by Madeline Grant and Michelle Rutter, NCIA Government Relations Managers
The sun is hot, and the halls of Capitol Hill are empty… it must be August recess, but as your congressional representatives take a break from their busy schedule in D.C., we are still hard at work in the nation’s capital. We are continuing the momentum that the 116th Congress has had in changing cannabis policy. This summer there were many important hearings and events. Let’s take a look back at a few of them:
- In June, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing entitled “Unlocked Potential? Small Businesses in the Cannabis Industry.” The hearing allowed members of the Committee to learn about the opportunities the legitimate cannabis industry presents for small businesses in states with legal cannabis, as well as entrepreneurs from traditionally underserved communities. The hearing also discussed the challenges also faced by “ancillary” or “indirect” cannabis businesses. The Chairwoman of NCIA’s Banking Access Committee, Dana Chaves, testified, as well as representatives from the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), the Veterans Cannabis Coalition (VCC), and The Heritage Foundation. In the testimony NCIA submitted for the record, we wrote, “[SBA] programs were specifically designed to stimulate economic activity and create jobs through small-business enterprises. Offering funding to the emerging regulated cannabis industry, which is mostly comprised of small businesses, would perfectly align with SBA’s primary objective to maintain and strengthen the Nation’s economy.” You can read NCIA’s full testimony here.
- In addition to the Small Business Committee hearing, there was a resounding, victorious Floor vote in June that put every single member of the House of Representatives on the record when it comes to cannabis. Known as the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton amendment, this provision that was added to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act of 2020, passed by a vote of 267-165 and would prevent any federal funds from being used to target state-legal cannabis programs. The vote was decisive: it had support from all but eight Democrats and picked up 41 ‘Ayes’ from Republicans.
- In July, for the first time ever, lawmakers in the House of Representatives held a hearing to address the disproportionate ways in which marijuana prohibition has negatively impacted people of color and marginalized communities. The hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” was called by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and exclusively featured testimony from witnesses in favor of sweeping cannabis policy reforms. Notably, none of the members of the subcommittee or witnesses advocated for keeping cannabis illegal.
- Less than a month ago, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a public hearing, “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” to discuss the current banking challenges faced by the legal cannabis industry and to assess the unintended consequences and public safety risks associated with commercial businesses operating in an all-cash environment. Earlier this year, to help find close the gap between federal and state cannabis laws, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced S. 1200 – The Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, to provide protections for financial institutions that engage with state-legal cannabis-related businesses, including ancillary businesses that have a connection with cannabis businesses. The bill currently has 31 cosponsors in the Senate and is expected to have a House floor vote this Fall.
- NCIA stayed busy outside the halls of Congress, too. In June, NCIA responded and submitted public comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) request for comments on Scientific Data and Information About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-Derived Compounds. Given the substantial interest in this topic and the need for regulations and standardization throughout the industry, NCIA and this coalition are providing specific insight into all facets the FDA would like to examine, including health and safety risks, manufacturing and product quality, and marketing, labeling, and sales.
Since your representatives are not here in D.C., you don’t need to buy a plane ticket for them to hear your voice. Many representatives take this month to listen to their constituents, so there are many opportunities to speak to your members of Congress and make your voice heard. Go to https://townhallproject.com/ to find town halls in your area, invite your members of Congress to tour your business, or go visit their local office and schedule a meeting.
This is an important time in our country – history is changing right before our eyes. Cannabis policy has taken huge steps just these past months, and we cannot let that momentum stop. With your continued advocacy and support, we can continue to lead the change in our community.
Do you have questions or want to learn more about how you can help our efforts on Capitol Hill? We’d love to connect and tell you more via email or phone. Please send an email to Madeline@TheCannabisIndustry to set up an appointment to chat.