Long-Awaited Cannabis Bills Introduced
By Bethany Moore
May 1, 2023
/ Community

Long-Awaited Cannabis Bills Introduced

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

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

Over the last few weeks, a number of cannabis bills were introduced in Congress: the long-anticipated SAFE Banking Act and the CLAIM Act were reintroduced in both chambers, while over in the House, the HOPE Act and 280E legislation dropped. Keep reading to find out more about these bills and the chances of them moving forward:

Finally… SAFE Banking

After the SAFE Banking Act failed to pass into law last session, advocates have been waiting with bated breath for the legislation’s reintroduction – with a particular interest in what changes may (or may not have) been made. 

In the Senate, the bill is being led again by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), while the House version is being spearheaded by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) – both of whom are chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. 

While the bill does not contain wide-ranging revisions, there were some changes. These changes include adding language to explicitly apply the bill’s protections to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs), as well as ensuring that workers and operators in the cannabis industry are able to obtain federally backed mortgage loans. In response to concerns raised by some conservatives, this version also includes changes and clarifications intended to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies are able to fully enforce anti-money laundering statutes against unlawful operators.

NCIA is optimistic that the legislation will receive either a hearing or markup in the coming weeks and looks forward to this bill finally passing the Senate someday soon!


Also recently reintroduced was the Harnessing Opportunity by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act. First introduced last session, the bill was just dropped by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH). 

This bipartisan bill aims to help states with expunging cannabis offenses by reducing the financial and administrative burden of such efforts through federal grants. The overwhelming majority of cannabis-related charges are handled by state and local law enforcement and despite the fact that expungement programs for cannabis-related offenses have recently advanced in states and cities around the country, many criminal record-keeping systems are not ready for or able to support these efforts. 

The HOPE Act would address these complications by creating a new grant program under the U.S. Department of Justice, which would be authorized to make grants to states and local governments to reduce the financial and administrative burden of expunging convictions for cannabis offenses that are available to individuals who have been convicted of such offenses under the laws of the State.


Yet another bicameral, bipartisan piece of legislation was recently reintroduced: the Clarifying Laws Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act. Introduced in the House by Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) and in the Senate by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), the legislation would protect insurers, brokers, and agents from being penalized by federal regulators for providing insurance services to state-licensed marijuana companies.

Assuming that the SAFE Banking Act moves through “regular order” as expected, I would predict that many of the protections in the CLAIM Act get attached to SAFE. This is the third Congress that the CLAIM Act has been introduced.

Small Business Tax Equity Act

Everyone involved in the cannabis industry has heard of 280E, but many people were surprised to learn that legislation addressing the punitive measure was not introduced during the last congressional session. 

That changed a few weeks ago when Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with four of his colleagues introduced H.R. 2643: the Small Business Tax Equity Act, which exempts a trade or business that conducts cannabis sales in compliance with state law from IRC Section 280E. 

Abolishing 280E is one of NCIA’s main priorities, but unfortunately, the chances of this legislation passing standalone is little to none. We will continue to explore other vehicles which 280E reform may be attached to and seek to provide any tax relief we can to the legal cannabis industry. 

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity here in D.C. – and we don’t plan on slowing down ahead of NCIA’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days being held on May 16-18! Register today so that you’re a part of our virtual training sessions and we can begin planning your lobbying experience. 


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