by Ean Seeb, Denver Relief
Editor’s Note: In January, Ean Seeb, who serves on the Board of Directors for NCIA and is co-founder of Denver Relief and Denver Relief Consulting, coordinated with NCIA’s Director of Government Relations Michael Correia to arrange personal meetings with congressional offices in Washington, D.C.
In December, while planning for a January business trip to Washington, D.C., I realized that I should take the opportunity to use some downtime to lobby Capitol Hill offices on issues affecting the cannabis industry. I reached out to NCIA’s Executive Director Aaron Smith and Director of Government Relations Michael Correia and announced my intention. I was amazed at their responsiveness and support for my idea.
The whole planning process was quite easy. I let them know the date I was available and the focus of my trip and let the D.C. office coordinate logistics. Denver Relief Consulting has business interests in Hawaii and I wanted to focus on that state’s Congressional delegation. My goals were to update offices on medical marijuana implementation in Hawaii and ask these offices to co-sponsor The Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2015 (S. 987 & H.R. 1855), which amends Internal Revenue Code Section 280E to allow cannabis businesses in compliance with state law to take standard tax deductions and credits relating to business expenses.
The trip went very smoothly. I met up with Michael the evening before our meetings to discuss issues and logistics. Although I am well-versed on issues affecting our industry, it was really informative for me to sit down with him and discuss our focus, strategy, and talking points. We were joined by NCIA Member Tae Darnell, CEO of Sensi Media, whose background on cannabis reform in Hawaii goes back many years and was a great asset to our meetings.
— Surna (@surnainc) January 22, 2016
We visited offices in both the Senate and House of Representatives, and each office was very informed about cannabis issues, was responsive to our concerns, and asked insightful questions. I remember back in 2013 when NCIA held its 3rd annual member lobby days. During those meetings, staffers would drop their jaws and say “You’re here to talk about what?” It was almost humorous because, back then, staffers were still in shock that cannabis issues were being brought to them. This time, one of our meetings lasted a full hour! The reception from congressional offices has evolved significantly over the past five years, and that can be attributed to the work NCIA has done on the ground.
Although our meetings were with Democratic offices, who tend to be supportive of our issues, they were still not co-sponsors of legislation that would solve our 280E tax problems. The offices really appreciated tying the issue to Hawaii and answering questions specifically related to the state and how 280E will negatively affect their constituents. Each of the offices will discuss co-sponsoring legislation in the future, and our D.C. office will continue working with them to gain their support.
I did my homework with information provided by NCIA through newsletters, packets, and the website. An hour’s worth of studying on the front end made for some really powerful and effective meetings. As an NCIA member, it was personally and professionally fulfilling to be able to leave the Capitol thinking, “Today, I made some good progress on our issues, and for our industry, through the work done with these folks.”
We love nothing more than getting our members in front of lawmakers. That’s where change happens. https://t.co/kcdYFf6oJT
— TheCannabisIndustry (@NCIAorg) January 22, 2016
I wholeheartedly encourage other NCIA members not only to go to NCIA’s 6th annual Member Lobby Days in May — but also to go to D.C. on your own. The NCIA Government Relations team will be there with you every step of the way.
As I was leaving, Michael said, “Please tell other members who happen to be traveling to D.C. that we are available for any NCIA member, at any time, who wants us to coordinate personal meetings with congressional offices.”
If you are interested in contacting NCIA’s Government Relations department to schedule meetings with Members of Congress in Washington, D.C., please email Government Relations Coordinator Michelle Rutter at michelle@thecannabisindustry for more information.