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to extend several Small Business Administration (SBA) initiatives to small businesses operating in the cannabis sector.

    “Chairwoman Velázquez is now the first Committee Chair ever to introduce legislation that would end the federal marijuana prohibition,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “As this nascent industry begins to grow, federal policy should strive to reduce roadblocks for those qualified entrepreneurs who have historically been the targets under the criminalization of cannabis. Enterprising individuals who would benefit most from the critical resources that the Small Business Administration provides must not be discriminated against as a matter of principled fairness and opportunity.”

    At the time of introduction, Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez said, “As our society continues to move the needle on this issue, we must recognize that legal cannabis businesses are often small businesses that fuel local economies and create new jobs. That is why I am pleased to introduce legislation to extend affordable lending options to small businesses that operate in the cannabis space, while simultaneously recognizing the structural disadvantages facing entrepreneurs from communities of color.”

    This legislative package is introduced on the heels of a Committee on Small Business hearing which discussed the positive impact that the SBA could have if it were able to engage with small businesses in the rapidly growing, state-legal cannabis marketplaces. 

    Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional thirteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes. 

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

    Specifically, a 2019 report estimates that over 211,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

    You can read more in the release issued by the Committee on Small Business here

  • by NORML June 27, 2019

    Today, Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced legislation to allow for interstate commerce when it comes to state-legal cannabis programs.

    “Interstate commerce is good for both patients and consumers, as it will decrease the amount of time it takes for recently enacted medical programs to see products on the shelves and increase the variety of consumer options in both the adult-use and medical marketplaces,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Just as Americans around the country enjoy Kentucky bourbon, so should they be allowed to enjoy Oregon cannabis.”

    “In short, it’s the future and Congress ought not deny it,” Strekal concluded.

    Per the release distributed by Senator Wyden:

    Wyden and Blumenauer’s State Cannabis Commerce Act would make these existing protections permanent and expand them to include all cannabis producers and consumers in compliance with state law. The legislation would also protect producers or consumers who transport cannabis between cannabis-legal states, provided that both states have legal cannabis programs and that both states affirmatively agree to the transportation.  

    “As more and more states legalize cannabis, the gap between state and federal laws will only grow more confusing for both legal businesses and consumers,” Wyden said. “The solution is clear: the federal government needs to end its senseless and out of touch prohibition. As we fight for that ultimate goal, however, Congress can and should immediately act to protect the will of Oregonians and voters in other states from federal interference—and that should include interstate cannabis commerce.”

    “The federal government is hopelessly out of touch with the American people on cannabis,” Blumenauer said. “Last week, the House agreed and passed my amendments to forbid the federal government from interfering with cannabis programs in the states, D.C. and tribal communities. This week, we are turning to a top priority for Oregonians—allowing for interstate sale of cannabis. It’s past time we protect the states, like Oregon, that have gotten it right.”

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 19, 2019

    Today, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing entitled Unlocked Potential? Small Businesses in the Cannabis Industry to discuss the economic and employment opportunities in the emerging legal cannabis industry and the challenges that federal prohibition and criminalization pose in regards to the Small Business Administration.

    Currently, the SBA is prohibited from providing support, guidance, or microloans to small businesses in the cannabis industry, unlike every other sector of the economy.

    In order to provide for inclusiveness within the legal industry, federal policy should strive to reduce roadblocks for qualified entrepreneurs in order to encourage participation from formerly disenfranchised populations. Enterprising individuals who would benefit most from the critical resources that the Small Business Administration provides must not be discriminated against in their quest to be job creators around the country.

    Shanita Penny, President of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and the lead witness called by the Committee to testify said just prior to the hearing “The undeniable effects of the drug war are hampering equity in the industry, but together, we can address and repair the harms caused by discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws and ensure access to and diversity in the emerging legal cannabis industry.”

    After the hearing, Committee Chairwoman Velázquez said  “As more and more states take steps to bring cannabis to commerce, we are seeing small businesses at the forefront of this expanding industry. As the only House Committee dedicated solely to the needs of small firms, it is important for us to be shedding light on the challenges these small entities face as well as the economic potential they offer.”

    It is for these reasons and more, NORML asks the House Committee on Small Business to advance legislation that would allow the Small Business Administration to engage with entrepreneurs and small businesses.

    NORML additionally submitted testimony to the Committee that can be viewed here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 14, 2019

    Next week, the two key committees will hold hearings on various aspects of federal marijuana policy.

    The first will be held on Wednesday, June 19th, in the Small Business Committee, entitled Unlocked Potential? Small Businesses in the Cannabis Industry. 

    Currently, in the 10 states that have legalized adult use cannabis and the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana programs, entrepreneurs and small businesses are unable to access the valuable programs and support of the Small Business Administration. Ultimately, this prohibition on access to resources hampers the potential to create a robust and competitive marketplace for consumers.

    It is expected that members of the committee will soon introduce legislation to address this issue and this hearing will mark the first time that Congress has discussed the issue in a formal capacity.

     

    The second hearing is to be held on Thursday, June 20th, in the Veterans Affairs Committee to discuss various bills that are pending regarding medical cannabis programs and veterans access. For years, NORML has supported legislation introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, entitled The Veterans Equal Access Act, which would allow veterans living in states that have a regulated medical marijuana program to discuss cannabis as part of their healthcare plan and allow VA doctors to fill out state-legal paperwork.

    Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of either of these bills would lift this prohibition.

    You can send a message to your lawmakers in support of the Veterans Equal Access Act by clicking here. 

    In the 114th Congress, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. Similar language was also included during the 115th Congress in the Senate yet stripped out by Republican leadership.

    Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Post-traumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.

    A recently released poll conducted by The American Legion showed that nearly 1 in 4 veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition.

    You can see a full list of pending federal efforts and contact your lawmakers in support at https://norml.org/act.

     

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