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NCIA Offering Complimentary Membership to All Social Equity Business Program Applicants and Licensees

Scholarship program will provide competitive advantages to people most harmed by prohibition

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In order to increase opportunities and representation for people of color and marginalized communities in the cannabis industry, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is launching the Social Equity Scholarship Program which will provide any social equity applicant or license-holder with one year of free membership with NCIA. This program is intended to help level the playing field by providing current and future equity operators with the networking, resources, and educational benefits offered by the nation’s largest and most established cannabis trade organization.

The scholarship application is open now and available here.

“The tragic deaths of George Floyd and so many others at the hands of police have caused a national reckoning about systemic racism and inequality in all facets of life, including the cannabis industry,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “As an organization founded on the principles of justice, fairness, and inclusion, this program is a necessary step for us to better uphold and promote those values. Providing resources to all social equity program applicants and elevating their voices is an important part of the ongoing process to help repair the devastation that prohibition and centuries of institutional racism have inflicted on marginalized communities.”

“This program is one way that NCIA can help empower black and brown communities that were (and are) disproportionately targeted by law enforcement for cannabis offenses. It gives entrepreneurs from those communities tools and resources that can help them overcome some structural impediments to their success, including asymmetries in access to industry information and education,” said Khurshid Khoja, chairperson of NCIA’s board of directors, board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and principal at Greenbridge Corporate Counsel. “The cannabis industry as a whole has a moral obligation to recognize the disproportionate burden of criminal cannabis prohibition borne by these communities over decades, and to ensure that the opportunities created by legal markets are available, not just on an equal basis, but on an equitable one.”

“Social equity businesses deserve representation in the cannabis industry, and within NCIA is no different,” said Amber Senter, co-founder of Supernova Women and chairperson of NCIA’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (DEIC). “Offering free memberships to businesses that represent a segment of people that have been harmed by the war on drugs is a step in the right direction of inclusion.”

“In order for the cannabis industry to effectively encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion, we must work to build an infrastructure that prioritizes and reflects the needs of the individuals and businesses that have barriers to access so that they may truly participate as equitable partners,” said Chris Jackson, a member of NCIA’s board of directors and the government relations and social equity lead for Sticky, a Michigan-based cannabis retailer. “With this initiative, we are closer to amplifying that mission as an industry leader that should be replicated and championed. There is plenty more work to be done and initiatives like these will help provide equitable opportunities and remove barriers that shouldn’t exist to begin with.”

“The DEIC has initiatives lined up for the coming term year, our second in existence, to create greater representation and participation on NCIA’s platforms,” said Mike Lomuto, DEIC member and managing partner at Dao Mastery consulting group. “I’m hopeful that removing the barrier of membership fees will be the first step of many in creating the impact in the industry we’d like to see.”

The scholarship program provides one year of regular membership and other benefits, and is available to anyone who is applying for a cannabis business license through a state or local social equity program or who has already obtained an equity license. This is a permanent offer available to any new equity applicants in perpetuity.

NCIA is also endorsing House Resolution 988, which was introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and condemns all forms of police brutality and systemic oppression linked to the war on drugs and other policies. It is actively supporting federal legislative reforms, particularly to increase banking access for small businesses and deschedule cannabis in ways that help repair the racially and economically disproportionate damage caused by prohibition.

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National Cannabis Industry Association Files Amicus Brief in Landmark Cannabis Tax Case

National trade organization presents substantive and Constitutional arguments against IRS 280E tax code preventing state-legal cannabis businesses from deducting normal business expenses

Harborside Health Center is appealing U.S. Tax Court decision over exorbitant federal tax bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) filed an amicus brief this week in support of one of the oldest and most well-respected cannabis businesses in the country. The case, Harborside Health Center v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, challenges the applicability of Internal Revenue Code 280E to state-legal regulated cannabis businesses. This provision of the federal tax code prevents the legal cannabis industry from taking the standard business deductions enjoyed by other industries, resulting in effective federal tax rates of up to 75% and impeding the operation of legal cannabis markets.

The brief was crafted and filed on behalf of NCIA by Charles Sipos, Lauren Staniar, Tre Holloway, and Barak Cohen at the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP. Mr. Cohen is the chair of the firm’s cannabis practice. The brief can be viewed in its entirety here.

“Section 280E is a decades-old provision of the tax code, passed during the height of the Reagan administration’s ‘war on drugs,’ intended to punish criminal drug operators by stripping their ability to claim deductions on their tax returns. So, while ordinary businesses can deduct expenses such as rent, wages, taxes, and license payments, under § 280E lawful state marijuana dispensaries are taxed by the IRS on revenue before accounting for those expenses…. The tax burden lawful marijuana operators suffer through the IRS’s imposition of 280E is so severe, that many commentators identify punitive taxation under 280E as the single biggest threat to the industry,” the brief reads. “Given the harsh effects of 280E, it then comes as no surprise that as applied to lawful marijuana businesses in California and elsewhere, the statute offends Constitutional restraints intended to prevent the U.S. Government from abusing its taxing powers.”

This case originated in 2016 when Oakland, California-based Harborside sued the Internal Revenue Service in an attempt to allow themselves and other regulated cannabis businesses to take normal business deductions in their tax filings. In 2018, the U.S. Tax Court ruled against the company, resulting in a bill for $11 million in federal back taxes. Harborside has appealed the ruling in the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The amicus filed by NCIA focuses on six primary arguments: legal cannabis markets yield substantial public health and economic benefits; unregulated cannabis markets create public health issues and impose economic costs; the IRS uses 280E to punish the regulated cannabis industry despite federal law enforcement policy not to punish cannabis businesses in compliance with state laws; punitive taxation of regulated businesses bolsters the illegal cannabis market; 280E violates the Sixteenth Amendment because it taxes more than income; and it violates the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause.

“Harborside is not asking for special treatment. In fact, they are only asking that the IRS treat them like any other small businesses that are routinely permitted to take tax deductions on ordinary business expenses, like payroll,” said Aaron Smith, NCIA’s Chief Executive Officer. “We believe that it is unconstitutional to levy a federal tax without allowing subtractions for indirect costs and deductions for necessary expenses, just like in every other commercial context. The cannabis industry was deemed ‘essential’ in most states during the pandemic and has been one of the few industries creating jobs and generating tax revenue during this difficult time. The federal government should be doing everything possible to support this vital industry, rather than hindering it.”

Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.

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Cannabis Banking Reform Included in Latest COVID-19 Relief Legislation Being Considered in the House

House adds SAFE Banking Act and improved loan access to HEROES Act

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled the newest bill to provide the next stage of coronavirus relief funding and included language that would improve access to banking services and loans for the regulated cannabis industry. The banking language is identical to the House-approved Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and would make it easier for financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state law, as well as help address serious public health and safety concerns caused by operating in predominantly cash-only environments. The relief bill, known as the HEROES Act, also includes language preventing applicants for Small Business Administration loans from being disqualified based solely on a criminal conviction.

The full relief legislation is available here, with banking language starting on page 1066.

The HEROES Act will now be taken up by the rest of the House before a floor vote. If passed, it will go to the Senate for consideration.

“On behalf of the legal cannabis industry, we commend the congressional leadership for prioritizing public health and safety by including sensible cannabis banking policy in this legislation,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Our industry employs hundreds of thousands of Americans and has been deemed ‘essential’ in most states. It’s critically important that essential cannabis workers are not exposed to unnecessary health risks due to outdated federal banking regulations.”

Last week, NCIA joined other cannabis advocacy and industry organizations in urging Congress to include the SAFE Banking Act in the next round of relief funding, citing the ability of cash to carry contagions and the personal proximity required by cash transactions as reasons for urgency in addition to the other safety and transparency concerns addressed by the legislation.

In September, an overwhelming bipartisan majority approved the SAFE Banking Act in the House, but the bill has been delayed pending a markup in the Senate Banking Committee.

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National Cannabis Industry Association Calls for Removal of DEA from Research Approval Process

Group cites poor record and long delays, recommends health agencies control research and production applications

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) submitted comments this week in response to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Request for Information on Controls to Enhance the Cultivation of Marihuana for Research in the United States issued in March. The association argues that public health agencies are far better suited to determine the qualifications of parties engaged in medical or scientific research or production and recommends that the DEA be removed as the agency in charge of final approval for such applications. The comments also cite years-long delays in approving existing applications as additional justification for transferring control of application approval away from law enforcement, and point out several issues in the rule-making process that will likely hinder research.

The full comments are available here.

Despite publicly stating in 2016 that it was interested in expanding production of cannabis for research purposes and streamlining study application review, none of the more than 30 applications that have been submitted since then have been approved by DEA. Under current policy, there is only one legal federal supplier of cannabis located at the University of Mississippi. Researchers and experts have repeatedly claimed that the cannabis produced there is substandard, insufficient for research purposes, and not representative of what is available to consumers in either regulated or illicit markets around the country.

“It is painfully clear that the DEA is either unable or unwilling to meet the increasing demand for cannabis research from voters, policymakers, and the scientific community,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “By continuing to make this agency the gatekeeper for studies and research production, we are doing a disservice to the nation at a time when we need as much health-related information as possible. Federal agencies should be actively facilitating research that could reveal more about the medical benefits of cannabis, not hiding behind outdated policies to delay or discourage the pursuit of knowledge.”

In January, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing featuring representatives of federal agencies involved in approving cannabis research and production, including the DEA. Several members of the committee expressed frustration at the inability of witnesses to provide substantive information about how the process would be improved or timelines for approval of existing applications.

“On behalf of its nearly 2,000 members, NCIA hereby requests that these proposed regulations be amended and/or withdrawn… and that a qualified public health agency be appointed to serve as the coordinating agency instead,” the comments conclude. “We also request that the applicant pool be expanded to include companies that are or have cultivated cannabis in accordance with the laws of any state, regardless of whether the DEA concludes such actions did or did not technically violate the [Controlled Substance Act]. Most importantly, NCIA requests that the U.S. Government incentivize research and create a pathway for less restrictive means by which the country can access important information about the medicinal properties of cannabis.”

Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.

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Cannabis Policy Advocates Urge Congress to Include Banking Reform in Next Coronavirus Relief Legislation

Lack of banking access hinders social distancing efforts, increases risk of contagion, creates unnecessary financial hardship and other safety risks for essential businesses and patients

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of cannabis advocacy and industry organizations sent a letter to Congress today urging lawmakers to include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act or similar language in the next pandemic relief package which would create a safe harbor for banks and other financial services providers to work with cannabis and ancillary businesses that are in compliance with state law. The letter cites the ability of cash to carry contagions and the personal proximity required by cash transactions as reasons for urgency in correcting the lack of banking access in the cannabis industry, beyond the pre-existing safety and transparency concerns addressed by this legislation. It was signed by Americans for Safe Access, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, Marijuana Policy Project, Minority Cannabis Business Association, National Association of Cannabis Businesses, National Cannabis Industry Association, National Cannabis Roundtable, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Policy Center for Public Health and Safety, and Safe and Responsible Banking Alliance.

“Collectively, we represent consumers, patients, and thousands of state-regulated and ancillary cannabis businesses,” the letter reads. “This industry, composed primarily of small to medium-sized businesses, continues to provide safe cannabis medicine to more than 3 million medical cannabis patients in the United States. Despite the essential designation in most states, these essential businesses lack access to the financial services necessary to optimize social distancing measures to ensure the safety of medical cannabis patients, workers, and the public.”

Due to current federal laws and financial regulations, most banks are unwilling to take the risk of prosecution or sanction to work with state-legal cannabis businesses and often ancillary businesses that service the cannabis industry. This forces many businesses in this space to operate almost entirely in cash, creating public health and safety issues that have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. These policies hinder the efforts of regulators and law enforcement to effectively monitor the legal cannabis market, and severely limit access to capital for small businesses that are increasingly in need of assistance. Business owners are also becoming more concerned that the presence of cash on their premises will make them larger targets for crime as unemployment rises throughout the nation.

“Locking legal businesses out of traditional banking services—leaving them with no option but to operate exclusively in cash—has long put workers in danger,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, the lead Senate sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act. “And now in the face of this pandemic, it’s making it increasingly difficult for these businesses to keep their workers and customers safe while they fight to stay afloat. The SAFE Banking Act is more important than ever to these businesses and the families who rely on them, and I’m committed to doing everything I can to get it passed.”

The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with cannabis- and hemp-related businesses that are obeying state laws. The bill would protect ancillary businesses that work with the cannabis industry from being charged with money laundering and other financial crimes, and requires the Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help credit unions and banks understand how to lawfully serve cannabis businesses.

“Cannabis businesses and their employees already face a significant public safety risk without access to the banking system, and the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated this risk with these essential businesses having to move their cash-only transactions outside the store,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, lead House sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act. “At the same time, many of these businesses are facing disruptions in their supply chain and in normal operations and they should be eligible for relief just like any other legal, legitimate business during this pandemic. I will continue to push for inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act or other forms of relief for this industry in the next package.”

“The lack of access to banking also prevents legitimate cannabis-related businesses from obtaining emergency relief or securing bank loans to continue providing safe medicine and jobs to their communities,” the letter continues. “Despite essential designations, many cannabis businesses will struggle to remain operational without access to traditional banking products and services… If businesses cannot access the resources to remain operational, patients would be forced into the illicit market of unregulated medicine and transactions.”

In September, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act in a bipartisan vote of 321-103, making it the first piece of stand-alone cannabis policy reform legislation to ever receive a vote or be approved by either chamber of Congress. Companion legislation is currently being considered in the Senate and is awaiting a markup in the Senate Banking Committee.

Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states. Every state with a functional regulated cannabis market has allowed continued access during the coronavirus response.

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House Bill Introduced to Make Cannabis Businesses Eligible for COVID-19 Relief Funds

Widespread recognition of necessity for regulated cannabis providers spurs calls for equal access to federal assistance

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation to give legal marijuana businesses, which have been declared essential in a majority of states with regulated cannabis markets, access to resources being made available by congressional COVID-19 emergency response packages was introduced in the House today by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act would stop cannabis businesses and those that provide services to them from being excluded from further federal relief funding provided through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The full text of the bill is available here.

“The cannabis industry employs nearly a quarter of a million Americans and has been deemed essential in state after state, yet many businesses will not survive the pandemic without help,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “They already face disproportionate financial burdens during normal conditions, and the strains created by the coronavirus response are putting them at an even greater disadvantage and jeopardizing their ability to provide vital healthcare services. We are incredibly grateful for the dozens of lawmakers who are urging their colleagues to give cannabis businesses fair access to federal relief funds in these difficult times.”

Under current policy, businesses that deal directly with cannabis production and sale, as well as many that provide services to them, are ineligible for any SBA programs. Many indirect businesses have not been declared essential and have been forced to close. Cannabis businesses that have remained open must contend with declining sales, supply chain disruptions, onerous tax rates, lack of access to banking services, and the costs incurred by implementing additional health and safety measures to protect employees and customers.

Last week, Rep. Blumenauer and nearly three dozen of his colleagues sent a letter to House leadership urging them to make cannabis businesses eligible for SBA programs. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) along with eight co-signers sent a similar letter to Senate leadership on Wednesday. They have been joined by cannabis industry advocates, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, state officials including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, and others.

Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. Every state with a functional regulated cannabis market is allowing continued legal access in some form during the ongoing pandemic restrictions.

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House Committee Approves Veterans Affairs Medical Cannabis Bills

Legislation to promote research, protect veteran medical cannabis patients, and allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis will proceed to a House floor vote

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Committee on Veterans Affairs approved two bills on Thursday that would loosen restrictions on medical cannabis research and use by veterans. The VA Medical Cannabis Research Act as amended by the committee would require the VA to conduct clinical studies on the medical benefits of cannabis for veterans, and would protect people participating in state medical cannabis programs from losing benefits and services through the VA system. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) and currently has 105 cosponsors, was approved in a voice vote.

Next, the committee approved the Veterans Equal Access Act in a vote of 15-11. This bill would allow physicians and other healthcare professionals in the VA system to discuss medical cannabis with patients and provide recommendations in accordance with applicable state laws. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and currently has 18 cosponsors.

Both bills will now head to the full House for a floor vote.

“We commend our friends Rep. Correa and Rep. Blumenauer for working so hard to get these bills to a House vote, and we want to thank Chairman Takano for allowing this committee markup,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Our distinguished service-people have waited far too long for the ability to use the medicine that works for them without fear of punishment, and the VA can benefit tremendously from the knowledge that will come from mandating the research that it has avoided or ignored up to this point.”

“It is heartening to see that Congress is still pursuing cannabis policy reform and looking out for vulnerable groups like veterans despite being occupied with another serious public health issue,” Smith continued.

Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.

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National Cannabis Industry Association Announces New Members of Board of Directors

Newly-appointed members and several incumbents will replace long-serving members for 2020-2022 term

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), the country’s largest cannabis trade association and industry advocacy organization, will be seating its newly-appointed board of directors this month at the Northeast Cannabis Business Conference in Boston.

The organization’s Nominating Committee brought on five new board members. Narbe Alexandrian is the president and CEO of Canopy Rivers, a major investment and operating platform structured to pursue opportunities in the cannabis sector. Omar Figueroa, principal of Law Offices of Omar Figueroa, Inc., is a long-time cannabis activist and attorney representing cannabis-related businesses throughout California. Liz Geisleman is the vice president of Rocky Mountain Reagents, Inc., which has provided biological and chemical product solutions to a wide variety of industries for over 50 years. Ryan Hurley is general counsel for Copperstate Farms, one of the largest licensed medical cannabis cultivators in the country. Chris Jackson is the co-founder of Indica LLC and Sticky Ypsi, a cannabis provider based in Michigan.

Three incumbent board members were also re-elected for another term: Cody Bass, founder and executive director of Tahoe Wellness Center; Khurshid Khoja, current board vice-chair and principal of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel; and Manndie Tingler, co-founder and CRO of Khemia Manufacturing and business development officer for Natura.

The full list of board members and their bios is available here.

Outgoing board members include current Board Chair A.C. Braddock, Jessica Billingsley, Alex Cooley, Steve DeAngelo, Sean McAllister, and Erich Pearson.

“It has been a pleasure to lead NCIA’s board at such a revolutionary time in the emerging cannabis industry,” said A.C. Braddock, CEO of Eden Labs. “We have taken great strides in terms of acceptance and legitimacy in the last few years, and this momentum will only continue as we get closer to ending prohibition through education and political unity. I look forward to continuing my involvement with NCIA in other capacities to build an industry based on the science of this plant to promote health and wellness and to support mission driven business.”

“I’m deeply grateful to the NCIA for electing me to the board since the founding of our organization almost ten years ago, and am proud to have been a part of growing NCIA into the powerhouse it has become,” said Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harborside, Inc. “Together we have alleviated untold suffering, saved countless lives, and changed the world. I can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring!”

“Being an NCIA board member has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my life and career,” said Alex Cooley, co-founder of Solstice. “I have deeply enjoyed working with the board and staff over the past several years to change the face of cannabis in the U.S. and ultimately the world. This is by no means goodbye, as I look forward to continuing my participation with NCIA in the coming years and especially look forward to attending our 10th Annual Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. this May.”

“Having a trade association with the knowledge, experience, and ability to represent cannabis businesses on the national stage is absolutely vital to the long-term success of this industry, and we are in good hands with NCIA,” said Sean McAllister, co-founder of McAllister Garfield, P.C. “I’m happy to have been a part of this important work, and excited to see the progress we have made in recent years – and will make in the future – with this organization looking out for the interests of its members and the cannabis industry as a whole.”

“It’s been a pleasure to serve on NCIA’s board for the past several years. I am proud of the work we’ve done to move cannabis policy forward around the country,” said Jessica Billingsley, CEO of Akerna.  “I’m confident the organization will continue to lead the cannabis industry in the right direction and help businesses of all kinds and sizes flourish as we enter a new era of growth and legitimacy.”

“NCIA is leading the way in providing advocacy and resources for the cannabis industry and protecting the interests of the businesses that are involved in it,” said Erich Pearson, CEO of SPARC. “I am glad to have been able to contribute to its efforts as a member of the board and will continue to support its work as we fight to end prohibition and make the cannabis industry an example for others to follow.”

The first board meeting with new and incumbent members is slated to take place later this month.

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NCIA Releases Extensive Report on Vaping Illness and Related Policy

Report contains detailed information on proximate causes and provides recommendations for displacing the illicit market and minimizing potential for future public health issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to an outbreak of respiratory illnesses primarily associated with unregulated cannabis vape cartridges found in the illicit market in recent months, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Policy Council, with the help of experts in several fields, has produced an extensive report that explores the known and potential causes of the condition and offers ways for producers, regulators, and lawmakers to prevent such issues from occurring in the legal regulated market. NCIA is also sharing this report with key congressional committees.

The report – titled “The Key to Consumer Safety: Displacing the Illicit Cannabis Market – Recommendations for Safe Vaping” – discusses topics such as vaporizer liquid formulations, vaporizer delivery devices, possible contaminants, and best practices for testing. It also recommends ways to displace the illicit market and make sure that unregulated products don’t find their way into the legal market, including decreasing the financial burdens that prevent legal providers from being competitive with the illicit market, methods for identifying counterfeit products, creating more accessible pathways for unlicensed operators to enter the regulated market, and increasing non-criminal enforcement against illegal cultivation sites.

“The cannabis industry has a serious and disruptive illicit market problem that is directly affecting public health and safety. While the Center for Disease Control has not yet definitively determined the proximate cause for every injury or death, the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence points to additives in illicit market products,” the report states. “NCIA’s Policy Council urges consumers to only purchase regulated and tested cannabis products from the state-legal market. Reliable vaping products manufactured using suitable vaporizer hardware and liquid formulations created from high quality ingredients are common in the legal cannabis market. The same cannot be said for the unregulated market. We must stop the flow of illicit, unregulated, and untested products to consumers… We also need to lower taxes, so that the legal market can fairly compete with the illicit market. This effort will take a collaborative approach, with law enforcement, state-legal cannabis businesses, and state cannabis taxing and licensing authorities working in concert.”

Earlier this month, the CDC ended its “state of emergency” regarding this illness, known as EVALI, as the number of new cases being reported has sharply declined. While discussing the sources for the products linked to specific cases, the agency inaccurately grouped regulated cannabis businesses with completely unregulated businesses such as illegal pop-ups and unlicensed storefronts as the sources for 16% of the cannabis products associated with EVALI cases. This is despite the fact that only a handful of cases have been associated with licensed businesses, which are greatly outnumbered by unlicensed stores in California.

Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states. Dozens of states are set to consider cannabis-related legislation or ballot initiatives this year.

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Cannabis Industry Groups Urge Chairman of Senate Banking Committee to Advance House-Approved Cannabis Banking Bill

 

More than 30 organizations co-sign a letter to Sen. Mike Crapo, underscoring their support for the SAFE Banking Act and addressing issues raised by Sen. Crapo in a December 2019 memo

 

WASHINGTON — A coalition of more than 30 national and state cannabis industry organizations sent a letter Thursday to Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID), urging him to advance the House-approved version of a bill aimed at addressing the state-legal cannabis industry’s lack of access to banking and other financial services.

The House of Representatives passed the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act by a vote of 321-103 in September, with 91 Republicans voting in favor. Chairman Crapo said he intended to have the bill considered in his committee, but also expressed concerns about the bill and other aspects of cannabis policy not related to banking. Those concerns were reflected in a memo he released in December that outlined proposed changes to the bill and requested public comment to inform his decision-making.

“Together, the undersigned represent thousands of member-businesses in the United States,” the letter reads. “We are not writing to ask you to support federal legalization. We are merely asking that you facilitate the availability of financial services to the state-legal cannabis industry in order to improve public safety, allow states to easily track and collect tax revenue, and assist the state-legal industry with displacing an illicit market that is currently operating free from any regulatory oversight.”

The cannabis industry groups express concern that some of Chairman Crapo’s proposed changes to the SAFE Banking Act would undermine its goal of improving public safety. The letter specifically addresses the senator’s suggestion that banking services might only be made available to businesses that sell cannabis products that test below 2% THC, making it nearly impossible to operate profitably.

“Setting a low THC limit as a condition for obtaining banking services would have the effect of driving consumers to the illegal market, with revenue shifting from state-legal markets, which produce tens of thousands of living wage jobs and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, to an underground economy, which produces neither,” the letter reads. “The same is true with respect to the suggestion that banking services be denied to companies that sell vape pens or other cannabis products that adults consume. Cannabis consumers will find the products that they desire, whether those products are legal or illegal, and the recent vaping crisis in the U.S. has underscored the dangers associated with steering consumers toward an unregulated market”

The letter also highlights the growing number of states that have regulated cannabis for adult and/or medical use, and it cites the broad bipartisan support that exists for the SAFE Banking Act, noting it has been endorsed by 38 state attorneys general and a number of national and state organizations representing banks and credit unions. It concludes with a renewed commitment to work with the senator on a legislative solution to the cannabis banking problem that addresses his concerns.

“The cannabis industry stands ready to work with your office on the myriad technical issues that you have suggested should be a priority, including making certain that these products are not available to children,” the letter reads. “We urge you to work with the state-regulated cannabis industry, the financial services sector, and other interested stakeholders on a solution that supports, rather than hinders, this burgeoning industry and the will of the American public.”

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Cannabis Industry Orgs Submit Letter to Congress Ahead of House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee Hearing

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health to Hold Hearing on Cannabis Policy Reform Wednesday

Cannabis industry groups send letter urging descheduling and federal regulation to increase research, improve public safety and address harms caused by prohibition

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The first congressional hearing of 2020 on cannabis policy will take place on Wednesday, January 15. The hearing, entitled “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” will be held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 10 a.m. ET. Livestream will be available here.

The hearing is expected to explore the barriers to cannabis research, the health and social impacts of current federal cannabis policies and the implications of reform, as well as several pieces of cannabis-related legislation including the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.

A broad coalition of groups representing state-legal cannabis businesses, including the National Cannabis Industry Association, Cannabis Trade Federation, Minority Cannabis Business Association, National Cannabis Roundtable, and Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce sent a letter to the subcommittee urging Congress to pass comprehensive legislation that would remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and allow it to be effectively regulated at the federal level, as well as expressing support for a number of related policy issues. Several of these groups are also submitting testimony to the subcommittee for the hearing record.

“The cannabis industry is united in its desire to end the disastrous century-long experiment with prohibition and start enacting sensible policies focused on justice and health,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Descheduling and regulation are the best ways to promote research, improve public safety, begin repairing the damage done by outdated laws, and help displace the unregulated underground cannabis market.”

“This hearing is one more sign that Congress is moving toward more sensible cannabis policy at the federal level. It cannot come soon enough,” said Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation. “The dichotomy between state and federal cannabis laws is untenable and the nation would benefit from the kinds of policies our organizations have endorsed in this joint letter.”

“Any federal cannabis regulatory framework must address the unique health concerns of people of color, women, and veterans without creating undue burdens on small businesses,” said Jason Ortiz, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. “We are confident congress can achieve this by putting social and economic justice at the center of any legalization legislation.”

“Bipartisan cannabis reform will unlock the full potential of our growing industry. Working together we can advance economic opportunity, patient access and social justice. We look forward to leveraging the knowledge and expertise of our members as Congress moves closer to addressing cannabis reform at the federal level,” said Saphira Galoob, executive director for the National Cannabis Roundtable.

“The Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce is proud to stand with industry partners for safe and sensible regulation of cannabis at the federal level,” said Randal John Meyer, executive director of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce. “Descheduling cannabis and regulating its safe medical and adult use is exactly the kind of policy the federal government should be considering for ending cannabis prohibition.”

 

The MORE Act – which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge federal marijuana convictions, and allocate funds to promote fair access to the cannabis industry and reinvestment in the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by prohibition – was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in November. This was the first time such legislation has received a vote in a House committee.

WHAT: House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing, “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade”

WHEN: Wednesday, January 15 at 10 a.m. ET

WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2123, 45 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.

WHO: U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health

Matthew Strait, Drug Enforcement Administration

Douglas Throckmorton, Food and Drug Administration

Nora Volkow, National Institute on Drug Abuse

 

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House Judiciary Committee Approves Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition

Historic vote marks the first time the committee has approved comprehensive legislation to remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and address harms caused by prohibition 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a 24-10 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would effectively end marijuana prohibition on Wednesday. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, or H.R. 3884, was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and currently has 55 cosponsors. This is the first time that a congressional committee has approved a bill to make cannabis legal.

The MORE Act would federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and would require the expungement of past federal cannabis convictions. The bill would establish a Cannabis Justice Office to administer a program to reinvest resources in the communities that have been most heavily impacted by prohibition, funded by a 5% tax on state-legal cannabis commerce. It would also allow the Small Business Administration to provide loans and grants to cannabis-related businesses and support state and local equity licensing programs, and would permit doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to recommend medical cannabis to patients in accordance with applicable state laws.

“Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Thanks to the diligent efforts of advocates and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, we’ve seen more progress in this Congress than ever before. Supermajority public support for legalization, increasing recognition of the devastating impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities and people of color, and the undeniable success of state cannabis programs throughout the country are all helping to build momentum for comprehensive change in the foreseeable future.”

A Pew Research Center survey released last week showed record support for making marijuana legal, with 67% of all adults in favor of legalization – including a majority of Republican respondents.

A recent amendment to the bill included the addition of language contained in the Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) Resolution introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). This resolution was the basis for a paper released by NCIA earlier this year on specific policy goals that can help ensure fairness and equal representation in the cannabis industry.

“There is still much work to be done, including the establishment of sound federal regulations for cannabis products,” continued Smith. “This vote brings us one step closer to ending the disaster that is prohibition and repairing the harms it has caused while we continue the discussion in Congress about how to best regulate cannabis at the federal level. We urge lawmakers to move forward with this necessary bill without delay.”

Last month, NCIA released an in-depth set of recommendations that should be used to establish a federal regulatory structure for different types of cannabis and hemp products through existing federal agencies so that cannabis products can be effectively regulated similarly to alcohol and other consumables.

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Cannabis Industry Leaders Urge Congress to Deschedule and Regulate in Response to Vaping Illnesses

National Cannabis Industry Association delivered letter to lawmakers today signed by nearly 800 businesses and advocates suggesting federal regulatory structure to improve public safety

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) delivered a letter to both chambers of Congress on Thursday urging sensible and timely federal action in response to increasing reports of illnesses largely tied to illicit market vape cartridge products. The letter, which was signed by nearly 800 business leaders, advocates, and policy experts, asks lawmakers to immediately work to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act so that cannabis products can be effectively regulated at the federal level. These actions would remove barriers to research, allow the federal government to establish uniform safety protocols and provide guidance to state regulatory bodies, and help displace the illicit unregulated cannabis market that is the source of the vast majority of the products tied to illness cases.

The full text of the letter with signatories is available here.

“This outbreak of illnesses is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy, and the direct result of failed prohibition policies,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry. “It is imperative that lawmakers understand this, and know that the cannabis industry is committed to working with them to help solve this issue and prevent further suffering. We have the tools to protect cannabis consumers and improve public safety, and are ready to help Congress implement them without delay.”

Earlier this week, NCIA released an in-depth set of recommendations that should be used to establish a federal regulatory structure for different types of cannabis and hemp products through existing federal agencies.

“State regulators and responsible, licensed cannabis businesses have been doing an excellent job at keeping potentially dangerous products out of the legal market,” continued Smith. “We urge Congress to help us continue – and improve upon – this record by ending prohibition and creating an efficient and intelligent national regulatory structure.”

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NCIA Releases Guidelines for Federal Cannabis Regulation After Legalization

Report urges Congress to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act; suggests classifications for different cannabis products, most appropriate federal agencies and methods to regulate them

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) announced the release of a paper providing extensive guidance on how cannabis should be regulated at the federal level. The paper highlights the need to have a clearly defined regulatory approach and structure prepared as the nation moves closer to making cannabis legal for adults, and identifies the existing agencies best suited to regulate the wide variety of cannabis products available in state-regulated legal cannabis markets.

The full paper, which was produced by NCIA’s Policy Council, is titled “Adapting a Regulatory Framework for the Emerging Cannabis Industry” and can be found here.

“As a country, we are starting to move past whether we should end cannabis prohibition, and need to put serious consideration into how we do that and what a post-legalization world looks like in terms of federal regulatory policy,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The recommendations outlined in this report build on successful methodologies by assigning regulatory duties to existing agencies, while avoiding restrictions that would not be appropriate for cannabis as well as some of the missteps that have occurred with other products. We look forward to working with Congress to overturn our outdated federal marijuana laws and begin implementing this structure to help ensure public safety and displace the illicit cannabis market.”

The variety of products that contain cannabis means that a “one-size-fits-all” regulatory framework would be ineffective. Under such a framework, some products would be overregulated, while others might be underregulated. Instead, different regulatory structures, or “lanes,” should be utilized based on the characteristics and intended uses of the products to leverage existing federal regulatory expertise. This will lead to an effective and efficient review process for existing government agencies, specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), that avoids unnecessary bureaucracy, costs, and delays for cannabis companies or the government. Because human consumables are already regulated by the federal government through a variety of regulatory lanes designed for these purposes, most cannabis products could simply follow analogous products already being sold legally through these lanes, which the paper defines as follows:

 

• Lane #1 — Pharmaceutical drugs (eg: Epidiolex; Marinol) (Regulated Like Prescription Drugs; Lead Federal Regulator: FDA)

• Lane #2 — Ingested, inhaled or topically applied products with more than de minimis amounts of THC (+0.3%) (Regulated Like Alcohol; Lead Federal Regulator: TTB)

• Lane #3 — Ingested and inhaled products with de minimis amounts of THC (<0.3% THC) (Regulated Like Food/Dietary Supplements; Lead Regulator: FDA)

• Lane #4 — Topically applied products with de minimis amounts of THC (<0.3% THC) (Regulated Like Cosmetics; Lead Federal Regulator: FDA)

The paper also explains some of the reasons why removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, rather than moving it to a different schedule, is necessary for the effective implementation of federal regulations.

“This approach will help us protect consumers, foster research, and provide guidance for the growing number of states that are regulating cannabis for adult and medical purposes as we work to repair the harms caused by prohibition,” continued Smith.

Cannabis is legal for adults in 11 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states. Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the first standalone cannabis legislation to receive a vote in Congress, the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow financial services providers to work with state-legal cannabis, hemp, and ancillary businesses.

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New Report Adds to Evidence Tying Vaping Illnesses to Illicit Products

NBC News study tested regulated and illicit market vape cartridges, finding potentially dangerous contaminants only in illegal products

National Cannabis Industry Association warns that banning regulated & tested products could make problems worse

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following increasing reports of illnesses and deaths primarily related to illicit market cannabis and nicotine products, the National Cannabis Industry Association is urging state and local governments to use caution when instituting policies that could drive consumers to the illicit market. Most reports that have become public show that these cases are almost entirely associated with unregulated products, and no definitive links between regulated products and vaping illnesses have been confirmed.

On Friday, NBC News released a report based on testing of regulated and illicit market products. The report showed that almost all of the illicit market products contained potentially dangerous contaminants, including Vitamin E acetate, which has been linked to a number of illness cases, and a fungicide that produces hydrogen cyanide. None of the regulated products tested contained these chemicals. While not conclusive, this study adds to the evidence distancing the legal cannabis market from this outbreak.

Nevertheless, state and local governments are considering bans on all vape products, including those that are produced and sold under strict state regulatory controls. Massachusetts recently enacted a 4 month ban on all vape cartridges.

“This unfortunate situation continues to highlight the need to support state regulatory systems, as well as to deschedule and regulate cannabis products at the federal level,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “It is increasingly clear that the root causes of these illnesses most likely lie in the illicit market. Banning regulated and quality-controlled vape products could very easily exacerbate this problem. Instead of stamping out the illicit market, preventing consumers from accessing reliable, tested products will drive many of them to purchase unregulated and potentially dangerous products instead, and the lack of competition from legal sources will only incentivize underground producers to increase production and cut more corners, possibly making their products even more deadly. Banning regulated products literally hands the vape market to the people most responsible for this widespread health problem on a silver platter.”

“We hope states and localities think twice before repeating the mistakes of prohibition, and we strongly urge consumers to avoid illicit market products and only purchase regulated cannabis products at licensed retail establishments,” continued Smith. “Furthermore, we ask Congress to immediately begin the process of descheduling cannabis and to work with public health officials, medical experts, and other stakeholders to sensibly regulate this substance at the federal level.”

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House of Representatives Approves Cannabis Banking Reform in Landmark Vote

SAFE Banking Act would provide safe harbor for banks and lenders to work with state-legal cannabis businesses to address public safety, transparency, and access to capital

** Press conference THURSDAY at House Triangle at 2:30p with lawmakers and advocates **

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the first time in history, a standalone cannabis policy reform bill was brought before the House of Representatives for a vote and passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, or H.R. 1595, was approved 321-103, including nearly half of voting Republicans, in a suspension vote on Wednesday.

“Having worked alongside Congressional leaders to resolve the cannabis industry’s banking access issues for over six years, it’s incredibly gratifying to see this strong bipartisan showing of support in today’s House vote,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the bill sponsors, who have been working with us to move this issue forward long before anyone else thought it was worth the effort.”

Due to current federal laws and financial regulations, most banks are unwilling to risk prosecution or punishment to work with state-legal cannabis businesses and often ancillary businesses that service the cannabis industry. This forces many businesses in this space to operate almost entirely in cash, creating public safety issues for everyone involved, from businesses and their employees to tax collectors and regulators. These policies also hinder the efforts of regulators and law enforcement to effectively monitor the legal cannabis market. Financial services institutions are also unable to provide loans to people in the cannabis industry, which disproportionately impacts small businesses and marginalized communities with less access to personal wealth or investment capital.

The SAFE Banking Act as approved in the House would prevent federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with cannabis- and hemp-related businesses that are obeying state laws. The bill would protect ancillary businesses that work with the cannabis industry from being charged with money laundering and other financial crimes, and requires the Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help credit unions and banks understand how to lawfully serve cannabis businesses. Access to capital for small businesses would be increased by allowing traditional lending from financial service provides, and regular reporting on loan practices involving women and people of color in the cannabis industry would be required.

H.R. 1595 was introduced in this session by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH) with more than 100 other original cosponsors, eventually reaching 206 cosponsors prior to the vote Wednesday.

“Now, it’s time for the Senate to take swift action to approve the SAFE Banking Act so that this commonsense legislation can make its way to the President’s desk,” continued Smith. “This bipartisan legislation is vital to protecting public safety, fostering transparency, and leveling the playing field for small businesses in the growing number of states with successful cannabis programs.”

The Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act, S. 1200, was introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in April. The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the issue in July, and Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) recently announced that cannabis banking legislation is being seriously considered in that chamber.

NCIA will host a press conference with lawmakers and allied organizations to discuss the vote on Thursday, September 26 at 2:30 p.m. ET at the House Triangle, just outside the U.S. Capitol.

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National Cannabis Industry Association Calls on Congress to Regulate Cannabis in Response to Reports of Vaping-Related Illnesses

Advocates cite prohibition as main driver of illicit market products linked to most cases, urge federal action, caution from producers of state-legal cannabis vape products 


** Statement below from National Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Aaron Smith **

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In recent weeks, a growing number of respiratory illness cases associated with nicotine or cannabis vaporizer (vape) cartridges have been reported, leading to increasing concern among cannabis vape cartridge consumers, regulators, and medical experts. As of early this week, more than 450 cases have been reported nationwide, including six fatal cases.

The vast majority of these reports have been linked to vape cartridges that were produced and obtained in the illicit and unregulated market, or that were adulterated by consumers. The minute number of cases that have so far been associated with legal cannabis products have not shown definitive links to those specific products. Cases have been reported in states with and without regulated cannabis markets.

Preliminary research has suggested some additive thickening agents, particularly Vitamin E acetate, as a likely cause for many of these cases. This is so far inconclusive, however, and other possible causes including pre-existing medical conditions, faulty delivery devices, or problematic consumption behavior are being explored.

In light of the indeterminate cause(s) of these illnesses and variance in state regulations regarding vape cartridges, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) makes the following recommendations:

  • Congress is urged to immediately remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and begin to sensibly regulate this substance in a manner similar to alcohol and other consumables, and to make funds immediately available to state medical authorities to investigate these cases.
  • Licensed vape cartridge producers are encouraged to halt the use, if any, of additive thickening agents until more data is available.
  • Given the preliminary reported association of some illness cases with Vitamin E acetate, any licensed producer that has included this additive in recent vape product batches is strongly encouraged to issue a voluntary recall of those products.
  • Licensed cannabis retailers are encouraged to take steps to ensure none of their available vape cartridge inventories have been sourced from a producer that uses Vitamin E acetate.
  • Cannabis vape cartridge consumers are urged to immediately cease the use of any product obtained from the illicit market and to limit any future purchases of vape cartridges and other cannabis products to state-licensed, regulated businesses.

Statement from Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association:

“These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies. Current federal laws interfere with research, prevent federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market. These policies are directly bolstering the markets for untested and potentially dangerous illicit products. 

The fact that so few of these cases have so far reported any link whatsoever to the legal cannabis market is a testament to the effectiveness of state regulators and licensed businesses at ensuring product reliability. As an industry, however, we view it as our duty to make sure whatever is causing these illnesses is not replicated in legal products and to work toward enacting regulations that can prevent similar public health issues from occurring in the future. The legal cannabis industry is paying very close attention to any new information provided by medical authorities regarding these cases.

It is now the responsibility of Congress to end prohibition and regulate cannabis without delay. By removing cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and instituting a clear regulatory framework through existing agencies, the federal government can provide helpful guidance to states that have or wish to establish regulated cannabis control systems while helping put irresponsible illicit market producers out of business for good.

We are deeply saddened by this situation and sincerely hope the specific causes are determined as soon as possible to help avoid further suffering. We stand ready to work with Congress and federal regulators on the long-term solution to this problem, which is replacing prohibition with sound regulations.”

Cannabis is legal for adults in 11 states, Guam, and the District of Columbia, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.

 

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Cannabis Industry and Policy Reform Advocates Urge Congress to Promote Equity and Address Racially Disparate Harms Caused by Prohibition

National Cannabis Industry Association joins more than 100 signatories in letter delivered to lawmakers today

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) joined other trade organizations and policy groups, as well as dozens of cannabis businesses, in submitting a letter to members of Congress urging them to address the racially disparate harms caused by prohibition. The letter, which was signed by more than 100 businesses and organizations, calls for federal legislation to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, allow banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses and provide loans to people from marginalized communities who are trying to participate in the industry, and reform the federal tax code to remove the provision that imposes a discriminatory tax rate on cannabis businesses and creates a significant barrier for entry into the legal cannabis market.

The letter also calls for allocating federal funds for programs that would help provide restorative justice and promote equity in the cannabis industry. These include providing financial support for state programs that promote equity, allowing cannabis businesses to access Small Business Administration programs and benefits, expunging cannabis convictions and improving access to services that have been denied to people with cannabis-related criminal records, and reinvesting in the communities that have been most harmed by prohibition. The full text of the letter is available at http://www.DescheduleMarijuana.com.

“As representatives of the legal cannabis industry, we have a responsibility to help undo the harms caused by prohibition and ensure that people most impacted by failed federal policies have access to the opportunities being created every day in this market. We are pleased to join this distinguished group of business leaders and advocates in calling on Congress to incorporate these ideas into legislation,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Past Congresses have played a major role in marginalizing people of color through the war on cannabis, and it is the duty of current and future lawmakers to make up for this.”

“4Front is proud to stand with NCIA, the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and the other organizations that have signed this letter in support of federal cannabis policy reform that will not only help foster a more inclusive industry, but begin to address some of the harm done to communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs,” said Kris Krane, co-founder and president of multi-state cannabis company 4Front Ventures and NCIA board member. “This is a cause that many of us have been pursuing for decades and it’s been tremendously gratifying to watch as the conversation has shifted from whether or not to legalize cannabis to how should we go about legalizing it.”

Last week, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a historic hearing entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform” to begin a larger conversation in Congress about these problems and how to start fixing them.

In May, NCIA released a set of guidelines in conjunction with lawmakers and stakeholders called Increasing Equity in the Cannabis Industry: Six Achievable Goals for Policy Makers, which provides legislators with simple paths toward addressing many of the issues referenced in the letter.

The SAFE Banking Act, which would remedy the current cannabis banking situation discussed in the letter while increasing public safety and industry transparency, was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in March, and is expected to be voted on by the full House soon. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on a companion bill on Tuesday.

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 11 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults.

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House Subcommittee Holds Groundbreaking Hearing on Ending Marijuana Prohibition and Impact on Racial Justice

Hearing comes just weeks after House approves amendment to prevent federal interference in state cannabis laws; casts spotlight on disproportionate harms caused by current federal policies

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, House lawmakers for the first time 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.

“It is imperative that we recognize the disparate and ongoing impact of marijuana prohibition on people of color and the barriers it creates for them to take part in the burgeoning legal cannabis market,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Congress should quickly move toward policies that allow legitimate businesses to supplant the illicit market and promote racial equity in the cannabis industry. Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act is a cornerstone of that process.”

Written testimony from NCIA was submitted at the hearing by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), a long time supporter of cannabis policy reform.

The hearing took place following a record number of hearings on cannabis policy reform legislation in the current congressional session, including on improving cannabis industry access to banking services with the SAFE Banking Act and allowing cannabis businesses to access Small Business Administration loans and programs with the Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act of 2019. In June, the House approved a spending amendment that would prevent the federal government from interfering in state cannabis programs or targeting businesses and individuals in compliance with state laws.

“Two thirds of all the states have now adopted legalization or medical cannabis policies and it’s time for Congress to finally address the conflicts between state and federal law,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a political organization that has played a central role in enacting over half of these state-level policies and joins NCIA in supporting de-scheduling cannabis. “This hearing, which recognizes the racist effects of prohibition, is a positive step forward and we hope it serves as a starting point for real legislative action this year.”

A Gallup poll released in October reported that 66% of Americans support making cannabis legal, including a majority of Republicans. A Quinnipiac poll from April 2018 showed that 74% of voters support legislation protecting states with legal cannabis programs from federal interference.

“Advocates have incredible momentum right now in Congress, and we should use this opportunity to explore and promote the farthest-reaching reforms possible,” continued Smith. “The country is ready to end prohibition, and all options should be on the table as to how we can do so in ways that will help repair the harms caused by these disastrous policies.”

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 11 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults.

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House Committee Chair Introduces Legislation Allowing Legal Cannabis Industry to Access Small Business Administration Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 28, 2019

CONTACT:
Aaron Smith, National Cannabis Industry Association
303-569-6888Aaron@TheCannabisIndustry.org

Bill would end federal prohibition and help level the playing field for small businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) introduced the Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act of 2019. This legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and prohibit the Small Business Administration (SBA) from declining to provide a loan guarantee under the 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program, the Disaster Assistance Program, Microloan program, or the 504/Certified Development Company program to a cannabis related legitimate business or service provider.

This comes just a week after the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing entitled “Unlocked Potential? Small Businesses in the Cannabis Industry” to explore the opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in legal cannabis markets, as well as the obstacles those businesses face when entering or operating in the emerging industry.

“State cannabis programs are successfully replacing criminal enterprises with tightly-regulated, responsible businesses but it’s increasingly difficult for smaller firms to compete in the legal industry without access to the essential Small Business Administration programs that other industries take for granted,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “By improving access to capital, this legislation will also help level the playing field for entrepreneurs from communities of color and others disproportionately impacted by the failed policies of prohibition seeking to enter the legal cannabis industry.”

The Small Business Administration’s capital access programs are designed to provide financial assistance in the form of loans and loan guarantees to small businesses who cannot affordably access capital elsewhere. Small businesses in states with legal cannabis, however, are currently struggling with conflicting legal guidance coming from their home states and the federal government. In addition, because SBA’s loan products are generally more successful at reaching traditionally underserved business than conventional lending, it is also a measure aimed at ensuring minority, women, and veteran entrepreneurs in the legitimate cannabis industry are able to fairly and affordably access capital.

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have effective medical cannabis laws, and 11 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults.

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The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S. and the only organization broadly representing cannabis-related businesses at the national level. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and works toward a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.

Historic Legislation Paving the Way for Legal Interstate Cannabis Commerce Introduced in Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 27, 2019

CONTACT:
Aaron Smith, National Cannabis Industry Association
303-569-6888Aaron@TheCannabisIndustry.org

 

Historic Legislation Paving the Way for Legal Interstate Cannabis Commerce Introduced in Congress

National Cannabis Industry Association presses for federal protections as Oregon becomes first state to enact cannabis export bill  

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced federal legislation that would protect interstate cannabis commerce from federal interference if the activity is in compliance with state laws and interstate compacts. The legislation also makes protections against federal interference in state medical cannabis programs permanent and expands those protections to apply to all state-legal cannabis programs, including those that allow for regulated sales to adults over age 21. Legal adult consumers and patients who travel between these states transporting limited amounts of cannabis would also be protected from federal prosecution.

“Like any other agricultural product, cannabis production should be able to take place in states with optimal climate conditions and exported to other legal markets across the country. This legislation is a bold step toward making that a reality,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “This act would allow the cannabis industry to become more efficient and environmentally sustainable, as voters and state legislatures across the country continue to move away from the failed policies of prohibition.”

“As more and more states legalize cannabis, the gap between state and federal laws will only grow more confusing for both legal businesses and consumers,” said Sen. Wyden. “The solution is clear: the federal government needs to end its senseless and out of touch prohibition. As we fight for that ultimate goal, however, Congress can and should immediately act to protect the will of Oregonians and voters in other states from federal interference—and that should include interstate cannabis commerce.”

“The federal government is hopelessly out of touch with the American people on cannabis,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Last week, the House agreed and passed my amendments to forbid the federal government from interfering with cannabis programs in the states, D.C. and tribal communities. This week, we are turning to a top priority for Oregonians—allowing for interstate sale of cannabis. It’s past time we protect the states, like Oregon, that have gotten it right.”

The State Cannabis Commerce Act of 2019 was introduced just days after Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) signed groundbreaking bipartisan legislation that allows the state to enter into compacts to export cannabis to other states with legal marijuana programs, once the federal government allows it. The legislation would not affect those states which have yet to enact cannabis programs or choose not to enter into aninterstate compact.

“On behalf of the thousands of cannabis professionals that make up our diverse membership, we look forward to working with other states that are poised to follow Oregon’s lead by enacting interstate commerce legislation as well as with our allies in Congress to advance this much-needed federal reform,” continued Smith.

A Gallup poll released in October reported that 66% of Americans support making cannabis legal, including a majority of Republicans. A Quinnipiac poll from April 2018 showed that 74% of voters support legislation protecting states with legal cannabis programs from federal interference.

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 11 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults.

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The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S. and the only organization broadly representing cannabis-related businesses at the national level. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and works toward a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.

House of Representatives Approves Historic Measure Halting Federal Interference in State Cannabis Laws

Appropriations amendments passed to prevent DOJ enforcement in states, territories, tribal lands with legal cannabis markets

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an appropriations amendment that would prevent federal interference in legal cannabis programs. The amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act of 2020, which passed by a vote of 267-165, would prevent any federal funds from being used to target individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state, territorial, or tribal cannabis laws.

Protections for state medical cannabis programs have been included in the federal budget since 2014. The amendment passed today was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and would, for the first time, extend those protections to states and territories where cannabis is legal for adults. An additional amendment by Rep. Blumenauer would also prevent federal interference in tribal cannabis laws.

“This is without a doubt the biggest victory for federal cannabis policy reform to date, and a hopeful sign that the harmful policies of marijuana prohibition will soon be a relic of the past,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Interfering with successful, regulated cannabis programs is a tremendous waste of resources, and only serves to push the market back into the hands of criminals. The amendment approved today reflects a growing realization of these facts by lawmakers.”

A Gallup poll released in October reported that 66% of Americans support making cannabis legal, including a majority of Republicans. A Quinnipiac poll from April 2018 showed that 74% of voters support legislation protecting states with legal cannabis programs from federal interference.

After the overall spending package is passed in the House, companion legislation must be considered by the Senate, and the budget must be signed by the president before these provisions can take effect. Once enacted, the cannabis-related spending restrictions would be in effect through Fiscal Year 2020. The new budget must be approved by September 30 unless a continuing resolution is passed before then.

“The threat of federal prosecution has hung over the heads of responsible, law-abiding cannabis business owners for far too long,” continued Smith. “They deserve some legislative reassurance while Congress considers how best to permanently end prohibition.”

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 10 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults. In May, the Illinois state legislature approved a measure regulating the adult cannabis market, which the governor has pledged to sign. It will be the 11th state to make cannabis legal and the first to regulate the substance through its legislature.

House Committee Holds Hearing on Potential for Small Businesses in the Cannabis Industry

Committee on Small Business heard from experts about the need for access to loans and financial services available to other industries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Committee on Small Business held a hearing today entitled “Unlocked Potential? Small Businesses in the Cannabis Industry” to explore the opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in legal cannabis markets, as well as the obstacles those businesses face when entering or operating in the emerging industry.

“As more and more states take steps to bring cannabis to commerce, we are seeing small businesses at the forefront of this expanding industry,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business. “As the only House Committee dedicated solely to the needs of small firms, it is important for us to be shedding light on the challenges these small entities face as well as the economic potential they offer… Despite growing economic opportunities around legal cannabis, factors like federal law enforcement, conflicting rules among the states, and our current banking regulations are hindering the ability for entrepreneurs and small businesses to fully engage in this new industry.”

The vast majority of financial institutions are unable to provide services to the cannabis industry, its employees, and ancillary businesses due to burdensome federal restrictions and fear of potential prosecution. The SAFE Banking Act, which would provide safe harbor for banks and other members of the financial sector to provide services including small business loans, was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in March. A full vote in the House is anticipated in the coming weeks.

“As a bank, we see the potential in this industry, as well as the challenges financial institutions face when working with cannabis businesses,” said Dana Chaves, director of specialty banking at First Federal Bank and chair of the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Banking Access Committee, who testified at the hearing. “Unfortunately, current federal policies not only create public safety and transparency issues – they also disproportionately harm small businesses. We are doing what we can and shouldering tremendous risk to help the cannabis industry, but we want to be able to provide a full range of financial services so that these small businesses can thrive in a safe environment, and we cannot do so without clear guidance from Congress.”

Cannabis businesses and the ancillary businesses that serve them are also ineligible for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, but legislative avenues to address this and give priority status to businesses owned by women and people of color are being explored by lawmakers and stakeholders.

Small businesses have been the backbone of the cannabis industry, but we need to make sure they can stay viable as laws change and the industry matures,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Unfortunately, our federal laws are hurting small businesses and marginalized communities the most. We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to address this disparity and ensure that the people who have been most harmed by prohibition can benefit proportionately from the opportunities created by legal cannabis markets.”

There are currently 47 states that allow cannabis in some form. Thirty-three states and several territories have effective medical cannabis laws, and 10 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and CNMI have made cannabis legal for adults. In May, the Illinois state legislature approved a measure regulating the adult cannabis market, which the governor has pledged to sign. It will be the 11th state to make cannabis legal and the first to regulate the substance through its legislature.

Illinois Lawmakers Move to Regulate Cannabis for Adult Use

State would be 11th to make cannabis legal for adults, first to regulate legal market through its legislature

 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois is likely to become the 11th state to make cannabis legal for adults after the state House of Representatives passed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act on Friday. The Senate approved the bill on Wednesday. Illinois is the first state to pass legislation regulating the adult-use cannabis market through its legislature. Governor J.B. Pritzker has pledged to sign the bill into law.

“Illinois lawmakers made history today by being the first state legislature to not only end the madness of prohibition but also by creating a regulated market for the production and sale of cannabis products to adults,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “This bill will generate revenue, create jobs, improve public safety by replacing criminal markets with legitimate businesses, and takes important steps to help marginalized communities access business opportunities in the newly-legal industry.”

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which would take effect on January 1 of next year, makes it legal for adults age 21 and older to possess 30 grams or less of raw cannabis, five grams of cannabis concentrate, and cannabis infused products with up to 500 mg of THC, as well as to purchase those amounts from licensed retail establishments. The bill requires the state to establish a regulatory structure to license and oversee dispensaries, processors, craft growers, cultivation centers, and transporters, and establishes specific tax rates for different types of cannabis products in addition to the state sales taxes and a local tax of up to 3.5%. Registered medical cannabis patients would be able to cultivate up to five plants in their residences, but this allowance does not extend to all adults.

The legislation also includes several provisions to help repair some of the harm caused by racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws and to ensure equity and diversity in the legal cannabis industry. All convictions for possession of amounts of cannabis made legal under the bill will be automatically expunged, with opportunities to appeal for expungement of convictions for larger amounts. Business applicants who have been harmed by prohibition or have ties to communities that have been disproportionately impacted will receive additional points in the licensing process, and the legislation calls for the creation of local bodies to guide the reinvestment of cannabis revenue in those communities. The bill also creates a fund to provide financial assistance to small business applicants as well as pilot training programs throughout the state to prepare people for jobs in the cannabis industry.

“It is fitting that the Land of Lincoln is moving forward with such extensive measures to reverse the damage done to people of color and low-income communities by the government’s senseless war on cannabis consumers,” continued Smith. “We cannot continue to pursue legalization without considering restorative justice, and Illinois is definitely starting on the right foot in this regard.”

There are currently 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the territory of CNMI, in which cannabis is legal for adults. All except D.C. and Vermont allow regulated production and sales, and Washington is the only state that does not permit limited home cultivation.

Experts and Industry Leaders Urge FDA to Reform Policies on Cannabis-Derived Compounds

National Cannabis Industry Association presents evidence on behalf of broad coalition to address concerns and suggest regulatory guidelines for CBD and other cannabinoids

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) presented information today at a public hearing of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, including cannabidiol (CBD).

NCIA Policy Director Andrew Kline spoke at the hearing and presented extensive written testimony compiled by a coalition of more than 100 CBD/hemp entrepreneurs, scientists, medical professionals, and food and drug lawyers. The coalition addresses medical benefits, health and safety concerns, manufacturing and product quality, and the need for a robust regulatory structure with guidance for product testing, marketing, and labeling. The testimony also discusses the potential economic benefits of a well-regulated CBD and hemp industry, as well as the problems created by a lack of access to financial services in the industry due to federal banking restrictions.

“There is no higher calling in government service than public safety – and we applaud FDA’s efforts to make certain that consumers are safe,” said Kline. “The bottom line is this – an overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds present minimal health and safety concerns.”

The 2018 Farm Bill created an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act for hemp-derived CBD which has recently fueled unprecedented expansion in the CBD consumer market, but FDA policy prevents the substance and other cannabinoids from being used as an additive in food and other products under federal law.

“Time is of the essence,” continued Kline. “Hemp-derived CBD products are in very high consumer demand and the industry is eagerly awaiting FDA’s regulatory framework for these products. We strongly recommend that FDA act quickly to clarify the regulatory environment because there is significant confusion in the market.”

There are currently 47 states that have made cannabis- or hemp-derived compounds legal in some form.

Members of Congress and Cannabis Business Leaders Promote Equity in the Industry

Lawmakers join industry representatives to discuss ways policy makers can ensure diversity and help address harms caused by discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Minority Cannabis Industry Association (MCBA) were joined by representatives of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses for a briefing on ways that policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels can help ensure that the legal cannabis industry is more diverse and inclusive going forward, and how steadily evolving laws on cannabis can be crafted to repair some of the harms caused by the racially and economically disparate ways in which marijuana laws have been enforced nationally.

Participants discussed NCIA’s new report, “Increasing Equity in the Cannabis Industry: Six Achievable Goals for Policy Makers,” which was officially released at the event, as well as MCBA’s Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance which was originally released earlier this year.

“As more and more states move to legalize cannabis, including California, we must ensure that federal laws respect the choice of voters across the country,” said Rep. Carbajal (D-CA).  “Congress must provide certainty and equity to the cannabis industry, including allowing them to access our banking system like other small businesses. The Central Coast is playing a significant part of the emerging legal cannabis industry and it is important that we remove the federal barriers handicapping this growing industry.”

“MCBA continues to work collaboratively with industry, community and policy makers to ensure equitable cannabis policy,” said Shanita Penny, president of MCBA. “Equitable cannabis policy addresses the needs and concerns of stakeholders often forgotten – the communities devastated by the failed War on Drugs. Our Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance is a tool that cities throughout the country are using already and with their feedback we’ve begun working on the next version as we navigate the nation’s fastest-growing industry.”

“As industry advocates, we have a responsibility to ensure that the cannabis industry benefits the people who have been most harmed by prohibition,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of NCIA. “We are proud of the work we have been doing with lawmakers and business leaders to bring this issue to the forefront, make this industry accessible to everyone, and develop the practices and resources we need to start undoing the decades of damage that our outdated marijuana policies have wreaked on people of color and poor communities.”

This event took place in conjunction with NCIA’s 9th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days, which saw nearly 300 cannabis business leaders from around the country meet with hundreds of members of Congress this week to promote sensible cannabis policies, including access to banking, fair taxation, and making cannabis legal in a way that addresses the harms caused by prohibition.

Cannabis Business Leaders in Washington Next Week to Advocate for Federal Reform

Hundreds of industry leaders will meet with lawmakers to discuss access to banking, social equity, fair taxation, and more

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Next week, nearly 300 cannabis industry leaders from across the country will travel to Washington, D.C. for the National Cannabis Industry Association’s 9th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days. Over the course of the three-day event, citizen lobby meetings will be held with Congressional offices to discuss the positive economic and social impact that regulation has already had on states with modern cannabis laws and advocate for the fair treatment of the legal businesses created by those laws.

“We are extremely proud to be bringing so many of our members to the nation’s capital to advocate for cannabis policy reform for the ninth year in a row,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Now more than ever, it is important for lawmakers to see that our outdated federal policies are having a negative impact on real people, many of whom are carefully and conscientiously trying to replace the illicit market with regulated, responsible businesses.”

On Tuesday, May 21, NCIA will host a breakfast and legislative briefing on H.R. 1595: The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. This legislation, which currently has 180 cosponsors in the House and was approved in a bipartisan vote in the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year, would protect financial institutions which want to work with cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state laws. Speakers include: bill sponsors Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO); Michelle Rutter, government relations manager for NCIA; Tanner Daniel, vice president of the American Banking Association; Becky Dansky, executive director of the Safe and Responsible Banking Alliance; and Gail Rand, chief financial officer for ForwardGro, the first of 15 companies licensed to cultivate cannabis in Maryland.

The SAFE Banking Act briefing will take place in Room 1539 of the Longworth House Office Building at 10:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday.

On Thursday, May 23, NCIA will be joined by representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) for a breakfast and briefing on the rollout of NCIA’s new report, “Increasing Equity in the Cannabis Industry: Six Achievable Goals for Policy Makers,” and MCBA’s Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance. Speakers include: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ); Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA); Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA); Shanita Penny, president of MCBA; and Khurshid Khoja, principal of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, board vice-chair of NCIA, and co-chair of MCBA’s Policy Committee.

The industry equity briefing will take place in Room 2060 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 8:30 a.m. EST on Thursday.

Meetings between cannabis business leaders and congressional offices will take place throughout the day on both Wednesday, May 22 and Thursday, May 23. Meetings are generally closed to the media. For other coverage options or to arrange interviews with attendees or NCIA staff, please contact media@thecannabisindustry.org.

Cannabis is legal for adults in ten states, Guam, CNMI, and the District of Columbia, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.

Senate Cannabis Banking Reform Bill Reintroduced with Bipartisan Support

SAFE Banking Act would protect financial institutions working with the legal cannabis industry

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was introduced in the Senate on Thursday by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with 20 cosponsors. The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced in the House last month, would protect banks and other financial institutions from prosecution and ease restrictions for providing services to cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

The House companion bill, H.R. 1595, was introduced in February by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH). The bill was approved with bipartisan support in the House Financial Services Committee in March and currently has 158 cosponsors.

“Lack of access to financial services is creating public safety problems for the rapidly growing legal cannabis industry, as well as interfering with transparency and access to capital for small businesses,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The Senate now has the opportunity to keep up the momentum that the SAFE Banking Act has in the House and address this important issue.”

“Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities,” said Sen. Merkley. “It’s absurd that cannabis business owners in Oregon have to shuttle around gym bags full of cash to take care of their taxes or pay their employees. Operating in cash is an invitation to robbery, money laundering, and organized crime. This is a public safety issue, and I hope that this will be the Congress when we build a bipartisan consensus to put this common-sense fix into law.”

The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from sanctioning banks for working with cannabis related businesses that are obeying state laws or halting their services, taking action on loans made to those businesses, or limiting a depository institution’s access to the Deposit Insurance Fund. The bill would also protect ancillary businesses that work with the cannabis industry from being charged with money laundering and other financial crimes, and requires the Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help credit unions and banks understand how to lawfully serve cannabis businesses.

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on Congress to address the cannabis banking issue, citing the inability of financial regulators to solve the problems caused by the lack of access to banking services.

Cannabis is legal for adults in ten states, Guam, and the District of Columbia, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.

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National Cannabis Industry Association Hires Andrew Kline to Lead Public Policy

Former vice presidential advisor, federal prosecutor, and public policy expert will direct the organization’s policy efforts

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), the nation’s largest and most representative trade group for the legal cannabis industry, has hired Andrew Kline for the newly created position of director of public policy. In addition to leading federal and state policy efforts on behalf of NCIA’s nearly 2,000 members, Kline will also lead NCIA’s Policy Council, an elite group of NCIA members striving to influence federal and state public policy.

“I’m pleased to announce that Andrew Kline is joining the NCIA team as director of public policy,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “In this new role, Andrew will lead our substantive public policy efforts, striving to prepare, protect, and expand the legal cannabis industry. As this cutting edge industry continues to grow, Andrew will help NCIA grow along with it as we support our members, promote sensible policies, and encourage our core values of corporate responsibility and inclusivity in the industry.”

Kline most recently served as president of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB), the first self-regulatory organization for the legal cannabis industry. At the NACB, Andrew led the creation of national standards for the state-legal cannabis industry, oversaw its standards governance board, and led day-to-day operations and strategic planning.

“I could not be more excited to join NCIA – the premier national cannabis trade association – at this critical time for the industry,” said Andrew Kline. “Cannabis policy will be at the forefront, as entrepreneurs continue to navigate the tension between state and federal law. We will elevate the voice that our members have in the national debate and make certain that their business interests are protected. I’m particularly eager to serve as a resource to our members, the Policy Council, and NCIA lobbyists on Capitol Hill as we develop public policies that create value. And I’m enthusiastic about collaborating with the broader cannabis community to develop policies that support state-legal cannabis businesses.”

Kline has an extensive background in public policy, law enforcement, and coalition creation/management. He is renowned for his ability to create solutions to complex domestic and global public policy issues that appeal to both private and public constituencies.

Prior to joining the NACB, Kline was special counsel for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Enforcement Bureau where he was responsible for high profile investigations and public policy negotiations affecting the telecommunications, internet, cable, and satellite industries. He also served as chief of staff and senior advisor for Intellectual Property Enforcement in the Executive Office of the President in the Obama Administration where he led public-private partnerships and public policy efforts to address online trademark theft, copyright infringement, consumer safety, national security, and the protection of domestic business interests globally.

Kline previously worked as executive-in-residence at American University’s School of Public Affairs where he taught graduate-level courses in public policy and law. He also served as senior policy advisor to Joe Biden during his time as a senator and vice president, and spent fourteen years as a federal prosecutor. He is admitted to the Bar in California, Colorado, and the District of Columbia, and holds an MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

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STATES Act to End Cannabis Prohibition Reintroduced in Congress

Bipartisan legislation would protect legal businesses in states that have regulated cannabis

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The introduction of legislation in Congress that would allow states to determine their own cannabis policies without fear of federal interference was announced in a bicameral press conference at the Capitol on Thursday featuring bill sponsors and members of the congressional Cannabis Caucus. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2019 is being introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Joyce (R-OH) in the House.

“The current federal policy interferes with the ability of states to implement their own cannabis laws, and the resulting system has stifled important medical research, hurt legitimate businesses and diverted critical law enforcement resources needed elsewhere,” said Rep. Dave Joyce. “It’s past time for Congress to clarify cannabis policy on the federal level and ensure states are free to make their own decisions in the best interest of their constituents. The STATES Act does just that by respecting the will of the states that have legalized cannabis in some form and allowing them to implement their own policies without fear of repercussion from the federal government.”

The bipartisan legislation would exempt individuals and businesses in compliance with state cannabis laws and a set of new federal guidelines from certain provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act. The legislation does not remove federal criminal penalties for illicit marijuana behavior but would end federal interference with state and tribal laws that have regulated the production, sale, and personal consumption of cannabis for medical patients and adults age 21 and older. The bill also mandates the Government Accountability Office to study the potential impact of cannabis legalization on traffic safety, and removes a provision from last year’s bill regarding hemp that was addressed in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“The STATES Act is being reintroduced at a key moment when bipartisan support for cannabis policy reform is at historic levels in both chambers of Congress and among the general public,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Regulating cannabis is successfully replacing illicit markets with licensed businesses in a growing number of states across the country. This legislation will simply allow those state regulatory programs to succeed without federal interference.”

During his confirmation hearings earlier this year, Attorney General William Barr stated verbally and in writing that he would not direct the Dept. of Justice to target cannabis businesses or individuals that are in compliance with state cannabis laws, but individual federal prosecutors are still able to do so legally at their own discretion, creating uncertainty at the state level. The STATES Act would codify the policy reiterated by Barr into law.

In June, President Trump said he would probably support the legislation if it came to his desk for approval, and noted several times during his campaign that he was in favor of leaving cannabis issues up to the states.

There are currently several cannabis reform bills being considered in Congress, including the SAFE Banking Act, which would provide safe harbor for financial institutions that choose to work with cannabis businesses and which was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in a bipartisan vote last week.

Cannabis is legal for adults in ten states and the District of Columbia, and 33 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states, and dozens of states are considering cannabis policy reform legislation this year. This week, the governor of Guam signed a legalization bill into law.