Fireside Chats with NCIA’s Government Relations Team: HHS Recommends Rescheduling; Now What?

NCIA’s #IndustryEssentials webinar series is our premier digital educational platform featuring a variety of interactive programs allowing us to provide you timely, engaging and essential education when you need it most. The Fireside Chat series of NCIA’s #IndustryEssentials webinars are an opportunity for industry professionals to hear from our government relations team and guests about the latest developments in federal policy LIVE.

For more than fifty years, the federal government has maintained that cannabis is a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value.

That recently changed when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that cannabis be placed in Schedule III, meaning that it has moderate to low abuse potential, a currently accepted medical use, and a low potential for psychological dependence.

There’s no doubt this move was an historic one– but what does it mean? What’s next? How will it impact your business?

Join NCIA’s Aaron Smith and Michelle Rutter Friberg as they unpack all these questions and more! Register today and don’t miss your chance to hear from two of the foremost government relations experts in the cannabis industry.


Aaron Smith
Chief Executive Officer
National Cannabis Industry Association

Michelle Rutter Friberg
Director of Government Relations
National Cannabis Industry Association

Member Blog: What Does The SAFE Banking Act Mean for the Cannabis Insurance Landscape? 

by Valerie Taylor, Vice President (National Cannabis Practice Leader), The Liberty Company Insurance Brokers

As an insurance professional and broker who worked with more than 70 cannabis clients, I have seen firsthand how the lack of access to traditional banking services has affected cannabis businesses. The cannabis industry has faced many hurdles since its inception, and access to traditional banking services has been one of the biggest obstacles. This has created significant challenges for cannabis businesses, forcing them to operate on a cash-only basis and creating safety concerns.

The SAFE Banking Act is a necessary step toward creating a more supportive regulatory environment for the cannabis industry. The act would provide greater transparency into financial transactions and encourage more insurance companies to enter the market. This would benefit not only the cannabis clients but also the insurance companies by providing greater coverage options.

The current situation has a significant impact on the life of a cannabis business owner/operator. Banking with a cannabis bank can be expensive, driving down profits. Cashless ATMs and payment processing platforms have costs associated with them, which also drive down profits or are pushed onto the consumer. Additionally, accepting cash increases the risk of theft, leading to the need for expensive security measures. What’s more, investing in an adequate safe is required by insurance carriers, which can also be costly and further drive down profits. Due to the cash-intensive nature of the business, insurance companies offer limited coverage on cash.

Passing the SAFE Banking Act could help solve these issues by providing cannabis businesses with greater access to banking services, which would help them manage their finances more efficiently and effectively. This would also provide greater transparency into financial transactions, making it easier for insurance companies to assess risk and provide coverage options.

Moreover, the passage of the SAFE Banking Act would help create a more supportive regulatory environment for the cannabis industry. The current lack of access to traditional banking services has created significant challenges for cannabis businesses, forcing them to operate in a largely unregulated environment. This makes it difficult for them to comply with regulations and puts them at a disadvantage compared to other industries.

The cannabis industry is still in its early stages, and it requires significant capital to operate. Without access to traditional banking services, cannabis businesses struggle to obtain loans or lines of credit, making it difficult for them to grow and expand. Passing the SAFE Banking Act would provide cannabis businesses with greater access to capital, which would help them invest in their businesses and drive growth.

Finally, passing the SAFE Banking Act would benefit insurance companies as well. By providing greater coverage options, insurance companies would be better able to serve the needs of the cannabis industry. Additionally, the act would encourage more insurance companies to enter the market, which would increase competition and drive down costs for cannabis clients.

Overall, passing the SAFE Banking Act is a necessary step toward creating a more supportive regulatory environment for the cannabis industry. It would provide cannabis businesses with greater access to banking services, help them manage their finances more efficiently and effectively, and provide them with greater access to capital. This would benefit both cannabis clients and insurance companies, and I strongly believe that policymakers should take swift action to support this growing industry.

Valerie Taylor, Producer, Vice President and National Cannabis Practice Leader, The Liberty Company Insurance Brokers

Valerie has over 16 years of experience in the insurance industry with specialized niches in cannabis, real estate, and community associations.  With experience working for companies such as McDermott Costa Insurance Brokers, AmWINS Group, Inc., Commercial Coverage Ins. Agency, and Colemont Insurance Brokers, Valerie has developed a love of helping clients navigate the world of insurance by creating an understanding of the value behind insuring their business. In addition to her professional work, Valerie serves as the CREW East Bay Chair on the Programs Committee, is a National Cannabis Bar Association member, NCIA member, and volunteers in East Bay communities with Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library to show people how to save vegetable seeds and grow their own food. In 2021, Valerie received the 2021 and 2022 CREW East Bay Connections Award and was a nominee for the Elevate 2021 Industry Impact award.

With a drive and passion for helping people, Valerie has gone back to her long-standing roots in the plant medicine industry and uses her unique lens of growing up surrounded by cultivators and sellers to validate her client’s business needs. Valerie strives to break the mold of how insurance and cannabis has partnered together to give back to the community she grew up in. With a strong insurance background and an in-depth knowledge of the cannabis industry, Valerie has been a trusted advisor for over 70 cannabis clients.

For more information on Liberty’s National Cannabis Practice Group, please reach out to Valerie Taylor, Vice President (National Cannabis Practice Leader), The Liberty Company Insurance Brokers. 


Equity Member Spotlight – Back to D.C. for Lobby Days

by Mike Lomuto, DEI Manager

For the second time in nine months, NCIA’s DEI Program organized a DEI Delegation as part of our annual Lobby Days on Capitol Hill. 

The DEI Delegation consists of some of the foremost advocates for Social Equity from across the country. Their leadership within their state and local communities, as well as within NCIA’s Committee structure, greatly bolsters the lobbying efforts of our organization as a whole, all year round.

Our Delegates weighed in on the organization’s talking points ahead of the event, and then provided an important perspective on the Hill.  As part of NCIA’s lobbying on behalf of the industry, our members focused on SAFE Banking, 280E Reform, Comprehensive Legalization, Veterans Affairs, and more.

Thanks to TILT Holdings and Evergreen Market for sponsoring this very important initiative. 

As stakeholders in the cannabis industry, it is important that we learn how to also properly advocate for ourselves and for others from diverse communities around the country.

We’ve already begun raising funds for next year’s DEI Delegation. If you want to ensure the return of this initiative, while also receiving year-round recognition, reach out to

2023’s Lobby Days DEI Delegation:

Raina Jackson, Purple Raina; DEI Committee Organizer and Policy & Regs Subcommittee Chair
Dr. Adrian Adams, CGO at Northeast Extracts; NCIA’s DEI Committee; M4MM’s NY State Director
Vanessa Valdovinos, HUSH; NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising Committee Organizer
Anthony Jenkins, Next Level Edibles; NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee


This is your first year as a Delegate. Why was it important to you to participate?


Participating in Lobby Days allowed me to contribute my personal experiences, expertise, and insights as someone running a small business in a highly regulated market. I wanted to have a voice in shaping legislation related to crucial topics that are important to me like providing an equitable pathway in the cannabis space. By being present at Lobby Days, I could truly contribute to the development of policies that would essentially help shape policies that promote a safe, inclusive, and thriving cannabis industry for the benefit of all.

You were a member of last year’s Delegation. Tell us why you chose to return this year, and how your experience last year influenced your game plan for this year.

Dr. Adrian:

Last year was more about figuring out who in each office was the one driving the cannabis policy car, if you will, meeting them where they were, and schooling them up. This year we did a better job as a small group in each office using each of our bios to tell an impactful story regarding the impact of SAFE Banking and 280E, and tying it to what some offices have done in their home district.


It was a wonderful experience to participate in Lobby Days 2023, especially after attending last September for the first time and learning so much. I appreciate that this year’s meetings were extended over two days, following in-person training at the glorious Michael Best Strategies office penthouse.

Like last year, I found that most Congressional staffers are quite open-minded and seek to understand our points of view to correctly convey them to the lawmakers they serve. I learned that we don’t have to agree on every single detail to come to a compromise, especially since the People have spoken and demand some form of safe cannabis access and decriminalization nationwide. Bipartisan efforts must match public opinion.

What were the main takeaways from your experience on Capitol Hill?


Most staffers were not familiar with 280E and how it disproportionately burdens cannabis businesses with paying upwards of 50 to 70% of revenue towards federal, state, and local taxes without the tax write-offs other industries enjoy at a 30% standard rate.The new proposed Small Business Tax Equity Act eliminating 280E for cannabis businesses would greatly improve the economic landscape, while still representing a net gain for the national economy. This credit would allow more businesses to stay afloat and continue to pay taxes at a more equitable rate over a longer period. Everybody wins!

Dr. Adrian:

SAFE Banking could potentially happen sooner than I thought if it originates from the Senate side. 


My main experience in Capitol Hill taught me that with planning and footwork, it is possible to reach elected officials, even highly ranked officials like US Senators.  And from the feedback we received from both Democrats and Republicans, most representatives are on board with all 3 (hemp updates, 280e reform, SAFE Banking).


One of my main takeaways from this experience was the immense value of hearing personal stories that shed light on the diverse perspectives within a highly regulated market. By listening to the struggles and triumphs shared by individuals, I gained a deeper understanding of the challenges we all face on a day-to-day basis. I also realized that by sharing our own truths and insights, we can provide invaluable perspectives that others can learn from. Personal stories have the ability to bridge gaps in understanding and create empathy, which are crucial for the progress of any industry.


An important component of Lobby Days is the in-person training session. This year, Reggie Babin provided some great insights. As the former Chief Counsel to Senator Charles Schumer, who worked directly on the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, his words resonated throughout the room and our lobbying efforts over the ensuing two days. One thing that stuck with me is when Reggie compared the ten years it had just taken to get reform through on a non-cannabis issue. That bill had strong sentimental support and near-unanimous public opinion on its side. Given that context, it made it clear that we’re on schedule for SAFE Banking. It also means we need to be pushing on other legislation that may likewise take many years to push through.

He also pointed out how any one conversation that we have could be the one that flips the vote that is the final domino on passing legislation. That’s why our stories are so important.

What did you learn from your experience that you’d like others to know?


As NCIA DEI Delegates we must control our own narratives and help illuminate the state of our industry by putting names and faces to our stories and sharing our triumphs and pain points. I’m glad we are revisiting the SAFE Banking Bill, which is vital to public safety and economic growth along the supply chain. It is paramount that the bill is passed in any version initially, with room for amendments to weave PLUS equity initiatives into the fabric. 

Dr. Adrian:

The circle of leaders at the top of the cannabis industry is relatively small and many of those folks attend the lobby days of groups like M4MM and NCIA. Your attendance is good for business as well as for the creation of informed public policy. 


Another important lesson I learned was the significance of building relationships. Engaging with lawmakers directly and sharing my own personal experiences and insights was a driving force for me. It was inspiring to witness their genuine interest in hearing directly from industry professionals. Establishing meaningful connections with policymakers is key so that our industry is properly understood and represented.


I learned that an impassioned personal message goes a lot further than you think. Which is why we need you next year. Because we need our officials to hear your story, and how these issues affect you, your business, and your family daily.

What’s something you loved about visiting D.C. outside of the Lobby Days activities?


It was the opportunity to connect with my fellow members on a deeper level that truly resonated with me. During our time together, I had the privilege of hearing their unique personal stories and gaining a deeper understanding of what had motivated them to participate in Lobby Days. These stories were inspiring and just reminded me of the incredible passion and dedication within our community.

The personal stories, the camaraderie, and the bonds we formed have created a network of support and friendship that extends far beyond the event itself. It was a truly special aspect of the trip that I will cherish for years to come.

Dr. Adrian:

Just seeing the unique D.C. cannabis market in action with entrepreneurs like Barry Doyle/Embers and others holding unique events. As Anthony Jenkins from San Francisco put it, “it was like seeing the future of cannabis in the U.S.”


I appreciated that this year my group had time between and after meetings to visit D.C. landmarks like the Botanical Garden, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, and the Washington Monument. I even extended my stay to experience the phenomenal National Museum of African American History and Culture.


The botanical garden was dope!

P.S. Something else I’d like to note is that in the weeks leading up to Lobby Days, I embarked on the Equity Workshop Tour, a series of workshops held in four cities, bringing together industry stakeholders, leaders, advocates, and regulators. This experience was highly informative for me to hear all these stories prior to our lobbying work in D.C. It was also great to see some of the same faces that I had seen across the Tour again in D.C!

NCIA Members United in D.C. at Lobby Days! Join Us Next Year!

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

Essentially every industry and association with a presence in Washington, D.C. hosts their own lobby days, advocacy days, or fly-ins – whatever you want to call them – where their members come to the Capitol to lobby Congress on their respective industry and legislative issues. 

Thanks to NCIA, the cannabis industry is no different. In fact, just a few weeks ago, more than 100 members of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) descended upon Capitol Hill for NCIA’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Association Lobby Days. Lobby Days are an opportunity to advocate for our industry and tell Capitol Hill staff about the real, lived, on-the-ground experiences that cannabis professionals experience daily. 

Planning 150+ meetings over the course of two days with 100+ attendees and 21 teams is about as easy as it sounds. That’s not to mention the multiple events, a congressional briefing, and training sessions! But that’s exactly what the NCIA team does for our members every spring. At lobby days, NCIA members gather to amplify our message and make their voices heard in the halls of Congress, while simultaneously forging strong relationships with the most influential leaders in the cannabis industry.

With more than 80 freshman members in Congress this session and multiple bills that have yet to be reintroduced, we wanted to focus our efforts on educating new members about the issues the cannabis industry – and the people that comprise it – face regularly. Many of these members and their staff have never heard of 280E, haven’t had to vote on SAFE Banking (yet!), and are on the fence about legalization, while others have never even talked with a cannabis professional. As a result, it was incredibly important to us that we reach out to those offices and provide them with the resources they need to best inform their position on the various policy areas that cannabis touches. 


After arriving in D.C., attendees were greeted with a tropical vibe at our welcome reception at Tiki TnT & Potomac Distilling Company. This gave teams an opportunity to meet up ahead of meetings and mingle with other professionals who made the trip. The next day, we all gathered bright and (very) early for our mandatory breakfast training ahead of shuttling to the Capitol grounds for our group photo. At the training, attendees were able to grab a quick bite to eat, drink some coffee, get together with their teams, and get the final “do’s and don’ts” for their meetings. After our training and group photo, our teams split off for their meetings and reconvened at the end of the day for our stunning closing reception. There, attendees debriefed after an incredibly productive day and unwound with beautiful views, some drinks, and a dreamy jazz band. On the final day, attendees began their morning with a Senate briefing focused on SAFE Banking, where they rubbed elbows with congressional staff. Post-briefing, teams broke off for their final meetings, and just like that, lobby days 2023 was a wrap! 

It’s no secret that the cannabis industry is undergoing significant struggles and we’re feeling that squeeze in Washington, D.C. Many companies have downsized and laid off government relations professionals, while others continue to just hope that Congress will pass reform magically. The truth is that lobbying, advocating, and being active in the legislative process are critical to moving our industry forward. Stay tuned for other citizen lobbying opportunities, and take it to the next level by sponsoring NCIA’s 12th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in 2024!



Long-Awaited Cannabis Bills Introduced

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

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

Finally… SAFE Banking

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Small Business Tax Equity Act

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

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

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

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


NCIA Today – Thursday, April 6, 2023

Join NCIA Director of Communication Bethany Moore for an update on what’s going on with NCIA and our members. This week we discuss 13 women scientists you NEED to know, our recent podcast check-ins with members of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, discuss a recent letter NCIA sent to the Congressional Banking and Finance Committees, and look forward to the remainder of our city events coast-to-coast leading up to Lobby Days in May.


Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, February 9, 2023

NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on LinkedIN for NCIA Today Live.





Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, December 15, 2022

It’s the final episode of NCIA Today for the year 2022! NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.


Reform Whiplash in Washington

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

Last week, cannabis advocates were dealt another blow with the exclusion of the SAFE Banking Act (SAFE+) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That being said, all hope is not lost—the government runs out of funding this Friday, 12/16, and members of Congress are working hard to craft an omnibus bill that may present another opportunity for SAFE+.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed their version of the NDAA — which did include the language of the SAFE Banking Act. Since then, all eyes have been on the Senate, where negotiations over the inclusion of “SAFE+” to the NDAA have been the focus. There was much discussion over what exactly the “plus” in SAFE+ would include, but there was no doubt that the HOPE Act would be a part of that, and potentially the GRAM Act. As of a few weeks ago, NCIA and other advocates were feeling cautiously optimistic about the possibility of SAFE+ being passed via the NDAA.

That was until Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor last Tuesday to specifically call out SAFE+. He said:

“House and Senate Democrats are still obstructing efforts to close out the NDAA by trying to jam in unrelated items with no relationship whatsoever to defense. We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities — making our financial system more sympathetic to illegal drugs or the phony, partisan permitting reform and name-only language that’s already failed to pass the Senate earlier this year. If Democrats wanted these controversial items so badly, they had two years to move them across the floor. Heck, they could have scheduled those matters for votes this week. But no, we’re doing more mid-level nominations, while Democrats keep threatening to take our Armed Forces hostage over those extraneous matters.

Leader McConnell even gloated about the exclusion of SAFE+ later in the week, saying, “just as Republicans insisted, just as our service members deserve, this NDAA is not getting dragged down by unrelated liberal nonsense. Good smart policies were kept in and unrelated nonsense like easier financing for illegal drugs was kept out.”

While the NDAA is slated to pass the Senate and be signed into law over the coming days, NCIA is continuing to pursue all options for passing SAFE+, including the omnibus bill that Congress is negotiating (currently) behind closed doors.

In other political news, the runoff election between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Hershel Walker (R) was held in Georgia last week, with Sen. Warnock winning. This meant that Democrats held a 51-49 majority over Republicans; that is until Sen. Kyrsten Sinema decided late last week to change her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. Like the other two Independent Senators (Angus King [ME] and Bernie Sanders [VT]), she plans to caucus with the Democrats. Regardless, the announcement came as a surprise to many.

While the clock may be running out, NCIA won’t stop advocating for SAFE+ and other cannabis issues to be passed into law.



Cannabis Reform – Legislative Victory and What Is To Come

by Madeline Grant, Government Relations Manager

After months of focused attention on the long-anticipated midterm elections, the U.S. Senate has finally approved the House-passed bipartisan cannabis research bill under unanimous consent. It marks the first time a standalone piece of cannabis legislation has ever been sent to the president’s desk. H.R. 8454, the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, was filed in July and quickly moved through the House before being taken up by the Senate.

When signed by President Biden, H.R. 8454 will open the door for new innovative treatments derived from cannabis. Leader Schumer stated ahead of the vote, “If you’re one of the millions of Americans who deal with conditions like Parkinson’s or epilepsy or post-traumatic stress, or any number of other conditions, cannabis might hold promising new options for managing these diseases,” according to Marijuana Moment.

Under the legislation, the U.S. attorney general would be given a 60-day deadline to either approve a given application or request supplemental information from the marijuana research applicant. It would create a more efficient pathway for researchers who request larger quantities of cannabis. Additionally, the bill would encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived medicines. To do this, the bill would allow accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule 1 registration to cultivate their own cannabis for research purposes. Another section would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to look at the health benefits and risk of cannabis as well as policies that are inhibiting research into cannabis that’s grown in legal states and provide recommendations on overcoming those barriers. 

The point – the passage of this legislation finally sets the agencies in motion to allow the needed cannabis research we’ve been waiting for in the United States. The Senate passage of H.R. 8454 comes at the heels of when President Joe Biden issued a mass marijuana pardon and directed a review of the drug’s scheduling status. Just before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor that is continuing to have “productive talks” about a broader package of cannabis reforms he hopes to pass before the end of the lame-duck session. 

As the legislative days grow shorter and we near the end of the 117th Congress, the NCIA Government Relations team will continue to be a resource for congressional offices on both sides of the aisle during the lame-duck session. Bipartisan and bicameral offices have been in negotiations about the so-called SAFE Plus package for months and we will continue to monitor any action as it moves forward. 

If you are a Blooming or Evergreen NCIA member please make sure you attend our Government Relations update on December 6 at 3:30 pm EST.

We want to hear from you! A portion will be dedicated to answering your specific questions you submit through registration. This will be very interactive and a great way to get to know the Government Relations team. If you are a Blooming or Evergreen member, please go ahead and register HERE. Please be sure to submit questions so we can make sure to include time to answer all of them.

Please stay tuned for updates and more information to come. If you have any questions or want to learn more about how you can get involved with NCIA please contact 

Member Blog: Future Of FDIC Easing for Cannabis Banking After Biden Decriminalizes Marijuana

by Joshua Gilstrap, e2b teknologies

Over the years, the simple possession or use of cannabis has seen many lives upended by arrests and criminal convictions. Unfairly, racial disparities have determined that black and brown individuals suffer most of these convictions, arrests, and prosecutions, even though white individuals use and possess cannabis at similar rates. The resulting criminal records lead to individuals being denied fundamental rights to employment, housing, and education opportunities.

However, on October 6, 2022, President Biden made an announcement that could change the cannabis and criminal clemency conversation. The president asserted he would:

  • grant pardons to individuals with prior low-level federal cannabis possession offenses
  • change federal cannabis laws by reviewing the cannabis Schedule I rule.

The federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance puts it in the same category as more lethal drugs like heroin and LSD while drugs like fentanyl are not considered less severe than marijuana since it falls under Schedule II.

As more states legalize the sale and use of cannabis, the classification of Schedule I no longer makes sense. Additionally, more direct research on the proper utilization of marijuana can develop suitable restrictive and preventative measures to protect against harmful outcomes of cannabis use.

The Biden initiative is crucial because it can begin to remove the burden of employment, education, and housing limitations often experienced by individuals with simple cannabis possession convictions. Besides, if marijuana is rescheduled to Schedule II, or as many advocates champion for a complete descheduling, it could mean the end of cannabis prohibition altogether.

Widespread Support for this Initiative

Nearly 70% of Americans support the President’s pardon proclamation. Publicly, two in three Americans support Biden’s plan for cannabis reforms, and three in four support the removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Bipartisan support for this move is also high, with 74% of Independents, 84% of Democrats, and 58% of Republicans backing the proposal. At the state level, 68% of respondents support governors that want to issue pardons for people with low-level cannabis possession convictions.

Why This is Important

The expeditious review process requested by President Biden has the potential to open the cannabis industry to further changes, like the easing of banking restrictions for cannabis businesses. For instance, the call for action by governors is already inspiring many to rethink state and local relief for marijuana users. Kentucky, Colorado, and Kansas are three states already actively considering enacting the Biden pardons and drafting new reform bills for marijuana cases. 

The Colorado governor is pushing Congress to pass a bipartisan banking bill on marijuana.

“The lack of safe banking and financial services for the cannabis industry in the State of Colorado has become a dire public safety issue for highly regulated cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state law,” Gov. Jared Polis’ office wrote to House and Senate leaders.

“Further, the lack of safe banking exacerbates the uneven playing field faced by small and minority-owned cannabis businesses, despite their serving the same communities and being subject to the same increased state regulation as other cannabis businesses in the State,” the letter said.

It’s true – over the years, the cannabis industry has dealt with a lack of financial and banking services because of the strict regulations and criminalization associated with marijuana. Consequently, this has resulted in severe public safety issues, even for cannabis businesses that operate within the compliance mandates of the state law.

Additionally, operators are disadvantaged because they lack funding or banking systems that support cannabis business processes. But following Biden’s pardon, many hope that Congress’ marijuana reform will pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act for the industry.

If passed, the protection against armed robbery will increase. Also, the SAFE Banking Act will support the minority, veterans, and women who own small cannabis businesses. This, in turn, is expected to improve public safety amid the growing use of cannabis and cannabis products while simultaneously creating jobs within states.

Ushering in the Era of Cannabis Banking and FDIC

Even though the SAFE Banking Act has been in the House of Congress seven times, federally insured banking services and modern digital banking solutions like electronic payment processing are still inaccessible to the cannabis industry.

The Act lags in the senate under Democratic and Republican control. However, the senate is said to be preparing to enact the reform for the SAFE Banking Act as part of the Biden marijuana proposals. And why not? There is significant support for the SAFE Banking Act.

For instance, National Association of State Treasures members have voiced their support for the SAFE Banking Act. Public policy also demands the immediate relief the ACT will provide cannabis businesses. Therefore, the expectation that leaders in the government will push for banking reforms for cannabis businesses is prevalent.

The SAFE Banking Act is an Advocate for the War on Drugs

Many believe that the baking legislation would advocate for the war on drugs because it would offer protection against the risk of robbery and violence. By denying cash-based cannabis businesses access to the traditional financial system, the state and local governments provide an invitation threat that has seen many victims working in cannabis businesses lose their lives or livelihoods.

On the other hand, the right to payment solutions, like credit cards, protects against armed robbery. Nonetheless, for the banking legislation to work, it requires the support of criminal reforms. This is where initiatives like predicant Biden’s pardon and marijuana schedule reform come in.

The SAFE Banking Act will solve the injustice associated with financial inequality, thus, providing public safety that protects customers, employees, and businesses in the cannabis industry. And with reduced invitations for armed robberies working in tandem with the use of mandated cannabis products, the war on drugs will ensue.

Cannabis Businesses Contribute Equally to the Economy

As such, it is only fair to provide them with the same rights and protections that other businesses, whether big or small, enjoy. Therefore, starting with the push to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, not just at the federal level but at the state level, is a solid place to start.

Following this pardon with an advocacy of the SAFE Banking Act will additionally provide cannabis businesses with the capability to carry out operations securely and optimally. But attention must be paid to the details pertinent to these reforms to ensure thousands of convicts get a better chance at life and cannabis businesses get opportunities to continue contributing to the economy. 


What does President Biden’s pardon for marijuana possession entail?

President Biden’s cannabis reform initiatives are set to accomplish three things:

  1. Pardon convicts with low-level marijuana possession offenses, thus, allowing them to get housing, education, and employment without prejudice
  2. Reduce the marijuana Schedule level on the Controlled Substances Act from Schedule I to Schedule II, which lessens the seriousness of marijuana possession
  3. Inspire governors to offer the same pardons at the state and local levels where most marijuana convictions are carried out

Is there support for President Biden’s announcement?

Yes. There is ample support from the public and bipartisan control for Biden’s pardon and advocacy for the marijuana schedule change in the Controlled Substances Act.

What would the pardon mean for cannabis banking?

The de-scheduling of the marijuana Controlled Substances Act would remove the many legal hurdles and fears of the financial institutions that keep them from supporting cannabis businesses. This would reduce the discriminatory risks associated with banking or financing cannabis businesses. 

Joshua Gilstrap is the Marketing Manager for e2b teknologies, in addition to his marketing responsibilities Joshua leads business development for e2b teknologies emerging Canna Suite product line. A business graduate with a focus in marketing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he joined the e2b team in the Fall of 2019. Josh brought with him a wide array of business and practical experience in planning and execution. Since coming aboard he has led multiple projects including website hosting and theme standardization company wide, marketing automation streamlining the efficiency of the customer journey, and sales automation where he is changing the conversation from promotion to education, from pitching to catching, and from push to pull in order to keep up with the shifting tides of a digital transformation.

Member Blog: Reaching The Highest Common Denominator

by Raina Jackson, Founder & CEO of PURPLE RAINA Self Care
Member of NCIA’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (DEIC)

This past September I had the pleasure of lobbying in D.C. for the first time as part of NCIA’s 10th Annual Lobby Days. The lobbying process was demystified for me, and I found that lobbying isn’t easy, but it isn’t that hard when you share your talking points from your heart, representing your own and others’ experiences. I learned that the NCIA delegation shares more common ground than we realized with Congressmembers, especially through their younger and more hip staffers and family members. One senator has a daughter who used to be a budtender and now podcasts about the industry, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).

I was encouraged by how receptive legislative aides and advisors were to the factual talking points and statistics NCIA provided us to appeal to their sense of reason and fairness. They recognized the public health and economic benefits cannabis has delivered and its potential, without being distracted by useless moral arguments against it. Our team gave an overview of the cannabis landscape and advocated while offering solutions to our varied struggles as cannabis entrepreneurs.  

  • We highlighted that 47 states have adopted some form of cannabis commerce and decriminalization, representing 97.7% of the U.S. population! The majority of the American public demands safe access to cannabis. Why not ride the wave? 
  • Cannabis has been found to be a “gateway” medicine for a more safe withdrawal from opioid addiction, especially crucial to states experiencing high overdose death rates. 
  • We discussed the DEA recently approved funds for even more substantial clinical research on the myriad of proven and potential health benefits delivered by the cannabis plant in a wide range of forms. Yet existing cannabis research is often more robust and held to higher standards than over the counter aspirin. Many pharmaceutical drugs are advertised on TV as the best thing since sliced bread one day (albeit with alarming potential side effects), then next named in TV ads for class action lawsuits for their harmful effects. 

A case for an enhanced SAFE Banking Act 

The legal U.S. cannabis market is valued at $17.7 billion, with a substantial amount unbanked, causing a public safety crisis. Our discussions illuminated our common ground regarding the public safety improvements and economic benefits that the bipartisan supported SAFE Banking Act will bring to each state choosing to introduce its own customized hemp CBD/low THC, medical, or adult recreational cannabis program.

  • When compliantly banked these funds will offer financial institutions of all sizes more capital for lending to spur economic recovery and a safer industry. While no financial institution will be required to participate, the risk mitigation and sizable financial benefits can’t be ignored. 
  • SAFE will remove the risk of federal prosecution for compliant financial institutions already offering banking to cannabis businesses, while encouraging more banks and credit unions to join them. Too many existing entities providing cannabis banking services tend to mitigate risk by charging exorbitant monthly fees, financially hobbling startup cannabis businesses or excluding them altogether. 
  • SAFE would also support hemp CBD businesses like mine, still navigated the grey area regarding access to banking, loans, leases/mortgages, and payment processing.

In my follow-up email to the Congressional aides and advisors we met with, I attached a white paper authored by the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CCRC) offering best practices for increasing financial access to cannabis businesses, prioritizing groups that have been historically underserved by traditional financial institutions and disproportionately harmed by prohibition.

What’s next?

This regulated cannabis industry is so new that we must allow each other some grace as stakeholders. As cannabis advocates, we have learned that “calling people in” for discussions on the benefits of the SAFE Banking Act and comprehensive cannabis reform is more effective than “calling them out.” 

Elected officials and their staff don’t understand first-hand what we experience as cannabis entrepreneurs, and many care more than I expected. Lobbying and sending them emails on new and modified policy recommendations helps them to be well-informed enough to support us. My highlight was meeting with a CA legislative aide who is a fellow CA native and sincerely wanted to be updated on my progress and pain points. We all had a laugh about him agreeing to let me go into “the weeds” concerning the licensing process, pun intended. 

Since Lobby Days, President Biden announced the upcoming FDA and DEA review of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. It could potentially be de-scheduling within the next 12 to18 months! However, to date, only seven states provide licensing priority, exclusivity, or set aside a percentage of licenses for qualified social equity applicants. The same way the SAFE Banking act should be passed with amendments fostering equity, state, and future federally legalized cannabis programs must include targeted equity programs to help level the playing field. I look forward to returning to D.C. in May for 2023 NCIA Lobby Days!

Raina Jackson is a multifaceted cannabis brand strategist, product developer, and advocate, and is the founder & CEO of PURPLE RAINA Self Care, the culmination of her love for beauty wellness products, the color purple, and the musical and cultural phenomenon Prince. For the past 7 years she has worked in the San Francisco Bay Area cannabis industry in sales management, field marketing, distribution, and product development, and a verified SF Cannabis Equity applicant in Oakland and San Francisco. For the past year she has served on the NCIA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and the Regulatory Compliance subcommittee.

Raina has over 15 years of experience in beauty/wellness care product development, sales/ marketing management, and product education at Maybelline, L’Oréal Professional, and Design Essentials Salon System and has taught cosmetology at The Aveda Institute in SoHo NYC. A San Francisco native, Raina earned a B.A. degree in cultural anthropology and linguistics from Stanford University and an MBA in marketing and management from NYU.


Midterm Election Wins, Losses, and the Lame Duck Session

Photo By

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

Last week, the long-anticipated 2022 midterm elections (finally) took place. In addition to the usual House and Senate elections, five states voted on cannabis ballot initiatives: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota – with only two of those passing successfully. Let’s take a look at what transpired and what it means for the lame duck session and possibly the 118th Congress:

Ballot Initiatives

Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota were all faced with a similar question on election day: whether or not to legalize cannabis for adult use. Unfortunately, three of the five initiatives did not gather enough support to pass: Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

The results for Maryland’s referendum came in early on election night with a decisive victory: more than 65% of voters cast their ballots in support. They were asked “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?” Now that the measure has been approved by voters, it will require the legislature to put forth a bill that will set basic regulations for the adult-use cannabis program.

Missouri voters also approved Amendment 3, which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, as well as impose a six percent tax on recreational cannabis sales and use the revenue to facilitate automatic expungements for people with certain non-violent marijuana offenses on their records. The amendment garnered 53% of the vote.

This gives advocates an increase in the number of representatives and four more Senators from legal states, most notably those from Missouri, who are both avid conservatives and have not supported cannabis reform broadly in the past. 

House of Representatives

Although Republicans are still projected to win the House, the margins are shaping up to be narrower than initially predicted. It takes 218 seats to win a majority in the chamber, and as of publication, Republicans hold 212 with a number of districts still yet to be called. 

The change in party control means a change in leadership and shake-ups at the committee level. Minority Leader McCarthy is expected to run for Speaker of the House, while Minority Whip Steve Scalise has thrown his hat in the ring for Majority Leader – but there’s much uncertainty and infighting within the caucus. 


Control of the Senate will remain in the hands of Democrats. Over the weekend, Nevada’s Senate race was called for incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto – making Georgia’s runoff election slightly less contentious. 

A closely watched Senate race in Pennsylvania flipped in favor of Democrats: legalization advocate John Fetterman (D) defeated TV-personality and New Jersey resident Dr. Oz (R). We continue to closely monitor the races in Alaska and Arizona and what their outcomes may mean for cannabis reform. 

Lame Duck Session

The likelihood of a split Congress means that the lame duck session happening between now and January will be jam-packed. In addition to must-pass legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and a budget/omnibus bill of some type, Democrats will also be focused on other topics like judicial nominations, the debt ceiling, and hopefully the SAFE Banking Act. 

Biden’s Announcement, SAFE Banking, and the CAOA

Photo By

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

October has been a mixed bag in Washington, D.C. in terms of cannabis policy: there hasn’t been much news from Capitol Hill, but the Biden Administration shocked everyone when they made a big announcement earlier this month. As we draw nearer to the midterm elections in November (don’t forget to register!), let’s take a look at where things stand currently: 

On Capitol Hill:

SAFE Banking Act

The SAFE Banking Act (S. 910) has been held up in the Senate for more than a year now. Many Senate Democrats (including Leader Schumer) have been pushing for changes to the bill to create a “SAFE +” bill that includes justice-focused provisions. As with all things in politics, a delicate balance must be kept in order to reach 60 votes in the hyper-partisan Senate. 

The good news: Leader Schumer and other Democrats have been in negotiations with lead-Republican co-sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and others to determine what “SAFE +” could look like. Those discussions have been occurring for a few weeks now and will continue. 

The bad news: those negotiations are taking time. As a result, you shouldn’t expect any legislative movement to occur until after the midterm elections. 

There’s also the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to consider. The House passed and sent the FY2023 NDAA to the Senate months ago and the large package did include the language of the SAFE Banking Act (as currently written). It’s unclear how the SAFE+ negotiations may impact cannabis banking’s chances in the NDAA: Leader Schumer could make sure the language is not in the NDAA if he feels confident about SAFE+’s chances. 


Unfortunately, there’s no substantive news regarding the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), or comprehensive reform broadly on Capitol Hill right now. While NCIA and others continue to push for descheduling and responsible regulations from Congress, the upcoming election and Senate timeline have taken precedent. It’s unlikely that CAOA will move this legislative session given the number of legislative days left in the year.

From the Administration:

Earlier this month, ​​President Biden made an unprecedented announcement that his administration would begin the process for the pardoning of thousands of people with nonviolent marijuana use or possession convictions, and would begin the process of working with the Department of Health and Human Services to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act.

This announcement comes on the heels of NCIA’s successful 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days held in mid-September, where 100 cannabis industry professionals, representing small and medium-sized businesses including social equity operators, met with more than 100 Congressional offices to discuss barriers faced by the industry stemming from marijuana prohibition.

It’s no coincidence that when NCIA members show up to D.C., big things happen! Make sure to stay informed as we head towards the lame duck session via our newsletter and social media platforms and don’t forget to register for NCIA’s upcoming 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in May 2023! 

Video: Insights From NCIA’s 10th Annual Lobby Days

“I think it was really successful on all fronts.
Whether it be the networking aspect, VIP access to key decision makers, or just the ability to get to know people both fellow cannabis business owners and congressional leaders.
Lobby Days was a perfect example of really putting the membership into work and seeing what it is that you pay for.”
Chris Jackson, NCIA Board Member


Join us May 16-18, 2023 as we return to Washington, D.C. for NCIA’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days!

Are you interested in sponsorship opportunities for your company at NCIA’s most important policy event of the year? Contact us at to find out more!
Read more and see photos in this blog post “Lobby Days Post-Summer Haze.”

Committee Blog: Four Tips for Cannabis Businesses to Maintain Cannabis Friendly Financial Services

by Kameron Richards and Steven Schain
Members of NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee

Obtaining legitimate, cannabis-friendly financial services is among the cannabis industry’s biggest hurdles. Obtaining financial services is challenging for dispensaries, marijuana grows, and testing labs but it could also be an obstacle for non-plant touching businesses or individuals engaged in the cannabis industry. Without cannabis-friendly financial services, individuals and businesses related to the cannabis industry are deprived of simple financial solutions, like checking accounts, resulting in large amounts of cash being held at company facilities or the operator’s residence, posing significant risks.

Because only a small amount of insured banks and credit unions offer cannabis businesses financial services, finding cannabis-friendly financial services offered by FDIC or NCUA/CUNA institutions is challenging, and following a certain approach may fortify the longevity of a relationship with a financial institution.

Know Your Company Information and Banking Needs 

Thorough onboarding initiates the account opening process for cannabis companies seeking financial services. Cannabis-friendly financial institutions exercise enhanced due diligence at account opening for compliance purposes, which will be further discussed in this article. 

Financial institutions may require information on state licensing, corporate structure, and governance documents. Institutions generally collect information regarding the company’s underlying products and whether those products or services violate The Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). Information collected during the onboarding process often determines the institution’s fee, risk-based categorization, and willingness to provide financial services to a particular cannabis company. 

During the onboarding process, cannabis companies should determine if the financial institution provides all services necessary for its specific operation. The services offered by cannabis-friendly financial institutions may vary based on its risk tolerance.

Know Compliance Requirements and Cannabis-Specific Programs 

Financial institutions serving the cannabis industry must comply with The Bank Secrecy Act’s (“BSA”) requirements set forth in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (“FinCEN”) BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana Banking (FIN-2014-G001) (“FinCEN Guidance”). To mitigate the possibility of money laundering, institutions assemble extensive risk-based BSA programs centered around assessing the risk of each cannabis account and detecting and reporting “Red Flags” set forth by FinCEN Guidance. 

To understand the constraints under which financial institutions are forced to operate, cannabis companies should familiarize themselves with relevant cannabis industry regulatory guidance and, if possible, structure its operations to ease its financial institution’s compliance efforts. Further, cannabis companies should understand any contractual terms and operation of any specific cannabis programs required by its financial institution (e.g., participation in cannabis-specific programs to support loan approvals, liquidity management or the coordination of cash courier services).

Know the Risk-Based Approach

FinCEN Guidance requires institutions to perform enhanced due diligence on cannabis companies, because the risk category of each cannabis account is determined during the onboarding process, institutions are required to obtain corporate and state licensing documentation and detect any negative news on the potential account signers and the business.

Because there is no mandated risk-based structure for institutions to follow, it is critical that cannabis companies know its institution’s specific risk-based structure. Further, if a cannabis company is utilizing more than one institution, it should understand that each institution’s risk-based categorization may have specific factors or considerations. Some institutions use a tiering structure (which can vary by institution) or make this determination based on the direct or indirect relationship that the account’s source of funds has with cannabis prohibited by the CSA. An institution’s risk-based categorization could determine an account holder’s compliance obligations or eligibility for financial services such as lending, treasury services, payment processing, and 401(k)/retirement solutions.

Know What Could Cause Account Termination

After completing the onboarding process and placing cannabis accounts in the requisite risk profile (which may vary among institutions), institutions are obligated to conduct ongoing enhanced due diligence on cannabis accounts in accordance with the risk each account poses. 

This enhanced due diligence encompasses staying abreast of corporate changes, confirming that all licenses are up to date and conducting periodic negative news checks that indicate FinCEN Guidance “Red Flags.” It can also include a litany of happenings that cannabis account holders may not be aware of. While cannabis account signers may be compliant, without any negative news on them or their business, their institution could also close an account due to adverse information from tax and state licensing authorities or wrongdoing by employees or vendors. Cannabis account holders should also be aware of transactions prohibited by its institution’s policies and procedures like commingling funds between non-plant touching and plant touching accounts or transferring funds to and from vague accounts at unaware institutions unwilling to serve the cannabis industry. 

Cannabis account holders with multiple relationships should be aware that each institution’s closure protocol may vary in response to adverse information or conducting transactions prohibited by internal policies and procedures (account termination terms are often contained in the depository agreement between the institution and cannabis account holder). 


Beyond assisting a business’ core functioning, maintaining relationships with legitimate financial institutions leads to strategic advantages for a cannabis company and its owners and operators, like financing or payment processing.  

Further, because FinCEN requires institutions to monitor and report cannabis account transactions and file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) when a cannabis account is opened or closed or if “Red Flags” are detected; cannabis companies can protect their accounts and businesses by knowing applicable laws and regulations and their institution’s cannabis-specific programs’ policies and procedures. 

Lobby Days Post-Summer Haze

10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days Photo Recap

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

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than three years since our 9th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days (Thanks, COVID)! 

Last week, 100 NCIA members traveled to our nation’s capital to execute more than 100 Hill meetings in one day. We mingled with members of Congress, lobbied legislative staff, and rendezvoused at some fabulous receptions. Keep scrolling for some photos and highlights, and see why you don’t want to miss our 11th Annual Lobby Days in May 2023!

Many thanks to everyone who participated and made the event possible, including our sponsors and DEI Scholarship attendees.


Planning and executing a fly-in is no small feat – especially with COVID restrictions! NCIA’s government relations team, Michael Correia, Michelle Rutter Friberg, and Maddy Grant worked diligently to ensure that our members had a number of impactful meetings. We prepped NCIA members with virtual training and connected lobbying teams ahead of time.

Welcome Reception:

After touching down, our attendees met at Player’s Club D.C. for a night of games, networking, and celebration! NCIA awarded Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) the Lifetime Legislator Achievement Award for his tireless work and advocacy on behalf of the cannabis industry, and in particular, his work on the SAFE Banking Act. Rep. Perlmutter is retiring so we were thrilled to be able to chat with him and celebrate the progress this topic has made.

Group Photo:

Attendees gathered in the morning at the Peace Circle to connect with fellow teammates and to pose for our annual “class photo!”

Hill Meetings:

Over the course of six hours, we were able to execute more than 100 congressional meetings! That includes priority Senate offices, committees of jurisdiction, and House offices.


Press Conference:

NCIA attendees, the media, and members of Congress gathered at the “Senate Swamp” (yes, seriously!) for a press conference on passing the SAFE Banking Act. Lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) spoke on the need for reform, while his Republican counterpart Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) sent a quote due to scheduling conflicts. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) also joined us again to call on the Senate to pass SAFE.





Closing Reception:

After an incredibly productive day, NCIA members were joined by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) for a reception just steps from Capitol Hill. Their message was clear: cannabis is a winning issue for both parties! 



We look forward to an even bigger 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in May 2023!

Find us on NCIA Connect to chat with attendees from this year and to be the first to hear about next year’s event.






Kranewreck Enterprises


A Therapeutic Alternative

Law Offices of Omar Figueroa

Higher Growth Search

The People’s Ecosystem

MadisonJay Solutions

S2S Insurance Specialists

Pain Stopper’s Inc

Tahoe Wellness Center


Entourage Cannabis

Northern Emeralds

Social Equity Members Head to D.C. to Lobby for A More Inclusive Industry

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager

NCIA is proud to announce that for the first time, thanks to the support of our members, we have awarded nine Lobby Days Equity Scholarships to support our Social Equity members with travel expenses to attend NCIA’s Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., on September 13-14. These Social Equity applicants and operators from around the country are leaders and active contributors to NCIA’s Sector Committees, our DEI Initiatives (particularly policy-related ones), and to advocacy efforts in their local and/or state municipalities. 

Lobby Days provides the opportunity for NCIA members to come together to advocate for the issues most important to small cannabis businesses — from SAFE Banking to federal de-scheduling — and to share their personal stories with national lawmakers. 

Our delegation includes:

Dr. Adrian Adams, Ontogen Botanicals CBD
Ambrose Gardner, Elev8
LaVonne Turner, Puff Couture
Michael Diaz-Rivera, Better Days Delivery
Osbert Orduña, The Cannabis Place
Raina Jackson, Purple Raina
Toni MSN, RN, CYT, Toni 

We asked our DEI delegation why attending Lobby Days was important to them. Here are some of their responses:

“I want our elected officials to hear my story which gives a voice to so many others, who like me, grew up in areas that have disproportionately borne the brunt and weight of cannabis enforcement. Children and young adults, whose only crime was being poor and of color, faced the indignity of being stopped and frisked hundreds of times. Now after paying the ultimate entry price, we can not get in the door of the cannabis industry because of a lack of banking and lending opportunities that continue to shut us out of the cannabis market.

The de-scheduling of cannabis, the passing of SAFE Banking, or the repeal of IRC 280E all would immediately increase the opportunities for small cannabis businesses like mine to have a true opportunity for success, growth, and economic empowerment of our communities.” 

– Osbert Orduña, The Cannabis Place


“As the industry grows and moves towards federal legalization, our elected officials must hear constituents’ voices. It’s important that my energy, face, and voice are present, representing the need for safe banking, health equity, and policies that support federal legalization. As states continue to legalize adult recreational cannabis usage, there will be an increased need for cannabis health equity to address the social, political, and economic conditions in underserved communities.

I’m committed to increasing awareness of the importance of education, employee retention, and community wellness in these communities.”

– Toni MSN, RN, CYT, Founder of Toni
NCIA’s Education Committee & Health Equity Working Group


“I have begun to work on lobbying at a local level. Federal legalization, descheduling, decarceration, social equity, health equity, and safe banking are some of the areas that I would like to learn how to lobby for at the national level.”

– Michael Diaz-Rivera, Owner/Operator, Better Days Delivery


“We should not stop at using the SAFE Banking Act merely to provide legal and regulatory protection for financial institutions. That will enable, but not ensure, increased banking services for minority-owned cannabis and hemp companies.

As the regulatory gaps between state and federal governments are addressed, there must be mechanisms to prevent predatory practices while opening access to capital.”

– Dr. Adrian Adams, Ontogen Botanicals CBD



It is important to the NCIA, and its membership for Main Street Cannabis to continue to develop in as diverse, equitable, and inclusive a manner as we can achieve. As the industry has thus far failed at creating tangible Social Equity, it’s important to ensure our efforts this September to include these voices and the communities they represent. 

This is where the DEI delegation comes in.

As the official DEI delegation, the Lobby Days Equity Scholarship recipients will provide a foundational understanding of matters related to DEI in the industry for all NCIA members present at Lobby Days. The DEI delegation will ensure that there are members present speaking up on matters of DEI from within an important national trade association and within the context of Main Street Cannabis.

NCIA’s Government Relations team has organized a full day of meetings with Lawmakers and their Offices.  New citizen lobbyists will receive online training before the event and are grouped together with experienced industry leaders who can help them find their voice. There will be an opening networking reception for all attendees, and a closing event featuring some of NCIA’s most important allies in Congress.

We are still accepting sponsorships to fully fund Lobby Days Equity Scholarships to ensure our recipients have their travel and lodging expenses covered while in Washington, D.C. Contact for more information.

Let’s keep building a better industry together, as we bring our voices to Washington, D.C.


Video: Main Street Cannabis Heads to Capitol Hill in D.C. in September!

Join us September 13-14, 2022 as we return in person to Washington, D.C. for the first time since 2019 for NCIA’s 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days!

This is your chance to unite with other NCIA members to advocate for the issues most important to small cannabis businesses – from SAFE Banking to federal de-scheduling – and to share your personal stories with national lawmakers who need to hear from Main Street Cannabis businesses.

Watch this video to hear from NCIA’s CEO and Co-founder, Aaron Smith, about why you should attend this most impactful and crucial event next month. Not yet a member? Join today and then make your plans to join us in D.C.

Positioned for Success – Highlights from the Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour

Any cannabis insider knows that New York is poised to become the next cannabis epicenter since legalizing last year. As such there is naturally incredible interest in learning about the business opportunities, how to best position yourself for success, as well as networking with potential future partners and clients. To meet these needs for our members and supporters, NCIA hosted the “Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour”, a weeklong series of events across New York featuring stops in Rochester, Albany and Brooklyn in partnership with founding members Canna Advisors, a trusted advisor to cannabis entrepreneurs who are starting or expanding a cannabis business.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Returning with our first in person events of the year, we couldn’t have been more thrilled to meet face-to-face with nearly 150 attendees who were either current or prospective business owners operating in New York and interested in expanding their operations or trying to break into the industry. With stops in Rochester, Albany, and New York City, the events brought together attendees from across the Empire State to not only learn about the developing regulatory landscape and opportunities to get involved with the burgeoning cannabis industry, but also the latest developments with NCIA’s work on federal cannabis policy.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Speakers were NCIA CEO and co-founder Aaron Smith and representatives from Canna Advisors including ​​Bob Wagener, Vice President of Real Estate Development; Sumer Thomas, Director of Regulatory Operations; and Vincent DiMichele, Regulatory Content Manager. During the hour long presentation, numerous topics were covered that were relevant to business owners in the cannabis industry such as:

• The possibility of federal legalization and the work NCIA is doing to ensure small — or “main street” — cannabis businesses have a seat at the table as legislation is written

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

• Benefits of starting the license application process early and the importance of community engagement efforts

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

• Understanding zoning requirements and ensuring your business can operate in the best location possible

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

• Developing staffing needs and protocols so the team behind your operations is positioned for success and growth

• Engaging in public comment periods including the New York Office of Cannabis Management’s (OCM) current 60 day comment period open now through August 15 surrounding regulations for packaging, labeling, marketing, advertising, and laboratory testing of adult-use cannabis

Throughout the tour, representatives from the OCM were on-site to chat with participants, answer questions that attendees had, and generally get to know those interested in owning or operating a cannabis related business in the state. We are proud to facilitate those connections at our events time and time again, so that regulators and business owners alike can meet in person to build relationships which in turn helps break down the barriers to communication down the line.

Nevillene White, Manager of Community Relations and External Affairs for OCM, joined our Albany gathering right next door to The Egg performing arts venue located inside of Empire State Plaza. Throughout she was able to supplement the presentation by providing comments directly to crowd feedback during updates on the licensing process in the Capitol.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Trivette Knowles, Press Officer and Manager of Community Outreach for the OCM, was present in Brooklyn and commented ”We need more events like this to show people that cannabis touches all walks of life,” he said. “It’s part of the culture.”

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

NCIA’s Aaron Smith closed out each of the events with a final call to action for everyone in the room: Contact New York’s U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to urge them to support the SAFE Banking Act and bring it to the floor for a vote. As the Majority Leader in the Senate, Sen. Schumer has the power to allow the legislation to be voted on but has not done so, stating a preference for more comprehensive legislation. Smith also discussed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which addresses federal legalization on a broader scale. A final version of that bill is still yet to be introduced however, and passage of the SAFE Banking Act would provide protections to financial institutions working with cannabis business and would have a positive impact on the cannabis industry while support for CAOA and comprehensive reform builds in Congress.

Of course we encourage anyone reading to take this call to action even further, and plan to join NCIA at our upcoming 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days from September 13-14 in Washington, D.C. Find out more details and register online here.

We can’t thank all our members and supporters who attended the events on our “Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour” enough, as well as our co-hosts, Canna Advisors, for making these events possible!



For additional coverage, be sure to check out the piece published by Honeysuckle Magazine, our exclusive media partners for the events.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Interested in attending our next in-person event this Summer? Register now for the Colorado Industry Social taking place on Thursday, July 28 in Denver, CO.

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Mixed Bag in D.C. – SAFE Banking and New Bills

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

There’s no getting around it: last week was a mixed bag for cannabis policy in Washington, D.C. While there was excitement around the introduction of two bills in the House of Representatives, it was tempered by the fact that congressional leaders removed the SAFE Banking Act language from the America COMPETES/USICA trade bill. 

SAFE Banking: what happened and what’s next?

The cannabis industry (and many others) were disheartened to learn that the SAFE Banking Act language that had been attached to the House’s America COMPETES Act was stripped out during negotiations last week. Over the last couple of months, both parties have been scrambling to negotiate the legislation into something that could pass both chambers and get across the President’s desk. Unfortunately, Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY), Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), and Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) decided to put the SAFE Banking Act on the chopping block again despite pleas from businesses, financial institutions, and numerous state officials. 

While SAFE will not be included in this legislative package, lead sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter went to Twitter to talk about what’s next:

“By excluding the #SAFEBankingAct from the #USICA/#COMPETES bill, the Senate continues to ignore the public safety risk of forcing cannabis businesses to deal in all cash. In the wake of the Senate’s inaction, people continue to be killed and businesses continue to be robbed. I will continue to push for #SAFEBanking to be included in COMPETES, other legislative vehicles, or for the Senate to finally take up the standalone version of the bill which has been sitting in the Senate for three and a half years.”

But don’t give up just yet: there’s been much talk on Capitol Hill about a “SAFE+” package of some type. Read more about that here.

New bills: the CLIMB Act and the Veterans Equal Access Act

Last week, we saw the introduction of two cannabis bills in the House: one was a new bill that’s never been introduced, while the other has been introduced in many Congress’ past. The former: the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act; the latter: the Veterans Equal Access Act.

Led by Reps. Troy A Carter, Sr. (D-LA) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), the CLIMB Act looks to:

  • Provide safe harbor for private financial institutions to offer lending services state-legal American businesses. Due to federal prohibition, a majority of American banks will not offer loans or lending options to small, minority and veteran-owned cannabis businesses.
  • Protect government agencies such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Minority Business Development Association (MBDA) from issuing grants and other sources of government funding. The CLIMB Act will allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to apply for funding to start and grow their business in the cannabis industry, particularly in areas most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

The Veterans Equal Access Act has been introduced in the past; this session, the bill is again led by champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and newcomer to the legislation and Cannabis Caucus co-chair Brian Mast (R-FL). 

The bill states that the secretary of the VA must “authorize physicians and other health care providers employed” by the department to 1) “provide recommendations and opinions to veterans who are residents of states with state marijuana programs regarding the participation of veterans in such state marijuana programs” and 2) “complete forms reflecting such recommendations and opinions.”

The bill has previously cleared the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and was then turned into an appropriations rider; however, it has never been passed into law. 

One thing is clear: we have our work cut out for us as we look to the last six months of this Congress. Want to get more involved with our government relations efforts? Consider becoming an Evergreen Roundtable member today, and mark your calendar for September 13-14, as we return in-person for lobby days in Washington, D.C.!





Member Blog: Reflections On Banking Reform For Cannabis Operators

by Joshua Gilstrap, e2b teknologies

Isn’t it crazy to think that the legal cannabis industry could be worth $57 billion by 2030? Or that nearly half of the country’s adult population (49%) has tried marijuana, the largest number ever recorded.*

At the time of this article, nineteen states, two territories, and Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. With more than two-thirds of U.S. states that have legalized the sale of both adult-use and medical cannabis and nearly half the population of potential cannabis consumers – it’s safe to say the cannabis industry is thriving. 

But can it continue to grow without banking reform? 

Cannabis businesses have a hard time accessing traditional banking options because the plant is still federally illegal. This means that banks are hesitant to work with cannabis companies for fear of retribution from the federal government.

This lack of banking options creates a difficult environment for cannabis businesses to operate in. Since they can’t deposit money or write checks, they have to operate on a cash-only basis, which can lead to security problems.

Cannabis operators also have a hard time securing financing because most traditional lenders are unwilling to work with them. This leaves them struggling to get the capital they need to grow and scale their business.

When cannabis businesses lack financing options for basic business growth, a banking system more ideal for cannabis operators is needed.

The Federal Law Guides Everything

Despite the growing opportunities in the cannabis industry at the state level, many prospecting business owners are stalled by a lack of capital. Businesses in the cannabis industry might celebrate legalization in their respective states but still deal with the challenge of accessing banking services.

Cannabis dispensaries that run cash-only operations are forced to confront security challenges in a new way. Online ordering, credit and debit card processing, taking business loans, and accessing other revenue-driving financial services are denied to cannabis businesses due to their federal status.

This shows an immediate need for financial reprieve in the cannabis industry.

Getting Financial Reprieve

The House of Representatives has passed several bills supporting the cannabis industry. Some of these bills include:

  • Bill to decriminalize marijuana
  • The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act
  • Legalization of adult-use cannabis
  • Legislation for medical marijuana programs
  • Legislation to reduce barriers to cannabis research
  • Approval of measures for adult cannabis use

One such bill that focuses on banking reform is the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which aims to reduce the banking services challenges in the cannabis industry. If the SAFE Banking bill passes in Congress, financial institutions can open their services to cannabis businesses without the fear of violating anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

In return, cannabis businesses reduce the risk of theft and employee welfare by transitioning from cash-only services to banking services. However, this financial reprieve doesn’t address the cannabis tax code that prevents cannabis businesses from deducting business expenses from the gross income as per the Controlled Substances Act

Nonetheless, the SAFE Banking bill is a step in the right direction. The remaining concern is whether these financial reprieves will pass in the Senate and legalize cannabis businesses at the federal level.

Another financial option expected to reform the cannabis industry is crypto. The authenticity and security of blockchain currencies like Bitcoin are becoming a lucrative consideration for financial reprieve in the cannabis industry.

Currently, there are cryptocurrencies like PotCoin and CannabisCoin mined to cater to various needs within the cannabis industry. However, the uncertainty in the crypto world makes it challenging for the cannabis industry to settle on using crypto as a financial banking solution.

Granted, some crypto technology like blockchain technology is used to transact sales in the cannabis industry, where buyers make cashless payments, and the dispensaries convert this into crypto. But these transactions are not fully transparent.

Notwithstanding, there is hope for the cannabis industry as the number of banks willing to work with cannabis businesses increases. This could result from the increasing support of cannabis banking reform at the state and Congress levels.

But Is The Banking Industry Prepared For This Reprieve?

Financial institutions are gathering more courage when working with the cannabis industry. In 2021, 755 banks showed working relationships with cannabis clients. However, this comfort is more prevalent at the state level than at the federal level, where cannabis is yet to be legalized.

But since support from the federal government is anticipated, banking institutions must equally prepare for the capability to host cannabis businesses legally. Banks must stay compliant with the anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

Banks should conduct due diligence on cannabis businesses that want to use their services. Since federal legalization of cannabis is still pending, some cannabis operations might be illegal. Therefore, it is prudent for banks to start preparation by ensuring any new partners are not lawbreakers.

This means checking for legalization and registration licenses and conducting due diligence on employees and angel investors. Business transactions are also an excellent indicator of whether a cannabis business is involved in illegal activities.

For instance, a cannabis business in a state that frowns upon international shipments shouldn’t have any international transactions. Avid AML monitoring controls should quickly identify legitimate cannabis businesses.

In a nutshell, every business that partners with a cannabis business should be prepared to support its decisions with factual claims. In case of any suspicious activity, the bank should be ready to give an account of their due diligence procedure and the findings.

Creating relationships with federal regulations is also prudent since they help make the regulation process easier. Regulators also help ensure that banks remain compliant with the Federal cannabis laws, which protect their banking operations.

Cannabis business owners must also prepare for the possibility of using open and traditional banking services for their operations. If, or when, cannabis is Federally legalized, the cannabis industry will streamline its operations throughout the U.S.

This means added investments in research, cultivation, marketing, production, and sales of cannabis and cannabis products, whether medicinal or recreational. And the added boost of a legal banking system would further increase employment and boost the economy.

Cards On The Table

Does the cannabis industry need a banking reform? Absolutely. The challenge, however, is that, despite the willingness of the House of Representatives to support the SAFE Act bill, among other proposed banking reforms for the industry, approval in the Senate is still in question. Cards on the table, bank financing in the cannabis industry will propel businesses into more growth, which, in turn, should pragmatically influence the overall U.S. economy. But this starts with active congressional action.


What is the current cannabis banking system?

The current cannabis banking system is not ideal for cannabis businesses because the lack of Federal legalization keeps banks from offering traditional banking services to cannabis businesses for fear of violating anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

What are the challenges of using non-FDIC banking options?

Non-FDIC banking options are not secured by the FDIC, meaning businesses that operate under these banking services are not protected by the Federal laws against theft or failure.

What can a banking reform do for the cannabis industry?

A banking reform allows banking institutions to offer cannabis businesses the same banking services they offer other businesses, like capital loans, online bill payments, and debit and credit cards. 

Joshua Gilstrap is the Marketing Manager for e2b teknologies, in addition to his marketing responsibilities Joshua leads business development for e2b teknologies emerging Canna Suite product line. A business graduate with a focus in marketing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he joined the e2b team in the Fall of 2019. Josh brought with him a wide array of business and practical experience in planning and execution. Since coming aboard he has led multiple project’s including website hosting and theme standardization company wide, marketing automation streamlining the efficiency of the customer journey, and sales automation where he is changing the conversation from promotion to education, from pitching to catching, and from push to pull in order to keep up with the shifting tides of a digital transformation.

An Optimistic Congress Aims to Legislate a Bipartisan Cannabis Omnibus Package 

By Sadaf Naushad, NCIA Intern 

As the cannabis industry progresses nationwide, the public demands Congress to pass major cannabis reforms. After months of opposition met among Congress members, a breath of fresh air awaits cannabis advocates, lobbyists, and consumers. 

Last Thursday, two crucial congressmen revealed objectives to establish an extensive package of incremental cannabis proposals. 

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expects to file the final version of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) sometime this summer, lawmakers are using the draft language as a guide to propose an alternative backup bill in creating a cannabis “omnibus” package. 

With the wide-ranging package garnering support across Democratic and Republican lawmakers, industry insiders have high hopes that both chambers could come together to endorse an effective, bipartisan bill by the end of this year. 

Let’s discuss the potential inclusions within the bipartisan cannabis package.  

Recently, a number of Congress members have discussed the possibility of creating a new cannabis bill that would comprise several incremental measures, including provisions focusing on banking, access to medical cannabis for veterans, research expansion, access to SBA programs, drug sentencing reformations, and more. 

Lead sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is hoping to incorporate protection for financial institutions operating with state-legal cannabis businesses in a potential package. According to Rep. Perlmutter, members also have interest in including Rep. Dave Joyce’s (R-OH) Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, a bill designed to expunge prior marijuana convictions. Additionally, lawmakers are deliberating over granting cannabis businesses access to SBA loans and services that are obtainable to every other industry, a reform initially advocated by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). 

These four concerns –- veterans, research, expungements, and banking – constitute a small portion of the package’s considerations. 

Congress will also potentially consider including a non-cannabis item as part of the wider deal, known as the EQUAL Act, which looks to alleviate racial disparities within the criminal justice system by eliminating the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. 

Leader Schumer, however, faces the requirement of having a 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. Although the chamber comprises a slim majority of Democrats with the vast majority of GOP members opposing numerous past bills, the 60-vote requirement may be attainable. In contrast to Schumer’s CAOA, indications are that the incremental package has more broad bipartisan support. 

Though members have not reached an official deal as these major reforms remain under deliberation, Congress members are not abandoning their efforts to push for a broader-based CAOA bill. 

Currently in the bicameral conference committee remains the large-scale manufacturing bill, known as the America COMPETES Act. Leader Schumer has rejected attempts to integrate the SAFE Banking Act as currently written into the COMPETES Act, alleging that it may weaken the ability to approve a slightly larger cannabis reform package. Having passed the House six times, industry insiders feel certain that the Senate will authorize the SAFE Banking Act later this year. 

Altogether, the above-mentioned legislation would come up short in federally descheduling cannabis; however, these provisions may acquire the support necessary to reach U.S. President Biden’s desk.   

Keeping the Spotlight on Cannabis Banking Reform 

by Sadaf Naushad, NCIA Intern 

As the middle of May approaches, cannabis advocates, lobbyists, associations, and many more continue to educate congressional offices on the importance of cannabis policy reform. 

So far, 37 states have legalized medical marijuana, and 18 states – including the District of Columbia – permit adult recreational cannabis use. With more businesses operating within the industry, one major issue remains: enacting cannabis banking legislation. 

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act addresses the ongoing hurdles between financial institutions transacting with cannabis-related businesses. Congressional lawmakers have been working to include the SAFE Banking Act as a provision to the House’s U.S. Innovation and Competition (COMPETES) Act. 

Let’s take a look at where Congress currently stands with the SAFE Banking Act. 

This week, 24 U.S. Senators focused their attention on pressuring congressional leaders in ensuring that cannabis banking provisions are enacted into law as part of the broader-scale, House-passed America COMPETES Act. 

Led by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the 19 Democrats and five Republicans wrote a letter to the leaders, outlining the significance of the SAFE Banking Act, along with its potential impacts on the emerging industry.  

The rapidly developing field has led to remarkable job growth, generating significant tax revenue as a result. Thus, if implemented, the SAFE Banking Act would authorize banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to provide banking services to legally-operating cannabis businesses without facing punishment by federal regulators. Additionally, the banking provision attached to the America COMPETES Act “fosters innovation, supports small businesses, and raises revenue in states that have chosen to legalize cannabis, while reducing safety risks to industry employees and the public alike.”

As of now, financial institutions remain unwilling to transact with cannabis businesses. Due to the indistinct federal and state laws, banks and credit unions fear the regulatory risks associated with the inconsistent policies. Allowing legal cannabis businesses to operate in compliance with state law in obtaining financial services without federal penalties would confront public safety matters, ultimately assisting communities to lessen cash-motivated crimes.  

According to the 24 senators, law enforcement administrations have previously addressed the risks accompanying an unbanked cannabis system, many of which include theft, robbery, and violence perpetrated against employees. They emphasize the need to transfer the substantial amount of cash within the industry into the banking system to ensure safe monitoring of accounts pursuant to present federal anti-money laundering regulations and the Bank Secrecy Act.  

The National Cannabis Industry Association’s (NCIA) Government Relations team in Washington, D.C. continues to educate Senate offices this week through our Virtual VIP Lobby Days. As we continue to speak with Senate offices on the inclusion of cannabis banking provisions in the America COMPETES Act, our VIP participants are relaying their day-to-day struggles of operating in the cannabis industry. Additionally, participants are pressing for federal de-scheduling, and making sure our nation’s leaders understand the challenges that small and medium-sized cannabis businesses face every day. 

Stay tuned for more details about our next Lobby Days coming this September. For more information on NCIA’s Government Relations works or how to get involved please reach out to


State-Level Insights: Momentum Builds Across Our Nation 

By Sadaf Naushad, NCIA Intern 

Although the action-packed April must come to an end, the fight for cannabis reform never stops! With U.S. Senators delaying the much-anticipated introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) last month, Congress has a lot of work to do. 

In the meantime, a congressional bicameral bipartisan committee is considering the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act as an amendment to the House’s U.S. Innovation and Competition (COMPETES) Act.

Now let’s focus on action occurring within the states. State-level updates help provide us with insights on cannabis reform progress at the federal level. As more state constituents vote in favor of cannabis initiatives, reformation support overall increases within the United States. Efforts to reform cannabis policies at the state level encourage members of Congress at the federal level to enact legislation.  

Let’s take a look at this week’s state-level insights: 

New York

As the legal cannabis market is set to launch later this year, New York lawmakers intend to ensure that a sufficient supply of marijauna exists. Last month, state regulators voted to allow conditional marijuana cultivation licenses to several hemp businesses. Regulators also established that adults with prior cannabis convictions, along with family members who have previously faced criminalization, would receive the first round of adult-use cannabis retailer licenses – ahead of present medical marijuana businesses. This week, lawmakers recently approved a second round of applications for recreational cannabis cultivators. Additionally, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) passed amended regulations granting medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants for personal use.   


A Delaware House Committee approved a bill that would terminate 50 years of cannabis prohibition and criminalization. For the second time in history, Delaware’s District 24 Representative Ed Osienski (D) introduced House Bill 371, legislation legalizing cannabis possession and gifting. The legislation is attached to a companion measure that would build a regulatory framework for the market. Its two-piece model comes after the House defeated a prior measure in March that incorporated both components. 

South Carolina

An eight-year attempt to legalize medical marijuana in a largely conservative state abruptly came to an end on the House floor Wednesday. South Carolina’s District 13 Representative and House Leader John McCravy (R) ruled that the Session 124 measure comprises an unconstitutional tax increase, thereby ceasing further consideration of the bill. According to Representative McCravy, since the bill contains a tax on medical cannabis, lawmakers should have introduced the bill in the House under the state constitution’s article for legislation that raises revenue. The bill’s sponsor, U.S. Senator Tom Davis (R), is rapidly seeking other ways to keep the issue active as the session concludes. 


In preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, a Missouri House Committee approved a GOP-led joint resolution seeking to place cannabis legalization on the November ballot. Missouri’s District 98 Representative Shamed Dogan (R) sponsored an amended version of the legislation, in which The Special Committee on Criminal Justice passed in a 7-2 vote. The amended bill eliminated provisions that would remove the state’s current separate medical marijuana program and set regulations regarding taxation in the legal market. Under the amended resolution, marijuana offenses would be removed from the Missouri criminal statute, permitting adults to possess, use and sell cannabis without facing penalties. 


State officials Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck (D), Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti (D) and Governor Jay Inslee (D) sent a letter to congressional leaders, outlining the urgency of passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. With Washington being one of the first states to legalize cannabis, lawmakers remain frustrated at the industry’s lack of access to essential financial services stemming from federal prohibition. 

New Jersey

Last month the state attorney general’s office released a controversial document detailing how New Jersey’s marijuana laws currently authorize police to use cannabis when not working. This week, New Jersey lawmakers introduced a string of bills designed to encourage employers to penalize workers from consuming cannabis off duty in compliance with state law. Punishable workers specifically include law enforcement officers and first responders. Now, three new bills exist that intend to enforce restrictions on such activity for particular employees. New Jersey’s 6th Legislative District Representative Louis Greenwald (D) aims to amend state statute to contain the following provisions: penalizing police for using cannabis, conducting random drug tests and the right to refuse job applicants due to lawful cannabis use. Although Representative Greenwald’s bill targets police officers, two other measures presently remain that would also impose employment-based restrictions on lawful marijuana use. 


The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) filed a lawsuit to keep cannabis legalization on Ohio’s November 2022 ballot. In December 2021, CTRMLA turned in petition signatures to Ohio’s secretary of state’s office, but the office deemed the signatures insufficient. To advance the legislative review of their measure, CTRMLA turned in additional petitions on January 13, 2022. According to the state statute, however, a ballot petition must be submitted “no less than ten days prior to the commencement of any session of the general assembly.” The session commenced on January 19, falling outside of that ten-day certification window. As a result, CTRMLA contacted Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, requesting a  ruling on a prospective challenge concerning the timing of the group’s initial signature submission to Ohio for the reform proposal. 

Stay tuned for more updates on cannabis policy reform. If you are interested in learning more about NCIA’s government relations work and how to get involved please reach out to


CAOA Delays, House Negotiations, and a Cannabis Festival

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

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to recover after 4/20, but here in Washington, D.C. the work never ends! 

Over the last few weeks, there have been developments on the timeline for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), updates on the path forward for SAFE Banking, and a slew of pro-legalization events took place in the D.C. Keep reading for the latest: 

More Delays for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)

In February 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) along with Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced that they would be introducing a comprehensive cannabis bill to deschedule cannabis, enact a regulatory framework for this new industry, and seek to repair some of the harms that the war on drugs has created. In July of that year, the trio released the long-awaited, detailed discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) and asked for comments and feedback from stakeholders (you can read NCIA’s here) to be submitted by September 1, 2021. Since then, the Senators have been diligently reviewing and working on the legislation.

The sponsoring offices had hoped to introduce the CAOA in the beginning part of the year, and more specifically April 2022, however, they recently announced that they are continuing their diligent work and will introduce the bill before August recess.

While this announcement can be frustrating at face value, I’m happy that the Senators are being thoughtful, careful, and considerate about crafting this legislation. Precedent matters a lot on Capitol Hill, so getting it right on the first try (or attempting to!) matters. 

SAFE Banking & the America COMPETES Act

The House of Representatives has passed the SAFE Banking Act three times this Congress; first in April 2021 as a standalone bill by vote of 321-101 and most recently as an amendment to the House’s version of the America COMPETES Act, which is now being negotiated by a bicameral, bipartisan conference committee. 

While many in D.C. had hoped that negotiations would conclude by Memorial Day, lead sponsor Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) recently said that a more realistic timeline for the bill would be the end of summer. This week, the Senate will vote on 28 motions to instruct-  these are procedural, non-binding resolutions that guide the conference committee through the negotiation process. After that, the conference committee can begin meeting

National Cannabis Festival and more!

Founded in 2016, the National Cannabis Festival is an annual event held in Washington, D.C.  with a focus on cannabis and music, advocacy, education, and activism. Now boasting well over 20,000 attendees, NCIA is proud to have been involved with the event since its inaugural year, and I even sit as an advocacy committee chair! 

This year, the festival was back and better than ever with an entire week of events celebrating cannabis advocacy in the nation’s capital, including an incredible Policy Summit featuring members of Congress, advocates, journalists, and more. 

Like I said – the work never ends in D.C., and the NCIA team is gearing up for another busy month filled with Evergreen virtual lobby days, Hill meetings, coalition building, and more! Want to get involved? Consider becoming a member today! 

Video: NCIA Evergreen Members Lobby Congress Virtually

Due to ongoing COVID-19 and Capitol security restrictions, efforts to lobby Congress on cannabis policy issues have been challenging. Though logistics prevent us from hosting our traditional annual fly-in event in D.C., with hundreds of cannabis industry professionals navigating the halls of Congress, members of Congress themselves are still able to hear from their constituents through virtual means. Recently, NCIA’s Government Relations team worked with our Evergreen Members to guide them through the process of meeting with members of Congress to continue to tell our stories and share our concerns for our industry.

Hear more about their experiences in this video with insights into how those meetings went.

NCIA’s Evergreen membership is for leading businesses looking to make a meaningful investment in shaping policy for the cannabis industry. This premium membership plan provides your company with a seat on NCIA’s Evergreen Member Roundtable, with exclusive access to private briefings from members of Congress, access to NCIA’s lobbying team, invitations to political events, special membership concierge service, and more.

To learn more about NCIA’s premier policy-focused Evergreen Membership, please reach out to our team to schedule a call.

SAFE Banking, Hemp, and SCOTUS Update

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

Since I last provided an update from Washington, D.C., not much has changed in terms of cannabis reform. That being said, there are still a few short developments that we’ve been keeping an eye on that we want to bring to your attention! Keep reading to learn the latest:

SAFE Banking

SAFE Banking passed the House for the sixth time in February as part of the America COMPETES Act. More recently, a stakeholder meeting was held with lead champion Congressman Perlmutter that NCIA was proud to have participated in. 

During this stakeholder meeting, Rep. Perlmutter reviewed where the bill is at, the hurdles it must clear in order to pass, and reiterated his commitment to passing the bill before this session is over. Congressman Perlmutter also talked extensively about a recent hearing that the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions held titled “Small Businesses, Big Impact: Ensuring Small and Minority-Owned Businesses Share in the Economic Recovery.” Chaired by Rep. Perlmutter himself, the subcommittee heard testimony from the Minority Cannabis Business Association’s (MCBA) Executive Director, Amber Litteljohn, on the economic barriers federal policy has created within the burgeoning cannabis market.


A few weeks ago, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the results of the 2021 Hemp Acreage and Production Survey in its National Hemp Report. This is a massive, first-ever survey of its kind to be done at the national level, and is set to provide a “benchmark” analysis of the economic impact of the burgeoning newly legal market.

The survey collected data for hemp grown in the open and hemp under protection. Planted area for industrial hemp grown in the open for all utilizations in the United States totaled 54,152 acres. Area harvested for all utilizations totaled 33,480 acres. The value of U.S. hemp production in the open totaled $712 million. The value of production for hemp that was grown under protection in the United States totaled $112 million. Area under protection totaled 15.6 million square feet.


The Supreme Court has officially asked the highest lawyer in the land, the solicitor general, to weigh in on cannabis.

Justices were asked whether or not employees seeking workers’ compensation for medical cannabis after being hurt on the job should receive the assistance, but before they do, they want the broader government to comment. They have requested that the solicitor general submit a brief on the topic. For more details, check out this great piece our friends at Marijuana Moment published.

While this week’s update was another “hodge-podge”, NCIA’s government relations team continues to work hard at passing reform this Congress. We continue to meet with offices to elevate the need for SAFE Banking – primarily for small and minority-owned businesses, discuss the decimation that 280E is wreaking, and highlight opportunities for restorative justice. Interested in becoming more involved with lobbying and our government relations efforts? Contact Stefan at to talk about becoming an Evergreen Member today! 

Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, February 10, 2022

NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.

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