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Congress

  • by NORML May 19, 2020

    Attorneys General from 34 states and territories sent a letter today to Congressional leadership urging members to expeditiously pass The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act so that state-licensed cannabis business can explicitly engage in relationships with banks and other financial institutions.

    In their letter, AGs opine: “The current predicament of a rapidly expanding national marketplace without access to the national banking systems has resulted in an untenable situation. We stress that current legislative models are available to fix this situation. In advancing these legislative goals, Congress is not necessarily endorsing any state or territory’s legalization of marijuana-related transactions; similarly, the enactment of the SAFE Banking Act is not a call for the legalization of medical or retail marijuana in those jurisdictions that choose not to pursue such an approach. Rather, it reflects a recognition of the realities on the ground and an embrace of our federalist system of government that is flexible enough to accommodate divergent state approaches.”

    They further acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened need for Congress to act quickly. “The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply focused the need for legislative relief in three key respects,” they write. “First, threats to public safety caused by a cash-intensive business model, often the target of criminal activity, have intensified in the months since the pandemic began. Next, the presence of large cash transactions places law enforcement, tax regulators, consumers, and patients at heightened risk of exposure to the virus. Finally, the ability to efficiently collect tax revenue from the marijuana industry, estimated to have generated $15 billion in sales in 2019, will provide critical relief for state and local governments predicting budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.”

    Currently, federal laws mandate that this rapidly growing legal industry operates on a cash-only basis – an environment that makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. It also places the safety and welfare of these businesses’ employees, customers, and patients at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities or via recently authorized delivery services.

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “The need to provide federal legitimacy to the emerging state-legal cannabis industry is paramount in an era where marijuana has been deemed ‘essential’ in the majority of jurisdictions where its commerce is regulated. This is only further highlighted by the bipartisan nature of the makeup of the 34 Attorneys General who signed this most recent letter. Passage of the SAFE Banking Act would represent a significant step forward towards a rational and evidence-based national cannabis policy.”

    The AGs from the following US states and territories signed the letter: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    Members of the House of Representatives in November voted 321 to 103 in favor of the Act. More recently, House members again approved the legislation, which was included in the proposed COVID-19 relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.

  • by NORML April 22, 2020

    Ten members of the Senate, led by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and 34 members of the House, led by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Tom McClintock (R-CA), have recently issued letters requesting Small Business Administration funding programs be expanded so that they may be accessed by state-licensed cannabis businesses. 

    “With the majority of regulated states designating medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the health and welfare of the community during this time of crisis, it is critical that Congress authorizes the Small Business Association to similarly recognize their importance and to allow the agency to provide these small businesses with economic assistance to ensure public health, patient access, and continuity of care,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Many of these establishments are small-to-medium size operators, with their employees keeping their doors open without access to the support systems in place for other businesses, thus depriving them of potentially lifesaving protections.”

    Members of the Senate wrote:

    “Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate Leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

    You can find the full Senate letter here

    Members of the House wrote:

    “The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that millions of Americans in states across the country face daily—that state-legal cannabis businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families, and need our support. Given the nature of the epidemic, we must ensure that everyone has the capacity to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures. Without doing that, we risk undercutting the public health efforts nationwide.”

    You can find the full House letter here

    The state-licensed cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 American workers, over four times the number of American workers as does the coal industry. The majority of these businesses are small-to-medium in size.

    In the majority of jurisdictions that regulate cannabis marketplaces, lawmakers in recent weeks have designated these operations to be ‘essential’ to the health and well-being of the patient community. In others, regulators have either relaxed protocols or moved forward with new, emergency rules to facilitate expanded access – such as permitting patients to seek telemedicine appointments and allowing dispensaries to permit curbside pick-up and home delivery.

    A representative from the Small Business Administration previously acknowledged, “With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services.”

    NORML has consistently been working with its Congressional allies to move forward several pieces of legislation, such as HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, and HR 3884/S 2227: The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act – which “prohibit the Small Business Administration from declining to provide certain small business loans to an eligible entity solely because it is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

    You can send a message to your lawmakers in support of this effort by clicking here. 

  • by NORML March 25, 2020

    Representatives with the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) have reaffirmed that state-licensed cannabis businesses are ineligible for financial aid opportunities because marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.

    In a statement issued this week, a representative from the Administration acknowledged, “With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services.”

    In response, NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal said, “With numerous states designating medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the health and welfare of the community during this time of crisis, it is critical that Congress authorizes the Small Business Association to similarly recognize their importance and allow the agency to provide these small businesses with economic assistance to ensure patient access and continuity of care.”

    He added, “All that is needed by Congress is the passage of a one line legislative fix to protect tens-of-thousands of American jobs in a supply chain that serves over three million medical marijuana patients.”

    In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the SBA is actively providing economic assistance to numerous small and medium sized business nationwide.

    NORML has been working with its Congressional allies to move forward several pieces of legislation, such as HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, and HR 3884/S 2227: The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act – which “prohibit the Small Business Administration from declining to provide certain small business loans to an eligible entity solely because it is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

    Supporters of these changes can contact their federal lawmakers with NORML’s Action Center here. 

    The state-licensed cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 American workers, over four times the number of American workers as does the coal industry. The majority of these businesses are small-to-medium in size.

    Additional information about HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act is available online here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 12, 2020

    On March 12th, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) passed two separate pieces of legislation pertaining to cannabis policy.

    “Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our country, the absolute least we owe them is to ensure they are taken care of when they return to civilian life,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “It is imperative that we approve legislation such as the Veterans Equal Access Act so that the countless vets suffering from post-traumatic stress and other debilitating disorders have access to the safe and effective option of medical marijuana treatment.”

    The first bill, HR 712, known as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019, would direct the Veterans Administration to conduct research on marijuana in regards to a wide variety of ailments commonly associated with service-related issues. This bill was introduced by Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) and a similar version of this bill also passed in HVAC but was not considered on the floor of the House.

    The second bill, HR 1647, known as the Veterans Equal Access Act of 2019, would allow V.A. doctors to fill out the state-legal medical marijuana recommendations. 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. Originally introduced years ago by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, this marks the first time that the bill has been considered by HVAC.

    After the passage, Rep. Blumenauer said, “Today was a monumental day for our veterans. We have been working for years to reform this counterproductive policy that forces veterans outside of the VA to receive legal medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain and PTSD. This is the culmination of the tremendous work of our movement, but we will not be finished until this becomes the law of the land . We must reform our federal cannabis policy.”

    Both bills were only assigned to the HVAC, so now it is up to the House Majority to schedule floor time for the whole chamber to cast their votes.

    In the United States, the veterans population consumes cannabis at rates far higher than the general population, with the majority reporting their use for medical purposes. According to polling conducted by the American Legion, 22% of veterans said they themselves “use cannabis to treat a mental or physical condition.”

    It is critical that the full House cast their votes on the Veterans Equal Access Act this year. You can send a message to your Representative in support of HR 1647 in less then 30 seconds by clicking here. 

    You can learn more about marijuana and veterans issues by reading the NORML factsheet. 

     

  • by Representative Earl Blumenauer March 11, 2020
    Earl Blumenauer is a member of Congress representing Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District

    As a founding Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I am pleased to report to you that my legislation to allow VA doctors to fill out state-legal medical marijuana recommendations is scheduled for a committee vote tomorrow.

    Currently, VA healthcare providers, however, are prohibited from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a state-legal medical cannabis recommendation, forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Seeking care is hard enough, and we should not make it even harder for our veterans.

    I introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, HR 1647 because it is my responsibility as a Member of Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to medical treatment as recommended by their physicians.

    Please take a moment and contact your member of Congress and tell them to join me in support of the Veterans Equal Access Act.

    The reefer madness days are done and it’s time for Congress and the VA to face the facts surrounding marijuana — most pointedly, its medicinal benefits for veterans. More and more veterans are reportedly using cannabis to help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and several other ailments.

    This is reflected by a recent poll commissioned by the American Legion that showed more than 1 in 5 veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition.

    Today, you can make a difference and show your support for our nation’s veterans and the efficacy of medical cannabis. Please tell your members of Congress now to support the Veterans Equal Access Act – because our veterans need more from our government than words of support, we need action.

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) speaking a NORML Conference

    Courage,
    Earl

    Earl Blumenauer
    Member of Congress

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