A Unified Cannabis Industry Voice in Washington
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A Unified Cannabis Industry Voice in Washington

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by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations

When I first started at NCIA nearly nine years ago, there were a lot less people lobbying for cannabis reform on Capitol Hill. As our industry has grown and expanded, so has the government relations presence in D.C., but that also means that unification and coordination has become more difficult. New trade organizations have been created, individual companies with competing interests have hired their own lobbying firms – it’s a lot to keep track of! As a result, one of the things we’ve heard most from Capitol Hill staffers is that a unified voice would be incredibly helpful when trying to get legislation over the finish line. 

So, NCIA got to work to make that happen, convening a working group comprised of the trade organizations in the cannabis space we work closely with on the Hill. In the following weeks, we sent a unified industry letter on SAFE Banking and hosted a briefing and reception for freshman members and staff on Capitol Hill. 

Industry Letter 

On March 21, NCIA, along with the National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR), United States Cannabis Council (USCC), Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), and National Hispanic Cannabis Council (NHCC) sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) calling on them to act to address the continued lack of equitable access to banking and capital for cannabis related businesses and expeditiously take action on the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act upon its reintroduction. You can read the full text of the letter here

Just a day later, the American Bankers Association (ABA) Washington Summit was held. Chairman Brown said, “Prognosis is positive… I’m hopeful we can do it [SAFE Banking] relatively soon.” Ranking Member Scott also spoke about the importance of moving the bill forward through “regular order” while reiterating that he doesn’t necessarily support the legislation himself. Scott, who is running for president in 2024, also said that cannabis reform broadly is, “something that we’re going to have to wrestle with as a nation and as a Congress and get to an answer there.”

Looks like the Senators agree with our letter! 

Freshman Briefing and Reception

As lobbyists, one of our biggest jobs is educating members of Congress and their staff about the issues facing our industry and how to address them. That can be difficult, however, there’s 535 members of Congress and a lot of staff turnover (not to mention elections every two years!). 

To combat this, NCIA, NCR, USCC, and the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) came together to host a briefing on Cannabis 101 for freshman members of Congress and their staff. This is the first time that all of the major trade organizations have come together to host an event like this and it was incredibly well received. Former Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R) even said to me personally how remarkable the coalition was!  

The briefing included messages from all four members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, panels on “Incremental Approaches & Comprehensive Reform” and “Current Operational Landscape Potential & Challenges” as well as a fireside chat between Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA) and Sen. Gardner. 

Following the briefing, a reception was held in Rayburn Cafeteria where more than 100 Hill staffers and lobbyists mingled to discuss all things cannabis. All of the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, with questions about when the next event would be! I made sure to remind everyone that NCIA’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days would be taking place May 16-18, and that we look forward to visiting their offices and educating them further. 

You won’t want to miss this event – register today and sign up for our newsletter to make sure you continue to get all of the latest information and updates about how to get involved with our work in Washington!

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