by Michelle Rutter, Government Relations Coordinator
As the cannabis industry has continued to thrive and expand, the number of bills in Congress dealing with the issue has done the same. Between the House of Representatives and the Senate, there are well over a dozen bills that address the conflicts between state and federal cannabis policy. NCIA’s lobbying efforts focus primarily on banking access and the unfair taxation caused by Section 280E, but we also advocate for other bills that are crucial for the industry. Below are my choices for “The 5 Critical Pieces of Cannabis Legislation You Need to Know About”:
H.R.2076: Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015
Introduced by: Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO, 7th District)
Last Action: Referred to House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on June 1, 2015.
Summary: This bill would provide a safe harbor for depository institutions providing financial services to a cannabis-related business insofar as it prohibits a federal banking regulator from: (1) terminating or limiting the deposit or share insurance of a depository institution solely because it provides financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business; or (2) prohibiting, penalizing, or otherwise discouraging a depository institution from offering such services.
S.1726: Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015
Introduced by: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Last Action: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on July 9, 2015.
Summary: Although the House and Senate cannabis banking bills are companions, the bill introduced by Sen. Merkley is slightly more detailed in its language.
The Senate bill would prevent federal banking regulators from: prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business; terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned marijuana business; recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a marijuana-related business.
The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned marijuana businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services. It would also require banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana policies.
H.R.1855: Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2015
Introduced by: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, 3rd District)
Last Action: Referred to House Committee on Ways and Means on April 16, 2015.
Summary: Amends the Internal Revenue Code by adding language at the end of Section 280E that would exempt a trade or business that conducts marijuana sales in compliance with state law from the prohibition against allowing business-related tax credits or deductions for expenditures in connection with trafficking in controlled substances.
S.987: Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2015
Introduced by: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Last Action: Referred to Senate Committee on Finance on April 16, 2015.
Summary: This Senate bill is the companion to the H.R. 1855 described above. As such, the summary is the same.
STATES’ RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
H.R.1940: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015
Introduced by: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA, 48th District)
Last Action: Referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on May 15, 2015.
Summary: Amends the Controlled Substances Act to provide that the provisions of the Act related to cannabis shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE
H.R.3518: Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act of 2015
Introduced by: Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA, 33rd District)
Last Action: Referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on October 5, 2015.
Summary: This bill would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from using federal forfeiture funds to pay for its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. Additionally, the bill would ban transferring property to federal, state or local agencies if that property “is used for any purpose pertaining to” the DEA’s marijuana eradication program.
S.683: Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2015
Introduced by: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Last Action: Referred to Senate Committee on the Judiciary on March 10, 2015.
Summary: Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to provide that control and enforcement provisions of such Act relating to marijuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state law relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, or delivery of medical marijuana.
Transfers marijuana from schedule I to schedule II of the CSA.
Excludes “cannabidiol” from the definition of “marijuana” and defines it separately as the substance cannabidiol, as derived from marijuana or the synthetic formulation, that contains not greater than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on a dry weight basis.
Prohibits a federal banking regulator from: (1) terminating or limiting the deposit insurance of a depository institution solely because it provides or has provided financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business; or (2) prohibiting, penalizing, or otherwise discouraging a depository institution from providing financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business.
Provides depository institutions that provide financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business protection under federal law from federal criminal prosecution or investigation, criminal penalties, and forfeiture of legal interest in collateral solely for providing financial services to such a business.
Directs The Department of Health and Human Services to terminate the Public Health Service interdisciplinary review process described in the guidance entitled “Guidance on Procedures for the Provision of marijuana for Medical Research” (issued on May 21, 1999), and also demands the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue at least three licenses under CSA registration requirements to manufacture marijuana and marijuana-derivatives for research approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to authorize VA health care providers to provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding participation in state marijuana programs.
H.R.1538: Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2015
Introduced by: Rep. Steve Cohen (D, TN-9)
Last Action: Referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on April 21, 2015.
Summary: This House bill is the companion to S. 683 described above. As such, the summary is the same.
In addition to these crucial pieces of legislation, there are other bills relating to cannabis that have been introduced to Congress on issues like CBD, a federal excise tax on cannabis, veterans’ access, and hemp. Cannabis advocates and NCIA members should continue to participate in NCIA’s events and lobbying efforts in addition to contacting their elected officials in order to see cannabis continue to progress in Washington, D.C. and on Capitol Hill.