From Sea To Shining Sea: State Cannabis Policy Update
By Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve talked a lot about what is happening at the federal level – with the passage of the SAFE Banking in the House of Representative, the reintroduction of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, and the introduction of many bills, we’ve seen the momentum continue to rise in the 117th Congress. So this week, I’m going to go over numerous updates happening at the state level. When we see movement at the state level, this directly correlates to success at the federal level, although not immediate. Think about it… more constituents voting in support of cannabis initiatives and more state legislators speaking in favor of moving cannabis measures means more overall support in the United States. That support at the local and state levels streamlines up to members of Congress at the federal level. So let’s take a look at a few updates in the states.
In Wyoming, lawmakers failed to pass a bill to legalize marijuana this session. However, last week two measures were submitted to the state to place medical cannabis legalization and adult-use decriminalization measures before voters on the 2022 ballot.
Last week, Governor Ned Lamont (D) said he’ll be upset if the legislature fails to deliver him a bill to legalize marijuana in a special session that is set to take place this week. The Senate approved a legalization proposal in the final days of the regular session last week, but an expected House vote was called off as time ran short in the face of Republican opposition and threats to a filibuster.
Ohio, South Carolina, and West Virginia
The Sensible Movement Coalition (SMC), an Ohio-based marijuana group, is helping campaigns in West Virginia and South Carolina get cannabis decriminalization on their local ballots this year. SMC has traditionally pushed for reforms within Ohio – and has seen multiple successes in getting decriminalization enacted there – they’re now lending expertise to activist-led campaigns in other traditionally conservative states.
Marijuana activists are gearing up for a “mass scale” campaign to put medical cannabis legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot after the state legislature failed to pass a bill to enact the reform this session.
For the first time in Rhode Island, a bill to legalize cannabis for recreational use has advanced in the state. The Judiciary Committee approved a marijuana legalization bill that’s being championed by leadership in the chamber.
Texas and Louisiana
The governors of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday separately indicated that they will sign marijuana reform bills that have recently been delivered to their desks.
A vote on a marijuana legalization bill that was scheduled in the House of Representatives was canceled, despite attempts to propose amendments to reach the three-fifths supermajority support. Rep. Edward Osienski (D), who filed the measure, said lawmakers need more time to consider a series of proposed changes before reaching a consensus and moving forward.
A newly formed progressive coalition that’s being led by two former Democratic congressional candidates, Julie Oliver and Mike Siegel, is aiming to take cannabis and other issues directly to voters by putting reform measures on local ballots across the state. Although Texas legislators made progress this session on some marijuana policy changes, activists were hoping for more. The new coalition, Ground Game Texas, works to engage voters on issues like marijuana reform that are popular among young people and Democrats.
These are just a few of the many updates that are happening state by state. It’s extraordinary to see the momentum building throughout the country with the help of advocates and public support. I implore you to get involved with state initiatives to propel cannabis policy reform forward, as every person has a voice to be heard. To keep updated on what’s happening at the state level please be sure to check out our state policy map that can be found HERE. Additionally, I would love the opportunity to hear from you about the difficulties you face in the cannabis space. If you have the time please feel free to email me at Madeline@TheCannabisIndustry.org.
Member Blog: Eradicating Pesticide Use in the Cannabis Industry – Without Sacrificing Crop Quality
One of the direst, yet infrequently discussed, issues in the cannabis industry is the lack of federal guidelines regulating pesticide use. Despite the adult-use cannabis market consistently expanding on a state-by-state basis, as long as the crop remains illegal on the federal level, much-needed national oversight will continue to be limited.
The more states that legalize under a national prohibition, the more varying and convoluted state-by-state crop management regulations may become. Meanwhile, without standards firmly set in stone across the country, some cultivators have turned to hazardous chemicals to control pathogens and preserve their crop yields. Such cultivation solutions can compromise the safety of staff, the environment and, of course, the consumers.
Health Hazards of Pesticides in Cannabis
Even when shopping at a licensed adult-use or medical dispensary, consumers today still cannot be 100 percent confident that the cannabis they are purchasing is completely safe and free of contaminants and unwanted components, such as pesticides, harmful microbials, heavy metals, and solvents. Emerging research from Colorado State University shows that contaminants in cannabis, including pesticides, “are imminent threats that directly impact public health and wellness, particularly to the immunocompromised and pediatric patients who take cannabis products as a treatment for numerous human disorders including cancer patients and those suffering from epileptic seizures.” With many consumers turning to cannabis for its health benefits, and because it’s a natural alternative to heavily processed pharmaceuticals, the cultivation process should honor cannabis’ medical use by being as safe and accountable as possible.
The pesticide issue is compounded when we think about how cannabis is often consumed: through inhalation. Additional research has shown that nearly 70 percent of the pesticides used in cultivation remain in the cannabis flower that consumers smoke.
Even when these same pesticides are permitted in other types of American agricultural industries, this is a global anomaly. More than 25 percent of pesticides used in the U.S. are banned in other countries.
Moving Towards a Pesticide-Free Flower
So how do we work towards a pesticide-free cannabis industry? Licensed businesses, regulators, and consumers need to band together to set standards and guidelines for pesticide use across each legal state, and eventually on a federal level.
In 2020, Arizona took a page out of Oregon’s playbook by establishing a regulatory agency and adopting Oregon’s standards for limiting pesticide use in cannabis, setting a prime example for inter-state collaboration and accountability. Measures also need to be taken to lower the cost of testing cannabis products for pesticides and contaminants. And, of course, we need to embrace more sustainability and environmentally-minded education, and emerging technologies.
While testing does not necessarily prevent contaminants during the grow process, frequent, reliable, and standardized testing can help ensure contaminated products don’t make it to market. Unfortunately, testing requirements continue to differ by state, with some being more lenient than others. For instance, certain states only test for certain types of microbials, while others allow companies and cultivators to cherry-pick samples. This makes it easier for companies’ products to meet compliance, however, doesn’t ensure that the final products available for purchase will be safe for the consumer. Looking ahead towards inevitable federal legalization, testing requirements need to be uniform across all legal markets.
However, cultivators shouldn’t wait for federal oversight to hold themselves to the highest possible standards. There are inexpensive testing procedures currently available that cultivators can adopt before sending their cannabis products to the lab, which can help to better ensure what they are doing is working and catch a problem before it starts.
There are also non-toxic crop management technologies available now, and in addition to seeking out vendors offering innovation-driven solutions to replace conventional pesticides, cannabis companies and their cultivators can embrace simple, preventative measures to minimize outbreaks of bio-contaminants. This includes controlling humidity at the grow site, plant spacing, adequate air circulation, and implementing a strict chain of custody throughout the supply chain. Successful prevention mitigates the temptation to turn to potentially toxic pesticides to eradicate contaminants.
While federal legalization looms, it likely won’t happen this year. Therefore, state regulatory agencies should continue to be prepared with comprehensive outreach plans to communicate their pesticide and testing regulations to cultivators and their companies, ensuring that industry participants are fully informed. Planning and communication also sets the stage for the industry to have tried and true standards already in place by the time federal legalization does come to fruition.
The good news is the cannabis industry has the potential to lead a paradigm shift towards a safer agricultural sector as a whole. In years past, the amount of information shared between cannabis and other agricultural industries was limited, cutting cannabis cultivators off from reliable best practices for cultivation and crop management. However, this is changing quickly. Cannabis is also pushing the envelope towards more sustainable practices, with more cultivation sites moving indoors and into greenhouses, complete with LED lighting and additional sustainable practices. Cannabis cultivators are becoming more cutting-edge and setting an example for the broader agricultural community. The industry should continue these forward-thinking approaches by embracing pesticide-free solutions on a broad, scalable level.
Carlos Perea is the CEO and Co-founder of Terra Vera, an agricultural technology company offering innovative solutions to replace conventional pesticides and increase product safety and consumer confidence within the agriculture industry. Carlos is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on the intersection of technology and social impact. Prior to founding Terra Vera, he formed MIOX Corporation, a technology company that treats water in a variety of applications and is distributed in over 30 countries. He is active as an advisor and board member with several early stage companies and social enterprises including YPO, where is he an active board member. Carlos has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and an BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico.
Spring Update from Capitol Hill – SAFE Banking, the MORE Act, and Appropriations
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
It’s hard to believe that somehow it’s March again, but all the while, the NCIA team in D.C. has been hard at work lobbying and advocating on behalf of you and your business. Things are really beginning to warm up and spring into action, so keep reading below for a quick update on where things are at with SAFE Banking, comprehensive reform, appropriations, and more!
Bill reintroductions in both chambers have been off to a slow start. Between a new session, most people still working remotely, a delayed organizing resolution in the Senate, and a somewhat contentious COVID relief package that’s finallypassed, members of Congress and their staff have been incrediblybusy. But, now that that’s all behind us, I’d suggest preparing for many cannabis bills to be introduced soon.
Specifically, you can expect the reintroduction of the SAFE Banking Act to happen in both the House of Representatives and the Senate within the next couple of weeks. When the bill was introduced in the House during the 116th Congress, it had over 100 cosponsors. In the Senate, it was introduced with more than 20 — that’s more than a fifth of the entire chamber! The bill later went on to be passed by the entire House of Representatives in September 2019 by a vote of 321-103.
You’ll remember that the SAFE Banking Act addresses urgent public safety concerns by allowing tightly regulated marijuana businesses the ability to access the banking system and make our communities safer. The bill also provides protections from money laundering laws for any proceeds derived from these state-legal marijuana businesses. The bill also includes the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act and protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD-related businesses, which sometimes still struggle in accessing financial services despite the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Don’t expect any big changes, however — the bill this Congress includes minor technical changes to the safe harbor language, strengthened hemp provisions, and other technical updates.
While SAFE Banking’s timeline is clear, the same can’t completely be said for more comprehensive reform. When I say comprehensive reform, I’m talking specifically about bills that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act like the MORE Act and the upcoming Schumer-Booker-Wyden bill.
In the House, we are continuing to work with various committees and members to determine the best path forward for the MORE Act and what changes should be made. I wouldn’t be surprised if that bill gets reintroduced sometime this spring, but the process is truly still in flux, so I also wouldn’t be surprised if it was postponed awhile. This will be determined by the lead sponsors’ offices and also by the congressional calendar and how various bills/issues move through the legislative process.
In the Senate, we’re excited to be working with Leader Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Booker (D-NJ) and Wyden (D-OR) on their new cannabis bill. That bill will draw heavily on provisions from the MORE Act, but will also include expanded language on taxation and smart regulations. Now that the COVID relief bill has passed into law, I think we can expect to see their bill be introduced sometime in the near future.
You’ll also remember that NCIA was one of two industry trade associations invited to the initial meeting with those Senators to discuss this new bill. We’re looking forward to their discussion draft and offering our thoughts.
It’s spring, which means it’s appropriations season here in D.C.! These bills are legislation that “appropriates,” or sets aside, federal funds to be divided between specific federal government departments, agencies, and programs. For a refresh on the history of appropriations, click here, or, if you’re interested in how these provisions relate to cannabis, click here.
While the appropriations amendment that protects medical cannabis businesses, patients, and programs has been in law since 2014, we’ve had difficulty expanding those provisions and passing new cannabis-related amendments due to the formerly-Republican controlled Senate. However, now that Democrats control both houses of Congress, we’re excited to go back to the drawing board and get creative with the appropriations process to help provide some certainty and relief to the cannabis industry.
We’ll be looking at amendments pertaining to adult-use cannabis programs, banking, veterans access, allowing Washington, D.C. to finally implement a functioning 21+ cannabis program — and that’s just scratching the surface!
All of this is to say: things are really springing into action in D.C.! Prepare for many cannabis bills to begin getting reintroduced, and remember that the appropriations process takes months, so stay tuned via our blog, newsletter, NCIA Connect, and the new NCIA Mobile App to remain in the loop and get involved!
Member Blog: Four States Legalized Cannabis in November – Here’s What That Means for the Industry
Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana legalized adult-use cannabis sales during November’s election. So, what comes next?
Last month, Americans in four states voted to legalize adult-use cannabis.
If you’re an adult over 21 in Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, or Montana, theoretically, you’ll be able to consume and purchase cannabis legally in 2021.
To many Americans, the end of cannabis prohibition in these states looks like a sudden act of voter mobilization. But industry insiders know it took years of work by activists, business people, and lawmakers to make legalization possible.
Before adults can legally purchase and consume cannabis, lawmakers in each state must outline rules and regulations, and dispensaries must go through intense licensing processes before opening their doors to the public.
The process won’t happen overnight.
In some newly legal states, it could take close to a year to iron out the details. And in the past, it’s taken even longer.
Take Massachusetts, for example. Voters cast their ballots in favor of legalization in 2016, but the first dispensary didn’t open until 2018.
Maine’s citizens also voted in support of legal weed in 2016, but it took four years for the first dispensary to open. The first two retailers – SeaWeed and Theory Wellness – opened on October 8 of this year.
“It has taken four years to move from referendum to retail sales since Mainers narrowly approved the legalization of recreational cannabis at the ballot box in 2016. Legislative rewrites, gubernatorial vetoes, a change in state administration, and then the impact of COVID-19 pandemic have combined to make Maine’s rollout the slowest in U.S. history.” – Portland Press Herald
Lawmakers in New Jersey are trying to speed things up. Democratic Senator Nick Scutari wants to move quickly to pass legislation modeled off a 2019 legal cannabis bill he sponsored. Still, legislators are fighting over the details. New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana licensing policies force applicants to pay large sums to compete for a limited number of licenses, allowing big businesses with deep pockets and holdings in other legal states to make millions.
Some New Jersey lawmakers are trying to keep the same from happening when adult-use dispensaries open their doors by prioritizing local businesses.
Entrepreneurs in South Dakota and Montana are ready to apply for dispensary licenses, but they, too, will have to wait.
In South Dakota, lawmakers say dispensaries will be open and selling legal adult-use cannabis by July 1. In Montana, people should be able to legally purchase cannabis on October 1, barring any bumps in the road.
Have we reached a tipping point?
The public’s view of cannabis is changing. One in three Americans now live in a state with legal weed, and, according to a recent Gallup poll, 68% of Americans support federal cannabis legalization. So, have we reached a tipping point?
That’s hard to say.
Thirty-six states now have a legal medical cannabis system. When sales begin in Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana, more than twenty states will have fully legalized cannabis. And while federal cannabis reform might be a defining aspect of the incoming administration’s legacy, legalization is mostly dependent on congress, and it’s still unclear which party will control the Senate next year.
Democratic leaders have pledged to end federal cannabis prohibition. If the Democratic party wins Senate control, full legalization is almost a certainty. But if Republicans maintain their Senate majority, the Republican party’s past approach to cannabis doesn’t indicate their leaders are ready to support far-reaching reform. Still, federal cannabis legalization isn’t outside the realm of possibility, even with a Republican-controlled Senate.
Only time will tell.
And again, regardless of what happens politically, it’s obvious America’s opinion of cannabis isn’t what it once was.
Oprah asked former President Obama if he and Michelle indulged in “pizza, pot, or alcohol” on election night in a recent televised interview. When a television icon casually asks a former President if he smoked weed with the former first lady, you know attitudes are changing.
Could federal cannabis legalization be the key to healing our COVID-ravaged economy?
This year, COVID-19 slowed the progress of cannabis legalization for individual states, but the pandemic could help push federal legalization forward next year. Here’s why.
A federally legal cannabis industry would accelerate America’s economic recovery.
The pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on many industries, and while a lot of employees will return to work, many jobs will be forever lost. The longer it takes for people to find employment, the longer it will take for the economy to recover.
The end of federal cannabis prohibition would create thousands of new jobs and reverse the pandemic’s adverse economic impact.
Here’s a point to consider: according to estimates from New Frontier Data, America’s legal cannabis market could be worth nearly $30 billion by 2025 – and that’s without federal legalization. If government officials choose to end federal prohibition next year, the estimates will increase dramatically.
For cannabis dispensaries, cultivators, cannabis-adjacent businesses (like cannabis marketing agencies), and American citizens, a nationwide end to prohibition would be life-changing.
But again, what the immediate future holds is anyone’s guess.
Aaron Rosenbluth is Hybrid Marketing Co‘s Content Director, and he loves to write blogs. He’s written so many blogs that he’s lost count. And beyond his skills as a copywriter and storyteller, he’s an obsessive reader and researcher. Aaron writes on subjects ranging from cannabis to collaboration, social equity to HR software, interior design to cybersecurity. His words attract, engage, educate, and convert. Btw, Aaron hates the phrase “content is king” (even though content is king – and queen).
Hybrid Marketing Co is a Denver-based branding and marketing agency that specializes in building custom strategies that supercharge growth and drive revenue. Working with brands and businesses across the U.S. and Canada, Hybrid’s partners run the full-spectrum of the cannabis world including dispensaries, manufacturers, cultivators, and ancillary businesses. Visit hybridmarketingco.com to learn more about the Hybrid approach.
Election Night 2020: Victories For Sensible Cannabis Policies
by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations
While the country waits for the outcomes of national elections that could very well impact the future of cannabis policy reform advocacy, we do have a LOT to be happy about today!
Last night, adult-use and medical ballot initiatives SWEPT the elections, passing in every state in which they were considered!
Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all passed measures making cannabis legal and regulated for adults. South Dakota also approved a medical cannabis initiative by an even greater margin, and was joined by Mississippi where an overwhelming majority of voters not only supported medical cannabis but chose the much more comprehensive of two competing options.
You can learn more about these initiatives here and how they fared in the elections here.
There are a lot of important milestones and lessons to observe from these historic results.
First, let’s talk about New Jersey. Roughly two thirds of voters in the state approved this ballot measure, which was referred to them after lawmakers were unable to pass similar legislation last year. This is a big jump in ballot approval margins; before now, the most popular legalization referendum was in California, which approved Proposition 64 in 2016 with 57% of the vote. That’s a 10% margin increase in just four short years! The large population and huge market potential (more than $1.5B by 2025) are sure to have a major impact on the industry. Regionally, passage of this initiative is certain to add urgency to adult-use cannabis regulation efforts in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
South Dakota also set a record by becoming the first state to approve an adult use law before having an established medical cannabis system, and in a very conservative state no less! Voters supported both medical and cannabis initiatives despite strong opposition from the governor and other officials.
In Arizona, after voters narrowly defeated a legalization initiative in 2016, a significant swing brought a 10% increase in support resulting in passage. This long-overdue change is especially important because Arizona is the only state where simple possession is a felony and nearly 15,000 people are arrested every year.
So what does this mean for future reform efforts?
First and foremost, the passage of the adult use initiatives means nearly 34% of Americans now live in states with laws making cannabis legal and regulated for adults. These four states account for roughly 60,000 marijuana arrests every year, mostly for simple possession. Congressional representation of states where cannabis is legal for adults will increase by 29 representatives and eight senators. This doesn’t guarantee their support for cannabis legislation, but it certainly increases the chances.
Second, passage of cannabis policy reform initiatives in conservative states like Mississippi, Montana, and South Dakota should send a signal to Republican lawmakers in Congress that this is an issue that they can support, and one which they will face political consequences for impeding. The fact that all three of these states had multiple cannabis-related issues on the ballot and voters were not swayed or confused is a testament to the will for change in these areas and a growing understanding of the issue.
Long story short: more and more states will continue to enact sensible, modern cannabis policies in the coming years, and every state that does so will help add to the chorus of voices from the public and in Congress calling for an end to outdated federal prohibition policies.
2020 Senate Races To Watch
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
As you may have heard by now, Election Day is just around the corner! Let me take this opportunity to remind you to vote, to do so safely, and come up with an election plan! If you need help determining if you’re registered, or need more information about anything election-related, you can click here for some great resources.
Over the last two years, NCIA and the cannabis industry have had some success in Washington, D.C.: passing the SAFE Banking Act out of the House, passing the MORE Act out of committee (we expect a full House vote during the lame duck session!), and even getting the language of the SAFE Banking Act included in three proposed COVID-19 relief packages. But, the same challenge has remained: the upper chamber of Congress, the Senate.
This year, there are 35 Senate seats up for election, and the results will impact cannabis policy for years to come (remember, Senate terms last for six years). Let’s take a look at three races that could not only impact cannabis policy, but the makeup of the Senate as a whole.
Incumbent: Sen. Martha McSally – Republican
Challenger: Mark Kelly – Democrat
The Details: Senator Martha McSally, Mark Kelly, and seventeen other write-in candidates are running in this year’s special election in Arizona. The winner will fill the rest of the 2017-2022 term that former Sen. John McCain (R) won in 2016. You may remember McSally’s name– that’s because back in the 2018 general election, McSally ran for Arizona’s other Senate seat and lost to Kyrsten Sinema (D) 47.6% to 50.0%. After the 2018 election, interim Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his resignation and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced McSally as Kyl’s replacement in December 2018. Easy to keep up with, right?!
On Cannabis: This year, Arizonans will vote on Proposition 207, which would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. During a debate in October, the candidates were asked about the initiative. Mark Kelly responded, “I think I’m gonna vote yes. It has some provisions in there to decriminalize it and address some incarceration rates for marijuana offenses — I think that’s good. I think there’s a funding source there. So I’m probably gonna vote yes.” When asked if he’d support removing marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic were such federal legislation to come before him, Kelly replied, “Based on my vote here in Arizona, I would seriously consider removing it.”
Senator McSally, on the other hand, has been essentially silent and inactive on this issue since assuming office. Last month, when asked about the initiative, McSally said “I’ll let the Arizona voters decide that [Proposition 207].” During her time as a Congresswoman prior to being appointed to the Senate, McSally voted against several cannabis-related appropriations amendments. She has not co-sponsored any cannabis-related legislation in the Senate.
Incumbent: Sen. Cory Gardner – Republican
Challenger: Former Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper – Democrat
The Details: This race is one of the most contested in the country– both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have added it to their election target lists. The previous three U.S. Senate elections in Colorado—2016, 2014, and 2010—were decided by margins of 5.7, 1.6, and 1.7 percentage points, respectively. Gardner was first elected in 2014 after defeating incumbent Mark Udall (D) 48.2-46.3%.
On Cannabis: Sen. Gardner has long been touted as one of the most pro-cannabis Republicans in the Senate. He has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of cannabis bills, including the STATES Act and the SAFE Banking Act. However, Sen. Gardner has been unable to convince his colleagues to bring SAFE Banking up for a committee vote, or even have a simple hearing on the STATES Act. That being said, if Republicans retain control of the Senate, but Gardner loses his seat, it may have adverse consequences for the cannabis industry.
During his time as governor, Hickenlooper actively opposed cannabis legalization, even going so far as to unsuccessfully campaign against the state’s marijuana legalization ballot referendum. He then went on to implement it after voters approved the measure. During his last year as governor, he also vetoed proposals to add autism as a medical marijuana qualifying condition, to increase flexibility for investments in the cannabis industry, and to allow dispensaries to operate tasting rooms. But Hickenlooper has come a long way since then– his campaign website states, “As U.S. Senator, I will fight to remove cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” Plus, he even responded to an op-ed penned earlier this year by NCIA’s own Social Media Manager, Vince Chandler, tweeting, “Yes, I support decriminalizing & descheduling marijuana. Colorado set the gold standard, and I’m eager to work with you and Colorado’s cannabis industry and entrepreneurs to get this done in Washington.”
Incumbent: Sen. Steve Daines – Republican
Challenger: Former Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock – Democrat
The Details: Incumbent Sen. Daines was first elected in 2014 with 58% of the vote. Bullock was first elected Governor of Montana in 2012 with 49% of the vote to his opponent’s 47%. His margin increased in 2016 when he won 50% to 46%. That same year, Donald Trump (R) won Montana in the presidential election with 56% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s (D) 36%.
Both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic PAC, have targeted the race. Prior to announcing his bid for Senate, Bullock joined the crowded Democratic presidential field before dropping out in 2019.
Implications: This year, there are two cannabis-related initiatives on the ballot in the Treasure State. Montana I-190, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, is on the ballot and would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, impose a 20% tax on marijuana sales, require the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allow for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes. The second initiative, Montana CI-118, the Allow for a Legal Age for Marijuana Amendment, would amend the Montana Constitution to allow for the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish a minimum legal age for the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana, similar to the regulation of alcohol in the state constitution.
While neither Senate candidate has weighed in on the state’s cannabis initiatives, we do have some understanding of their views on the issue– Sen. Daines has consistently voted in favor of appropriations amendments related to hemp, medical cannabis, and banking. In 2015, he co-sponsored an industrial hemp bill. It’s important to note that all of these votes were more than three years ago. On the other hand, while running for president last year during July 2019, Bullock stated, “I think this [cannabis legalization] should be left up to the states. I think the federal government should get out of the way and this is a state-by-state decision.”
Now, remember to get out there and VOTE! Here at NCIA, we’ll be analyzing other initiatives, candidates, and what it all means for you and your business as we get closer to the election, and doing the same once we get the results!
Possession:Adults 21+, 1 ounce flower or 5 grams concentrate
Home cultivation:YES, adults 121+ may have up to 6 plants in an enclosed locked location out of public view.
Issue no more than one marijuana establishment license per 10 pharmacies;
Issue no more than two marijuana establishment licenses in counties that contain no registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries;
Issue no more than one marijuana establishment license in counties with one nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries; and
Issue 26 licenses, notwithstanding the other limits, to entities qualified under the Social Equity Ownership Program.
Social Equity: Department of Health Services would be required to establish a Social Equity Ownership Program to promote cannabis business ownership and employment for individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.
Proposition 207 would establish a fund called the Justice Reinvestment Fund (JRF). Revenue in the JRF would be allocated as follows:
35 percent to local public health departments in proportion to the county’s population for the purpose of providing justice reinvestment programs or giving grants to nonprofits to provide justice reinvestment programs within the county’s area.
35 percent to DHS to provide grants to nonprofits to provide justice reinvestment programs in the state.
30 percent to DHS “for the purpose of addressing important public health issues” that affect Arizona.
Taxes & Revenue:
Transaction Privilege Tax (currently 5.6%)
Specific 16% excise tax (non-medical)
Revenue from the excise tax and license fees would be deposited into the Smart and Safe Arizona Fund. First, revenue would be used to implement and enforce marijuana regulations. The remaining revenue would be allocated as follows:
33.0 percent for community college districts;
31.4 percent for municipal police and fire departments, county sheriff departments, and fire districts;
25.4 percent for the state’s Highway User Revenue Fund;
10.0 percent for the new Justice Reinvestment Fund; and
Possession: Adults 21+, up to one ounce of flower or 8 grams of concentrate
Home Cultivation: YES, up to four (4) plants per adult, maximum eight (8) per household.
The Department of Revenue shall develop rules and regulations regarding licensing of providers, marijuana-infused products providers, and dispensaries for adult use. For the first 12 months, only existing medical cannabis licensees may apply. Provider licenses are established in tiers based on canopy size and also include micro-business licenses. Applicants must have resided in Montana for at least one year prior and may not have been convicted of a felony involving fraud, deceit, or embezzlement or for distribution of drugs to a minor within the past 5 years. Cannabis businesses may not be located within 500 feet of a school or place of worship unless permitted by the local jurisdiction.
Social Equity: Persons convicted of behavior permitted by Initiative 190 may apply for resentencing or expungement.
Taxes & Revenue:
Specific sales tax – 20%
Revenue will be used to fund operating costs of regulation as well as to support conservation efforts, substance abuse treatment and education, veterans programs, local governments, the general fund, and other programs. More information is available here.
2020 Marijuana Ballot Initiatives – Time to Make History!
by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
With the election coming up just around the corner, 2020 could be another big year for our movement. It is imperative that we all head to the polls, send in our mail-in ballots and make our voices heard in this monumental election. This week I will briefly go over each ballot initiative that has officially qualified for the November ballot. As we continue to get closer to the election, I will get into detail about what each ballot initiative does for each state. 2020 has been a year of uncertainty and as we approach the election it is our duty as U.S. citizens to get out and vote and as members of the cannabis industry, it’s important that we support the expansion of markets by donating to initiative campaigns.
Without further ado please see marijuana ballot initiatives below:
More information provided by the Marijuana Policy Project here.
Nebraska – Medical marijuana ballot initiative is no longer happening due to the Nebraska Supreme Court deeming the legalization of medical marijuana on the November ballot as unconstitutional. Following over 180,000 signatures by Nebraskans in support of the measure, the Supreme Court decided to not include the vote on November’s ballot on the day before the deadline. The justification of unconstitutionality came from Nebraska’s single-subject rule for a ballot measure, which bans multiple issues into yes-or-no questions for voters to address.
It is more important than ever to get out and vote. Our government relations team works hard in our nation’s Capital to achieve legislative victories at the federal level; however, achieving legislative victories at each state is just as important. It is through each successful ballot initiative at the state that provides the proof and support for legislative change and policy reform at the federal level. States are moving forward; therefore, we must be on Capitol Hill. We must keep fighting the good fight and get out and show our support for cannabis policy reform.
Are you interested in any of these states or want to learn more about one of these ballot initiatives? If so, please feel free to reach out to me to set up a meeting to discuss the information in more detail or contact the campaigns directly to find out how you can support them.
Five Reasons Why NCIA’s Industry Socials Were A Huge Success
At the end of 2018, NCIA’s events team looked ahead at how to make our line-up of 2019 events even better and respond to an increasingly popular demand for more networking opportunities. As a team we dreamed up how to make a B2B networking series that was not only delivered maximum ROI, but was super fun and fit the cannabis industry culture.
Ultimately, we devised what might be the magic elixir of networking events. Artsy venues, delicious drinks and food, live local music, old-school Nintendo, giant Jenga and Connect Four. We even threw in a raffle-wheel contest to win limited edition NCIA merchandise. The result? NCIA’s January Industry Socials were a total hit. Although there are many, here are the top five reasons why NCIA’s Industry Socials were a huge success.
1. Impressive Attendees
Throughout January, Industry Socials kicked off with a West Coast Tour in Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, Las Vegas, NV, Salt Lake City, UT and Phoenix, AZ. We were excited (and a bit nervous) about the turn-out for the Utah Industry Social in Salt Lake City, since the exciting passage of Utah’s Proposition 2 happened only a few months before the event. As NCIA’s Aaron Smith remarked “we’re excited to bring our world-class industry events to new markets like Utah, and later this year in Missouri, North Dakota, and Texas!”
Overall, January’s Industry Socials turned out about 500 impressive cannabis industry professionals and advocates, representing 250 current NCIA member companies! Even better? We saw more than 75 attendees in the brand new Utah market!
2. Incredible Feedback
The post-event survey results are in and they are stellar! The majority of survey respondents reported that they would highly recommend the event series to a friend or colleague.
More than 50% of survey respondents said they made between 11-20 new contacts at the event and that at least three of these contacts were potential sales deals.
When asked what the biggest return on investment of the event was attendees stated:
“Getting to know our local business community.”
“The low key but targeted exposure in our local market.”
“Continued relationship building and network expansion.”
“We gained a lot of insight into the industry and where we fit as a company… the insights we gained were invaluable.”
“Foot in the door to get involved in rule making and learning about the application process in Utah.”
Kyle Rooney from Have A Heart, Sustaining Members with adult-use dispensaries in four states, says that “attending NCIA’s new Industry Socials is a chance to network in a more personal and low-key environment. National conferences are great, but these events provide a platform to talk to people in the regions that you want to connect with.”
RizePoint, who became members of NCIA just a week before the event in Salt Lake City, attended with several team members. Ed McGarr, RizePoint’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing says, “We began working with cannabis companies last year to advise on food safety, quality control and management for adult-use and medical cannabis edible products. NCIA’s Industry Socials provide a forum for us to connect with the industry and learn from them, as well as gain new business contacts. The event was priceless relative to networking and establishing ourselves further in the cannabis industry. It was refreshing that NCIA helped to establish the networking opportunities in a new, emerging market like Utah.”
3. Innovative Networking and Entertainment
Introducing a retro arcade station including Super Mario and PAC-MAN at our Industry Socials was the brilliant idea of our events team. Now that we know how fun it was, we’re seriously considering having it as an NCIA event standard.
But seriously, we now know that a cash bar is not the only way of lubricating conversation and community building. Adding fun games like Nintendo, giant Jenga and Connect Four is another way cannabis industry professionals can “connect” in an authentic, fun, and meaningful way. If more networking happened while playing a competitive game of PAC-MAN, the business world would be a much better place.
Additionally, at every event we had talented local DJ sets and interactive activities like a raffle-wheel and Polls Everywhere with cannabis industry trivia. As a value-added complimentary activity at our Nevada Industry Social, attendees had the opportunity to participate in two private tours of the world’s only immersive cannabis museum, Cannabition!
4. Our Sponsors and Partners
From helping us spread the word, to investing in NCIA’s Industry Socials, none of these amazing events could have happened without the help of our sponsors and partners.
Lastly, a huge thank you to our promotional partners: Growers Network, Cannabis Collaborative Conference, Utah Patients Coalition, Epilepsy Association of Utah, Marijuana Policy Project and TRUCE Utah.
5. Setting the Stage for 2019 Events
To kick off 2019 with a successful inaugural event series sets the stage for an incredible year of NCIA events. We are looking forward to hosting the next tour of Industry Socials in new cities and markets again in April and August.
Lastly, thank you to our nearly 2,000 member-businesses and to all event attendees for supporting NCIA’s mission. NCIA’s event revenues support the work we are doing to lobby at the federal level on your behalf on Capitol Hill and to build public support for the cannabis industry.
If you were at the January Industry Socials, be sure to check out our Facebook album and tag yourself!
Member Spotlight: ProGrowTech
This month, we speak with Andrew Myers, the Co-founder and CEO of ProGrowTech, which is based in Flagstaff, Arizona. ProGrowTech provides LED lighting solutions for grower operations of all sizes.
Cannabis Cultivation Supply
NCIA Member Since:
Tell me a bit about your background and why you launched your company?
I spent more than 14 years in state and national politics before founding ProGrowTech with my partners. I was especially involved in Arizona’s budding cannabis industry, serving as campaign manager and chief spokesperson for Proposition 203, Arizona’s successful effort to legalize medical marijuana. I was also one of the authors of the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and co-founded the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, an organization for licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. I also served as executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association.
My team and I founded ProGrowTech because we knew cultivators were unhappy with the quality of grow lighting available. None of the established players in the marketplace had developed a solution that fully met the needs of commercial growers. We designed our Evolve Series LED fixtures to address common grower pain points, helping them conserve energy, increase the quality and quantity of their harvests, and improve profitability.
What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?
Beyond providing top-tier, energy efficient technology, our team works one-on-one with growers, assisting with facility design, energy rebate applications, installation, advanced growing techniques and ongoing maintenance to help their operations succeed. Growers can consider ProGrowTech a long-term partner who can help them elevate their operations in a sustainable way.
Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be socially responsible and advocate for it to be treated fairly. How does your company help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?
The cannabis industry is still very much in its infancy, which gives businesses like ProGrowTech the unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact. Our team has had a long-standing commitment to supporting responsible growth in the industry.
We’re members of the Resource Innovation Institute’s Founder’s Circle and sponsor and sit on the board of the Cannabis Certification Council. Both of these organizations are hyper focused on improving the efficiency, sustainability and ethics of commercial cannabis operations. We’re also members of NCIA, which has supported, protected and advocated for the cannabis industry since its founding.
My experience with Arizona’s medical cannabis legislation and other team members’ experience as cultivation facility owners and growers themselves has given us a unique, holistic perspective on the industry and where we can make a difference.
What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?
In the lighting industry, our main challenge is to bring cultivation lighting technology into the 21st century. A lot of large cultivation facilities were built years ago when there wasn’t as much openness in the industry and high quality, energy efficient lighting was scarce. Our role is to not only provide the world class technology growers are missing, but also to educate them. We can help growers expand their vision of what is possible in their facility, allowing them to increase yields while lowering operations costs so they can remain competitive.
Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best part about being a member?
We joined NCIA because we believe in and support the organization’s mission. I have been supportive of NCIA since its founding, and have known NCIA co-founder Aaron Smith for many years.
Most importantly, NCIA brings together innovative, engaging cannabis industry leaders at numerous events each year. These events have been tremendously valuable for ProGrowTech, allowing us to spread our message, showcase our technology and connect with like-minded people across all facets of the cannabis industry.
Member Spotlight: The High Road Design Studio
This month, we checked in with award-winning designer Megan Stone, founder of The High Road Design Studio, to hear more about her interior design company. Megan specializes in creating a forward-thinking retail dispensary experience for cannabis consumers and patients. Her company was founded in 2013 and is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.
Cannabis Industry Sector:
NCIA Member Member Since: March 2017
Megan, tell me a bit about your background and why you launched The High Road Design Studio?
I am a Midwestern-grown, West-Coast-processed female millennial business owner who is passionate about elevating the cannabis industry. From a cannabis patient to working in an Orange County dispensary as a budtender and general manager, to a design school student who was switching careers in the midst of my 20’s during the Great Recession, I now design cannabis retail spaces across the U.S. I launched my design company, The High Road Design Studio, as a result of my first-hand experience with cannabis, love for good design, and desire to help reframe people’s perceptions of a plant that saves lives.
I launched The High Road Design Studio to change the way people think, perceive, interact, and experience cannabis.
What unique value does The High Road Design Studio offer to the cannabis industry?
Founded in 2013, The High Road Design Studio aims tochange peoples’ perceptions of cannabis and cannabis users through strategic design thinking. The High Road Design Studio’s work is inspired by my personal experiences in all roles of the cannabis retail experience—customer, employee, and retailer.
The High Road Design Studio has worked with cannabis-focused businesses in more than thirteen states to design unique and profitable retail stores and brands.
Applying the understanding of both the cannabis and retail design industries with personal and professional experience has resulted in The High Road Design Studio’s proven track record of designing industry-leading, award-winning dispensaries. The High Road has earned national and international recognition for its cannabis retail store designs, working with passionate cannabis business owners and thought leaders to evolve the cannabis experience including:
2017 Shop! Design Award – Level Up Dispensary 2016 Shop! Design Award for Store Fixture – TruMed Concentrate Bar Design:retail Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Award, 2016 Marijuana Venture Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Award, 2016 VMSD Magazine’s Designer Dozen Award, 2015 International Retail Design Conference speaker, 2014, 2015, and 2016 National Marijuana Business Conference speaker, 2015 and 2016 GlobalShop speaker, 2017 Shop!X Summit speaker, 2016 Contributing editor on design for MG Magazine
Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be socially responsible and advocate for it to be treated fairly. How does The High Road Design Studio help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?
The cannabis industry is booming – and it needs a makeover. After decades of its sales being relegated to the black market and its users being labeled as criminals, cannabis is now a mainstay in society, and people everywhere are trying to make sense of this new retail experience. Its retail stores are the public face of the industry and are where the vast majority of interactions with the cannabis industry happen. Design and design thinking applied to the cannabis retail experience are the keys that will unlock the new world of legal cannabis and provide the solutions and creativity needed to attract, educate and satisfy twenty-first century cannabis users.
What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?
Real estate presents unique challenges in the cannabis industry; cannabis retailers don’t have the luxury of choosing prime retail properties when selecting their locations, so I am often faced with the challenge of creating a shopper-friendly environment out of the complete opposite of a shopper-friendly environment. To tackle this challenge, I use my first-hand experience from shopping in, working in, and designing dispensaries, combined with well-studied retail design principles to bridge the gap between the architectural challenges and the opportunity for a memorable experience.
Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best part about being a member?
NCIA fosters a community that connects passionate industry leaders, influencers, thought leaders and business owners, providing invaluable support. NCIA helps our community work together to change perceptions and elevate the cannabis industry.
In this month’s video newsletter, we look ahead to the possibilities for progress in nine states voting on pro-cannabis initiatives on election day. With Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada voting on adult-use, and Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota voting to create or expand medical cannabis programs, our industry has incredible potential to grow. Hear more from NCIA’s Executive Director Aaron Smith about this exciting election season.
by Michelle Rutter, NCIA’s Government Relations Coordinator
In November, five states will vote on legalizing adult-use cannabis for individuals over 21 – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – while an additional four states will vote on medicinal cannabis reform – Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota. All nine initiatives differ slightly from one another and each has its own unique language.
Below are NCIA’s quick summaries of each of the initiatives. Read up, then visit the campaign sites for more information and how you can help make 2016 another success in the fight to end marijuana prohibition.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (Proposition 205) legalizes the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are over 21 and levies a 15% tax on the sale of cannabis, which would then be allocated to education and healthcare in the state. This would create an estimated $113 million in new tax revenue.
– Allows local governments to regulate and limit cannabis businesses
– If passed, Arizona’s cannabis market is projected to surpass $1 billion within three years
The Adult-Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) (Proposition 64) legalizes the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are over 21 and enacts a 15% sales tax, as well as a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves.
– Estimated $1.4 billion in revenues within the first year of a fully operational market
– Written to prevent licenses for corporate or large-scale cannabis businesses for five years, which is in order to deter “unreasonable restraints on competition by creation or maintenance of unlawful monopoly power”
California has the largest state cannabis market (medical or adult-use) in the country, estimated at $2.7 billion in 2016.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (Question 1) legalizes the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are over 21 and enacts a 10% sales tax in addition to the state’s 5.5% sales tax. The first $30 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales would be used for school construction, with any additional revenue allocated to the General Fund.
– Medical cannabis will not be subjected to the 10% sales tax
– Caps the number of cannabis stores and cultivators until 2019 and 2022, respectively
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (Question 4) legalizes the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are over 21 and creates a Cannabis Control Commission of three members appointed by the state Treasurer, which would generally administer the law governing cannabis use and distribution, promulgate regulations, and be responsible for the licensing of commercial cannabis establishments. It also creates a Cannabis Advisory Board of 15 members appointed by the Governor.
– Enacts an excise tax of 3.75%, in addition to the state sales tax
– A city or town could impose a separate tax of up to 2%
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (Question 2) legalizes the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are over 21 and designates the Nevada Department of Taxation to issue licenses to cannabis retailers, suppliers, testing facilities, and distributors.
– Gives local governments control over cannabis business locations, and forbids businesses to operate near schools, childcare facilities, houses of worship, and certain community facilities.
– Enacts a 15% excise tax on wholesale sales of cannabis, in addition to the existing sales tax which would apply to the retail sale of cannabis
– Revenue generated from these taxes would be used to support K-12 education
There are two competing initiatives on the 2016 ballot: the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA) and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 (AMMA), known as Issue 7 and Issue 6, respectively. The main differences lie in patient card fee limits, the organizations that would implement the program, the distribution of sales tax revenue, and whether certain patients could cultivate their own medicine. As of October 2016, Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA) was struck from the ballot. The initiative will still appear on the ballot, but the results will not be counted.
Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA):
– Sets a cap on the fees required to get dispensary and cultivation licenses and the fees required for patient cards
– Assigns the Arkansas Department of Health to set rules for patient cards, medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana use, and operating rules for dispensaries and cultivators
– Requires that all sales tax revenue goes back into the medical marijuana program
– Permits qualified cardholders to purchase medical cannabis from non-profit compassion centers
– Allows patients and their caregivers to cultivate up to 10 cannabis plants at home provided they take steps to ensure it is secure
Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA):
– Sets a cap on the fee required to acquire a dispensary or cultivation license, but no limit on the cost for patient card fees;
– Assigns the Arkansas Department of Health to set rules for patient cards and medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana use, and the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control to establish operating rules for dispensaries and cultivators;
– Divides sales tax revenue, assigning 10% to the medical marijuana program, 10% to the Skills Development Fund, 30% to the state’s General Fund, and 50% to the state’s Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund
The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative (Amendment 2) allows medical use of cannabis for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician and allows caregivers to assist patients’ use of medical cannabis.
– Mandates that the Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute cannabis for medical purposes shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.
– Constitutional amendments on the ballot in Florida must garner at least 60% in order to pass. This is why the medical cannabis amendment on the ballot in 2014 failed, despite receiving 58% of the vote.
Montana is voting to amend their dysfunctional medical cannabis program that has basically been regulated out of existence. The initiative amends the Montana Marijuana Act of 2011 and renames it the “Montana Medical Marijuana Act” (I-182).
– Allows providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical cannabis, and repeals the limit of three patients for each licensed provider.
– Repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the Board of Medical Examiners.
– Removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities and requires annual inspections by the State
The North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative will be Initiated Statutory Measure 5 on the ballot and is also known as the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, which creates a state-regulated medical marijuana program for patients with specified debilitating conditions and written certifications from their doctors. Registered patients could obtain medical cannabis from a licensed non-profit compassion center, and if the patient lives 40+ miles away, they are permitted to cultivate a limited amount of cannabis for their medical use.
This year it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re registered to vote and get to the ballot box on November 8th. If you live in one of the nine states with a ballot initiative, cast your vote for ending prohibition or allowing patients access to medicine. Otherwise, don’t forget to cast your ballot for candidates at the local, state, and federal level who support cannabis reform to ensure that 2017 is the industry’s biggest year yet!
2016: What’s Next?
by Michelle Rutter, Government Relations Coordinator
This year is arguably the most crucial yet for the burgeoning cannabis industry, especially as it relates to policy. Although NCIA primarily advocates for cannabis reform at the federal level, what happens in each individual state is vital to the stances Members of Congress take on our issues.
Members of Congress care deeply about issues that directly affect their specific state or district. It’s imperative that more states enact cannabis reform legislation so that more Members have a vested interest in protecting their constituents. While cannabis reform is sweeping the nation at an almost unprecedented rate, it takes time for politicians in Washington, D.C., to catch up with public opinion back home. If all of the federal lawmakers representing just the 15 states mentioned below were to vote positively on pro-cannabis legislation, it would add up to more than 180 Representatives and nearly 30 Senators.
Take a look below and see what’s coming up next in 2016. Remember that by becoming a member of NCIA, you are adding your voice to the coordinated and unified campaign at the federal level to allow cannabis businesses access to financial services, fix tax section 280E, and ultimately end federal cannabis prohibition.
The United States of Cannabis
Arizona activists remain ahead of schedule and have nearly gathered the 150,000 signatures needed to put the state’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative on the November 2016 ballot. (The campaign ultimately aims to collect 230,000 in order to insure against signature drop-off.) It’s estimated that Arizona’s adult-use market could be worth up to $480 million.
With a multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry in California alone, passing an adult-use legalization initiative in the state is vital to ending federal prohibition. The most prominent full retail initiative gathering signatures for the November 2016 election is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which is backed by billionaire Sean Parker and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Legalize Maine and the Marijuana Policy Project have joined forces to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2016. Legalize Maine has already collected 80,000 signatures. Only 61,000 signatures are necessary to place the measure on a statewide ballot, but the organization’s goal is 95,000, to insure against drop-off. The deadline to submit signatures is February 1st.
Last August, a pair of cannabis advocacy groups separately filed paperwork to get adult-use legalization on the 2016 ballot in Massachusetts. The state recently confirmed that a measure to legalize recreational cannabis next year has enough valid signatures to force the legislature to consider the measure. If the legislature decides to pass, then the campaign will have to collect another 10,792 signatures to formally make the November ballot.
There’s no question that adult-use legalization will be on the ballot this year in Nevada. Initiative Petition 1, which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol, has been certified for the 2016 ballot. Backers had previously collected nearly 200,000 signatures to either force legislators to enact their initiative or put it on the ballot. When state lawmakers abstained from voting on the issue, the measure was automatically forwarded to this year’s ballot for a popular vote.
In Florida, the group United for Care received clearance from the state Supreme Court for a 2016 ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana. The group nearly succeeded in legalizing medical marijuana in 2014, garnering 58% of the vote but falling barely short of the state’s constitutionally mandated 60% margin needed to pass,
The nation’s capital continues to debate cannabis. In December’s federal budget bill, the taxation and regulation of marijuana in Washington, D.C., was blocked by Congress again, though possessing and gifting cannabis remains legal in the city.
This month, Hawaii will begin accepting applications for medical cannabis businesses. The bill signed into law last summer opens the door for up to 16 dispensaries on the islands.
It was recently announced that Illinois saw approximately $1.7 million in medical cannabis sales during November and December of 2015. There are already petitions being circulated in the state that would expand the law’s qualifying conditions.
Maryland will award cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensary licenses this summer. Industry advocates were pleased with the amount of interest the state’s program garnered: more than 1,000 applications were submitted.
Officials in Michigan have approved language for three different adult-use cannabis legalization initiatives for the 2016 ballot. In order to have the best chance of passing, it’s important for these groups to coalesce behind one initiative.
At the end of 2015, New Hampshire began issuing medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients. It’s expected that the state will open medical dispensaries in 2016.
After a long and arduous journey, New York’s medical cannabis program became operational this month. The cannabis industry expects the program and the law’s qualifying conditions to expand this year.
In the first week of 2016, Oregon began accepting adult-use cannabis business license applications. The state has no limit on how many licenses they will decide to award.
Vermont may become the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process in 2016. The proposed bill would allow for up to 86 storefronts and five different business license types.
Bonus: Election 2016 – Yes, We Canna
As we all know, a new president will be elected this November, and with that a new administration will assume power next January. It is very crucial that Congress pass more pro-cannabis legislation before then.
It’s probable that Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be replaced in 2016 or early 2017. This is important because it is the Department of Justice that enforces and prosecutes federal marijuana laws.
Another possibility for 2016 is that the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chuck Rosenberg, could be replaced as well. Rosenberg is notorious for his gaffe last year when he called marijuana “probably” less dangerous than heroin.
On New Year’s Eve, officials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration posted a notice on the Federal Register that calls for a report “presenting the state of the science on substance use, addiction and health” to be released in 2016. Industry advocates are hopeful that this report could be the first sign of re- or de-scheduling cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
During 2016, NCIA will continue working with D.C.-based public affairs firms Heather Podesta + Partners, and Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC to magnify our efforts to address the industry’s top federal priorities: access to basic banking services and fair federal taxation.
In addition to NCIA’s lobbying and advocacy efforts, NCIA exists to connect and educate our members on all facets of the cannabis industry. Our industry supports tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions in tax revenue, and billions in economic activity in the United States.Our core mission is to ensure that our members are treated like businesses in any other American industry. Join NCIA today to get involved and be a part of the cannabis revolution!
Do you have questions regarding any upcoming events in your area or others across the country? Reach out to email@example.com any time with your questions, comments, or concerns.
Interested in sponsoring one or a series of events in a particular region throughout the year in order to gain valuable exposure for your company to our nationwide network of established business owners? Please contact Brian Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on series rates and associated discounts for packages.
Interested in speaking at the upcoming Cannabis Business Summit? Please contact email@example.com for more information on remaining opportunities.
Timeline: 2015 Legislative Year in Review
by Michelle Rutter, Government Relations Coordinator
As we look forward to 2016, there’s much on the horizon for the cannabis industry. NCIA remains dedicated in its effort to pass banking and tax legislation through Congress that would provide immediate relief to cannabis-related businesses all over the country.
In addition to the federal advocacy that NCIA engages in every day, there will be at least five states seeking to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis via the ballot initiative process: Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. It’s also likely that Florida will have another ballot initiative relating to medical cannabis, and it’s possible that other states will move forward with cannabis reform through ballot initiatives or legislative processes. What happens over the next twelve months will be crucial in shaping the future of the legitimate and responsible cannabis industry.
While 2015 was a milestone year for cannabis reform, that same momentum will be necessary in order to continue moving the conversation forward with Congress in Washington, D.C. The Rohrabacher-Farr medical cannabis amendment earned more that 60 Republicans votes. For the first time ever, there are multiple pro-cannabis bills that have been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Continued progress is vital in garnering more national support for cannabis reform, so make sure your interests are heard through national advocacy, education, and community with NCIA.
The timeline below lays out some of the highlights from a busy year in cannabis industry advocacy. We look forward to more exciting milestones with your help in 2016!
*Click on the “Full Screen” button (with the four arrows) at the bottom of the image to expand its size.