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  • 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 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 Chris Goldstein, Philly NORML June 13, 2019

    Marijuana and MoneyAre you paying too much for medical marijuana?

    Millions of Americans are legally replacing pharmaceuticals with cannabis and the question of affordability has become critical.

    All of the state programs are independent and in various stages of maturity. Prices, even for closely similar products, have a wide range. Confused consumers are often paying $1000 per month at dispensaries, sometimes a lot more.

    Pennsylvania’s closed-loop system of limited marijuana permit holders is not a competitive free market. Under similar structures around the country, like in New Jersey and New York, these licensed cannabis cartels set product costs independently from regulators. There hasn’t been much official critique on the impact.

    Now, a single paragraph buried in Pa.’s medical marijuana law will start bringing some transparency to consumer-level prices. It could also have a profound influence on medical cannabis products nationwide.

    Voila; Section 705 of Pa. Act 16:

    Prices.
    The department [of Health] and the Department of Revenue shall monitor the price of medical marijuana sold by grower/processors and by dispensaries, including a per-dose price. If the department and the Department of Revenue determine that the prices are unreasonable or excessive, the department may implement a cap on the price of medical marijuana being sold for a period of six months. The cap may be amended during the six-month period. If the department and the Department of Revenue determine that the prices become unreasonable or excessive following the expiration of a six-month cap, additional caps may be imposed for periods not to exceed six months.

    These 105 words grant Pennsylvania the first statutory mandate in the country to directly affect the cost of cannabis. No other state gets a place at the table – with the permit holders – for the price fix.

    This regulatory exercise could bring a new wave of relief to consumers. Many are having serious difficulty calculating and covering annual expenses for marijuana therapy.

    The biggest reason price is such an issue is because there are no regular health insurance offsets for cannabis products. That means every sale is cash, directly out of consumers’ pockets.

    Certain conditions require more cannabinoids than others. Thus, the worst impact of high retail pricing at dispensaries falls upon the most seriously ill residents; many of whom also live on a fixed income.

    Operators fiercely defended premium retail prices. The corporate coyotes, howling around their latest stock offering or holding company acquisition, jab fingers towards eager investors seeking a quick return on the pure, liquid capital used for start-ups.

    Price caps that could favor seriously ill patients/consumers will be an entirely new concept to the cannabis industry, but it’s no innovation. Americans enjoy stable costs on everyday essentials like gasoline, electricity, water, food, and basic drugs because of price controls on essentials.

    Many of Pa. permit holders operate in multiple states, including New Jersey. So, this first-of-its-kind provision could also have an impact beyond the Commonwealth’s borders.

    The most devilish detail in the provision is what the Pa. Department of Health considers to be a “dose” of medical marijuana. Labels on products from the. manufacturers have also included suggested doses, especially on the vape pens

    The reality is that cannabinoids have very individualized effects on human beings. Patients need a vast array of possible dosing combinations, sometimes in the same day.

    Epidiolex, the first cannabis-derived drug approved by the FDA, allows doses for children to be increased upwards of 200 times over the original amount during seizure episodes.

    The rule is similar for medical cannabis: Patients working with a doctor determine their individual dose, increasing as needed.

    Hopefully, regulators will focus on the real concern: Monthly and annual costs to consumers. Pa. Department of Revenue spokesperson Jeffrey Johnson confirmed that implementation of Section 705 is underway. Johnson says that Pa.’s operators have 12 months to submit their first price reports – the first started in February 2019 – and then quarterly thereafter.

    State governments in the business of regulating medical marijuana are beginning to recognize a serious responsibility to institute fair prices.

    The tasty underground flower I can buy and smoke today costs $5-$10 per gram. Legal options inside regulated dispensaries should cost less, not more.

  • by NORML April 4, 2019

    Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), have reintroduced The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2019. This Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to reduce the number of instances in which federal law enforcement agencies could carry out legal actions against state-licensed cannabis businesses or other related enterprises.

    “The majority of states now regulate either the medical use or the adult use of marijuana. It is time for the federal government to cease standing in the way of these voter-backed regulatory policies being implemented throughout the country,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Ultimately, however, we must remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act entirely in order to allow those in legal states to ultimately be free from undue federal discrimination and the fear of federal prosecution.”

    Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said: “Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis and the majority of Americans support its legalization. Our outdated laws have ruined lives, devastated communities, and wasted resources for critical medical treatment and research. The STATES Act is the next logical step in a comprehensive blueprint for more rational federal cannabis policy. It’s time for Congress to catch up with the rest of America are and fix a badly broken system.”

    Said Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH): “The current federal policy interferes with the ability of states to implement their own cannabis laws, and the resulting system has stifled important medical research, hurt legitimate businesses and diverted critical law enforcement resources needed elsewhere. It’s past time for Congress to clarify cannabis policy on the federal level and ensure states are free to make their own decisions in the best interest of their constituents. The STATES Act does just that by respecting the will of the states that have legalized cannabis in some form and allowing them to implement their own policies without fear of repercussion from the federal government.”

    The STATES Act joins multiple bills have been filed to amend the Controlled Substances Act to restrict federal enforcement actions against state-legal marijuana businesses.

    They include:

    HR 493: The Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act, introduced by Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA).

    HR 1455: The REFER Act (Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement & Regulations of Cannabis Act), introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

    HR 2012: The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act, introduced by Congresswoman Diane DeGette (D-CO).

    Supporters of cannabis reform can contact their lawmakers regarding these bills via the NORML Action Center HERE.

     

    General information regarding cannabis reform:

    According to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrests for the commission of violent crimes (518,617) in 2017. Of those arrested for marijuana crimes, just under 91 percent (599,000) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses, a slight increase over last year’s annual totals. Total marijuana arrests in 2017 increased for the second straight year, after having fallen for nearly a decade.

    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 fifteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    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.

  • by NORML March 28, 2019

    In the first of what is anticipated to be multiple Congressional votes to address the federal prohibition and criminalization of marijuana, the House Financial Services Committee today voted to advance The SAFE Banking Act, HR 1595, 45-15.

    Currently, thousands of state-licensed and regulated businesses lack access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes because federal law discourages financial institutions from engaging in such partnerships. This ongoing federal prohibition forces this newly emerging billion-dollar industry operates largely 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 business’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities.

    Help us keep up the momentum on the way to the House floor. Contact your representative today using our action alert HERE.

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “This is a positive step forward to address an untenable tension between state-legal cannabis marketplaces and federal marijuana prohibition. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions. In order to best support the states that have had the good judgment to license and regulate businesses to produce, manufacture, or distribute cannabis, it is critical that Congress address the lack of basic banking services and amend federal law accordingly and the SAFE Banking Act is one pathway to address this situation.”

    “Ultimately, the banking issue is just one symptom of the toxic and cruel policy of federal marijuana criminalization. In order to truly bring the vibrant marijuana economy out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to end federal prohibition and the discrimination the comes with this failed policy.”

    “This will certainly not be the last hearing of this Congress to have a high-minded conversation about marijuana and we expect a full hearing on prohibition to be scheduled in the months to come.”

    Committee Chair Maxine Waters stated:

    “Though it is just one component of broader reforms that are needed to, that are related to marijuana. I have long fought for criminal justice reform, and deeply understand the need to fully address the historic racial and social inequities related to the criminalization of marijuana. While H.R. 1595 is the only aspect of these efforts that are within the committee’s jurisdiction, as the bill moves forward, it must be a part of holistic approach to considering these reforms. In short, Congress must take the long view that all these efforts – and I will work to ensure that when it comes to passing H.R. 1595 that the House does not take a ‘one and done’ approach but that we will also comprehensively work especially with our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee on a series of marijuana related reforms. So I would urge all of my colleagues so support H.R. 1595.”

    Representative Ed Perlmutter commented:

    “The SAFE Banking Act is about public safety, accountability and respecting states’ rights. Our federal banking laws were designed to prevent illicit activity and help law enforcement do their jobs. These laws need to be applied to legitimate marijuana businesses and employees in order to improve transparency and accountability and help root out illegal transactions. Most importantly, the SAFE Banking Act will get cash off our streets, reducing the risk of violent crime and making our communities safer. While Congress has stuck its head in the sand on this issue for many years, this Committee showed leadership today and I want to thank my cosponsors and members of the Committee for their support.”

    Representative Earl Blumenauer (Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus) said: 

    “This is the most significant step we’ve seen so far toward addressing our outdated federal marijuana policies. We’ve actually gone through the process, fully debated, and seen broad bipartisan support. I applaud the outstanding work of Chairwoman Waters and Representatives Heck and Perlmutter for making this possible. The SAFE Banking Act solves a major problem for the state legal cannabis industry and its success moving through the committee is a signal of how we can move forward with other critical proposals.”


    According to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrests for the commission of violent crimes (518,617) in 2017. Of those arrested for marijuana crimes, just under 91 percent (599,000) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses, a slight increase over last year’s annual totals. Total marijuana arrests in 2017 increased for the second straight year, after having fallen for nearly a decade.

    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 fifteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    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.

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