by Michelle Rutter Friberg, Deputy Director of Government Relations
With the start of 2022 also comes the final year of the 117th Congress. Last year was marked with some small victories, although meaningful cannabis reform has yet to be enacted on the federal level this session. While it’s a midterm election year, I have no doubt that we’ll see some significant movement over the coming months. Keep reading to see my answers to some of your FAQ’s for the new Congress:
What’s going on with the SAFE Banking Act?
You’ll remember that during the 116th Congress, the SAFE Banking Act became the first cannabis-related bill to be passed by a chamber of Congress. It also became the first piece of cannabis legislation to pass the 117th Congress in April of 2021 by a vote of 321-101. Since last spring, the bill has languished in the Senate due to disagreement over enacting comprehensive versus incremental reform.
This year, expect pressure on the passage of SAFE to increase. While efforts to enact comprehensive reform continues, the votes are simply not there as of now. If you’re interested in learning more about this conundrum, take a look at this piece that the Brookings Institute recently posted.
NCIA is continuing to build support for the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate, but some big news was announced this week that will certainly impact the legislation in the future: longtime champion and lead sponsor, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), just announced that he will not be running for re-election next session.
What’s next for comprehensive cannabis reform? Is legalization on the horizon?
There are numerous bills that have received much attention in terms of descheduling cannabis – among them the MORE Act (H.R. 3617), the States Reform Act (H.R. 5977), and the discussion draft (not formally introduced) of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).
Back in the 116th Congress, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act became the first piece of comprehensive legislation to pass the House of Representatives by a vote of 228-164. More recently, the MORE Act passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in September 2021 by a vote of 26-15. While this is certainly news to be celebrated, the bill has been referred to another eight committees of jurisdiction and faces a more conservative chamber overall than last session for full passage.
The States Reform Act is a newer piece of legislation that was introduced in the House by freshman Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC). The bill deschedules cannabis, regulates it through ATF/TTB for cannabis products and FDA for medical use, and institutes a 3% federal excise tax on products to fund law enforcement, small business, and veterans mental health initiatives. Many have lauded the pro-business elements of the bill, however, additional provisions must be added to address equity and restorative justice. It’s unlikely that the bill will move this Congress for partisan reasons – particularly during an election year.
As for the Senate-led CAOA – there are too many unknown elements to make any real predictions! Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) outlined their plans for the CAOA in February 2021, unveiled the text in July 2021, with comments due by September 1 (make sure you check out NCIA’s response!). Due to the sheer magnitude of input received, the never-ending pandemic, and other legislative priorities, official language still has not yet been introduced. NCIA continues to work with the sponsoring offices on the CAOA and anticipates introduction in the spring.
What’s going to happen at the committee level?
If you’re following cannabis policy at the federal level, definitely keep your eyes on what’s happening in various congressional committees. Given that there were few cannabis-related hearings and markups in 2021, I’m hopeful that there will be more this year. I’ll specifically be keeping my eye on both chambers’ appropriations, financial services, tax, and judiciary committees.
Midterm elections will be here before we know it, but NCIA is continuing to keep the pressure on our elected officials to reform our outdated cannabis laws. Want to learn more about what’s possible? Make sure your company is an active member of NCIA and register for our next webinar, check out our podcast, and hop on over to NCIA Connect to chat with us and learn more about what we’re working on in D.C.!
A Full Plate For Congress – Status Update for SAFE Banking, MORE Act, CAOA, and Veterans
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
I’m not sure if you’ve seen the news, but Congress has had a lot on its plate recently: negotiations over infrastructure, the budget, the debt ceiling, reconciliation, not to mention the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic! And while the path to cannabis reform has been slightly overshadowed by some of these larger issues, for the time being, the NCIA team is continuing to work tirelessly and incessantly on your behalf to enact legislation that would help you and your business. Let’s take a look at some of the more recent developments from Washington, D.C:
Last month, the House passed the language of the SAFE Banking Act for the fifth time via the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). NCIA and our allies on Capitol Hill are always trying to be creative and come up with new, different avenues to advance our policy priorities, and the NDAA was a great opportunity that we were able to take advantage of! NCIA will continue to work with members of the Senate Armed Services Committeeand other stakeholders to push for the SAFE Banking Act to be included in the final bill language. Stay tuned as the NDAA process unfolds throughout the remainder of autumn.
The MORE Act:
Also last month, the House Judiciary Committee passed the MORE Act out of committee by a vote of 26-15 but the bill still has a long journey ahead of it. It’s unlikely that committees like Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce will waive their jurisdiction again, and it’s critical to remember that the chamber actually became slightly more conservative following the 2020 election. Committee schedules are jam-packed right now, however, we continue to meet with those with jurisdiction over the MORE Act and encourage them to take up this important piece of legislation.
The discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was unveiled back in July by Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). In the following month, NCIA worked diligently with our Evergreen Roundtable, board, committees, social equity scholarship members, and others to provide detailed feedback on various topics as requested by the Senators. NCIA continues to be a resource for the Sponsoring Offices and committees of jurisdiction, however, official bill introduction likely won’t happen until early-2022.
Last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee: Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on a number of bills; among them H.R. 2916, the VA Cannabis Research Act of 2021. While this bill is not a piece of NCIA priority legislation, we applaud the committee, longtime sponsor and ally Congressman Correa (D-CA), and their teams for discussing this important topic. Of note is testimony from Dr. David Carroll, Executive Director at the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). His testimony is only about a page long, but the gist is that the VA does not support this bill. I’d also like to highlight the statement Rep. Correa submitted for the record, which you can find here.
Even though Capitol Hill’s bandwidth is stretched, NCIA will continue our work in Washington, D.C. to get these (and other) cannabis provisions enacted into law. Have questions or thoughts? Find me over on NCIA Connect!
Hurry Up And Wait: Descheduling, DEA Licenses, And Other Reform Legislation to Watch
By Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations
The cannabis world is still eagerly awaiting the introduction of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s comprehensive descheduling legislation, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been moving on the policy front in recent weeks!
First up, the DEA announced that it was finally moving forward with approving applications to cultivate cannabis for research purposes, which would effectively end the federal government’s stranglehold on research production. The agency spent years fending off lawsuits from applicants, who correctly asserted that not only was the monopoly limiting research, but the cannabis being grown at the single licensed facility at the University of Mississippi was basically unusable for research purposes anyway. This announcement comes several years after the DEA publicly stated that it would begin the licensing process. Better late than never.
Next, Sen. Ron Wyden, who is also working closely with Majority Leader Schumer on descheduling along with Sen. Cory Booker, introduced S. 1698 last week. While text of this bill is currently not publicly available, the name suggests that this legislation would direct the FDA to allow hemp-derived CBD, made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, to be used as a dietary supplement or in food. Some perceive this bill as necessary to get some regulatory clarity from the FDA, which has been dragging its feet and missed several deadlines for CBD regulations. Many in the industry blame this lack of regulation for larger retailers staying out of the CBD market, which has led to massive supply gluts of the substance and has been hypothesized to be a leading cause for the recent boom in Delta 8 THC production.
And earlier this month, Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, introduced a narrowly tailored bill to remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances. The bill assigns regulatory responsibilities to the FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and gives them a one-year deadline to come up with a regulatory structure similar to alcohol. It also contains provisions similar to the protections that exist in the House-approved SAFE Banking Act, calls for studies on how cannabis impacts pain and driving, and improves access for veterans. Notably, this bill does not contain any social equity or restorative justice language.
While the chances of such legislation passing in the Democrat-controlled House are slim, it could serve as a doorway to get fence-sitting Republicans into the debate. It could also be a tool to identify those members of the GOP who are steadfastly opposed to any legalization bill and out of touch with their constituents, many of whom would directly benefit from cannabis policy reforms and who are increasingly in support of ending federal prohibition.
We’re also getting word that the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act is getting reintroduced in the House this week (and may have already been at the time of this publication). This legislation made history last December when it became the first descheduling bill to receive a floor vote – and pass – in either chamber of Congress. We are hopeful that there will be some revisions from the previous bill, including the removal of a provision that would allow federal licensors to deny applications for cannabis business licenses based on prior state or federal felony convictions, and the inclusion of a more sensible and robust regulatory framework.
We are less than halfway through the calendar year, and it is shaping up to be a momentous one for cannabis advocacy! Stay tuned for more updates from Capitol Hill.
Senate to Consider SAFE Banking as the White House “Cleans” House
by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations
It has been quite a busy month in Washington when it comes to cannabis, but two of the more recent developments have garnered quite a bit of attention in the last couple of weeks and deserve a closer look.
First, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the U.S. Senate. This legislation, which was introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) along with 27 original cosponsors (up to 30 as of this writing), would protect banks and other financial institutions from federal prosecution simply for providing services to cannabis businesses that are operating in compliance with state laws.
This legislation was reintroduced in the House earlier this month to expected fanfare, understandable given that it has already passed in that chamber and continues to enjoy overwhelming support. In fact, it was the first-ever standalone cannabis policy reform legislation to ever be brought to a floor vote – and pass – in that chamber, and was approved twice more in pandemic relief legislation that unfortunately was not approved by the Senate.
This last fact has caused advocates to more carefully scrutinize the prospects of Senate passage. After this bill flew through the House late in 2019, its movement through the Senate quickly came into question after the Senate Banking Committee voiced concerns about the bill. There was also not much indication of priority by Senate leadership to call cannabis bills for committee hearings, which became even more stark with the onset of COVID-19 when almost every other issue took an immediate back seat. Concerns about Senate support were further compounded by the unfair and politically motivated attacks by some Republicans against Democrats for their inclusion of SAFE Banking language in coronavirus relief packages.
However, a new year brings new opportunities. With the contentious 2020 elections in the rearview mirror, and a renewed focus on economic recovery, supporting small businesses, and public safety, we need to use a different calculus when examining the chances of SAFE Banking in the Senate, and that is giving us plenty of reasons to be hopeful.
Let’s look at the numbers: there are currently 36 states with comprehensive medical or adult-use cannabis laws and either existing or soon-to-be-implemented regulated cannabis markets, all of which would directly benefit from this legislation. That means there are 72 senators whose constituents are being put in harm’s way or face limited business growth opportunities thanks to lack of access to financial services in the cannabis industry, including 25 Republicans (six of whom are already sponsors plus one GOP member from a non-regulated state). With just a few more Republican senators on board, this bill would theoretically be able to beat a filibuster, provided there was unanimous Democratic support.
Does this kind of representation guarantee all 72 of those lawmakers will support cannabis banking reform? Of course not. Legislators on both sides of the aisle frequently do not support legislation that is in their constituents’ best interests. However, it does greatly increase the chances of passage and provides additional incentives for hesitant senators.
In addition, Republican lawmakers have been more openly supportive of incremental reforms like the SAFE Banking Act than they have been of more comprehensive descheduling legislation that NCIA is working to pass, such as the MORE Act. In fact, some observers are confident that there was enough bipartisan support in the Senate to pass SAFE Banking in the last Congress, were it not for the pandemic and the obstruction of cannabis policy reforms by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The new landscape in the upper chamber has given us a lot of reasons to be optimistic about SAFE Banking this year. Democratic control of the Senate, tie-breaker voting power in the hands of pro-legalization Vice President Kamala Harris, the prioritization of cannabis policy reform by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other members of Senate leadership, more Republican original cosponsors, and the increasing support of voters in conservative and swing states have given this legislation the best chances of being approved in the Senate since its first introduction.
The other federal cannabis story making headlines was the suspension, reassignment, and dismissal of a number of employees in the White House that was supposedly based at least in part on past cannabis consumption, despite recent guidance from theOffice of Personnel Management which advised federal employers not to view past cannabis use as an automatic disqualifier for otherwise qualified job candidates. While the White House was quick to defend itself and point to other factors involved in individual cases, this move clearly sent the wrong message to employers across the country and called into question the Biden Administration’s stated support for at least marginal cannabis reforms.
Does this mean that Pres. Biden will veto comprehensive cannabis policy reform or other related legislation when it reaches his desk? Extremely doubtful. However, this unfortunate incident is indicative of the continuing stigma that cannabis consumers face, and an ongoing disconnect between public opinion, policy, and leadership.
This isn’t just a government employment issue, either; it is alive and (un)well in the private sector. Even in states where cannabis is legal for adults, many employers continue to enact strict anti-cannabis policies, limit their hiring pools, and punish qualified workers for off-duty cannabis consumption. This despite ample evidence that cannabis is not associated with decreases in productivity or increases in workplace injuries.
There has been some progress in recent years on this front. Recent court cases have finally begun siding with medical cannabis patients who were wrongfully terminated for using the medicine that works best for them, after years of ruling in favor of employers. More and more states are instituting employee protections, at least for patients. Yet as more states consider “banning the box” — a policy which prevents prospective employers from asking about past cannabis convictions – or institute laws against pre-employment drug screening as a condition of job offers, discrimination against cannabis consumers and people who work in the industry remains a major problem of not only policy, but culture. Ultimately, employers will need to get over the stigma and false assumptions they have about cannabis and develop better internal policies to match the growing reality of legal and accepted cannabis in the United States.
One thing is certain: as we get closer to ending prohibition, the complexity and nuance of this issue are sure to grow. Stay tuned for more updates as reform efforts continue to heat up in our nation’s capital!
Member Blog: Is 2021 the Year that Brings Normalcy to Cannabis?
Thanks to Democracy and the grassroots efforts of cannabis advocates from coast to coast, there are now 15 holes in the cannabis prohibition wall (legal states), and 36 cracks (medicinal programs). So when will that wall come down and how fast? More importantly, what will the industry look like when the dust settles?
Over the past few weeks, cannabis media pundits from all over the world have chimed in with their predictions for 2021. (Some even pontificated before knowing the results of the Georgia State runoffs in the Senate.)
With President Joe Biden now in the White House and the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, cannabis advocates are wondering when, and if, we will see federal legalization of cannabis in 2021. Will it succeed or will our dutifully elected politicians do something that will derail the will of the people during this Green Wave of reform?
Already, a Republican congressman from Florida, Greg Steube, decided to file the first draft of reform to a committee that will move cannabis from schedule 1 to schedule 3 on the Department of Justice list of “controlled substances.”
So what position are lobbyists in Washington, D.C. taking now that their arguments for reform may find a more supportive group to talk to? What is the best thing for the industry? What’s the right thing to do?
I also interviewed Michael Correia, the Director of Government Relations for NCIA, who explained that the target should be for full legalization, but that at the heart of the issue, there is something more important that needs to be dealt with – racism. In my interview with him, he said, “…let’s just stop arresting people for this. Stop arresting people in this war on drugs so no one’s lives are ruined because they’re consuming a natural plant, that 30 plus states have said, Hey, we’re okay with this. There shouldn’t be these differences. So just stopping, arresting these people, and then worrying about what’s the next step?”
Why does he feel so strongly about this? The evidence is overwhelming that law enforcement has used simple possession as a profiling tool to fill our privately run prisons with black and brown people over mere cannabis possession. “The vast majority of these arrests (92%) were for simple possession of the drug. 500,395 of [the 545,602] arrested for cannabis [crimes] were simply found [to be] in possession of cannabis.”
So are you convinced now that cannabis, a plant, is not illegal because it is considered a drug, but rather because of a racist system and the fact it can be used as a means to profile and jail black and brown people? Do you want more evidence of the racial bias in cannabis arrests? Check out this 2020 report on the racial makeup of those simple possession “crimes.”
This is despite both groups use cannabis at similar rates.
Even in western states with recreational cannabis laws, black people were 1.5-1.8% more likely to be arrested for having cannabis.”Emily Earlenbaugh, Forbes
So what’s the 2021 plan for lobbyists, policymakers, and elected officials? What exactly does this industry look like if one of the following changes happens in the next year or two?
Cole Memo reinstated
The MORE Act
Science and Research Grants
Each one of those changes is not only positive for this young industry but will have a ripple effect that will impact other industries. The trickle-down effect for any of these changes being implemented will impact the private prison system, banking, and financial markets, big alcohol, big pharma, social equity, expungement of past convictions, interstate commerce, and the international markets.
The cannabis lobbyists know that with Democrats in charge of the direction of the Congress over the next two years, this is their opportunity for serious reform. After all, the House passed a legalization bill, the MORE Act, in December of 2020. In 2019, the previous year, the SAFE Banking Act was also approved by the House, but neither even got to the floor of the Senate because of the then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s anti-marijuana stance.
2021 is now upon us, and “grown-ups are now back in charge in D.C.” However, many advocates I’ve talked with are understandably wary and skeptical about the Federal Government dictating governance of this industry if cannabis is federally legalized and falls under the control of the alcohol and Beverage Commission.
Most cannabis advocates can at least agree that cannabis should be removed from the schedule that was created by the Controlled Substances Act in 1971. This change alone would allow banks to do business with the cannabis industry and allow for the removal of the restrictive 280E tax code that has limited the profit margins of already existing businesses.
Here are some links to other predictions from leading media sources about what cannabis reform democratic control of Congress may lead to:
So after reading all this information, here’s what I think will happen over the next four years.
First Year: Cannabis gets removed from the Controlled Substances Act schedule
Second Year:Decriminalization and expungement of cannabis possession crimes with banking reform
Third Year: Interstate commerce
Fourth Year: Full Federal legalization, international export markets open
It’s 2021, the year of the cannabis plant as a political issue is here and reform is as pungent as the odor of this amazing plant. Stay tuned, this will be an ongoing theme in D.C. politics this year as we all hopefully witness another chapter in the historic end to prohibition.
Jimmy Young is the founder of Pro Cannabis Media. An Emmy Award-winning talk show host from New England, and a resident of Massachusetts who holds a medical card after 4 major surgeries in 22 years.
The founder of Pro Cannabis Media is the current host of In The Weeds with Jimmy Young, a weekly podcast distributed over the CLNSMedia.com, site, iTunes, Spotify, Googlecast among others. In July of 2019, he teamed up with the founder of Cannabis.net, Curt Dalton, to host a two hour live monthly Weed Talk Show where the two Massachusetts natives have interviewed some of the biggest names in Cannabis, like Steve DeAngelo, Bruce Linton, and Tommy Chong. Locally local cannabis advocates and representatives from the medical establishment in the Bay State have all appeared on that show that is now being distributed nationwide. Young also produces a weekly news video, called News Dabs, highlighting and commenting on the biggest stories around the world in the emerging cannabis universe.
Video: NCIA Today – Special Episode with NCIA’s Michael Correia On The Historic MORE Act House Vote
Join NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore and our Government Relations Director Mike Correia for a quick discussion about last week’s historic passage of the MORE Act.
On Friday, December 4, the House of Representatives made history by voting to approve H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and work to repair the social and personal harms caused by federal marijuana enforcement. This is the first time since marijuana was made federally illegal that either chamber of Congress has held a floor vote on- or approved- a bill to make the substance legal again.
The final vote count of 228-164 fell mostly along party lines, with five Republicans crossing the aisle to support, and six Democrats voting to oppose.
This monumental victory shows just how far Congress has come over the years. Although this vote more closely aligns the House of Representatives with the majority of voters who overwhelmingly support cannabis legalization, the Senate is a different story.
Historic Victory in the House: The MORE Act
by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
On Friday, December 4, the House of Representatives made history by voting to approve H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and work to repair the social and personal harms caused by federal marijuana enforcement. This is the first time since marijuana was made federally illegal that either chamber of Congress has held a floor vote on- or approved- a bill to make the substance legal again. The final vote count of 228-164 fell mostly along party lines, with five Republicans crossing the aisle to support, and six Democrats voting to oppose.
This monumental victory shows just how far Congress has come over the years. Although this vote more closely aligns the House of Representatives with the majority of voters who overwhelmingly support cannabis legalization, the Senate is a different story.
As we have seen over and over again, the Senate Republicans continue to obstruct cannabis reform measures. The House passed the SAFE Banking Act in September 2019 and included the SAFE Banking language in two COVID-19 relief packages, however, there has been little activity on these topics in the Senate. Republican Senators have repeatedly spoken out in opposition of bringing up cannabis policy amidst the pandemic, stating that it’s not the time or place. But as I mentioned before, it’s also important to note that the House has passed not one, but two COVID relief packages in the last 6+ months that the Senate (namely, Leader McConnell) has refused to take up. That being said, despite a global pandemic, support for cannabis reform remains strong, a recent Gallup poll showed a record 68% of Americans support making cannabis legal. On Election Day, voters in Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey approved measures to regulate cannabis for adults, while Mississippians overwhelmingly approved a medical cannabis referendum, and voters in South Dakota passed both adult-use and medical initiatives. The vote and passage of the MORE Act on the House show that House leadership is listening.
The MORE Act, sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and 120 cosponsors, would not only mitigate the federal-state conflict by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, but it would also require the expungement of past federal cannabis convictions. The bill would also establish a Cannabis Justice Office to administer a program to reinvest resources in the communities that have been most heavily impacted by prohibition, funded by a tax on state-legal cannabis commerce. It would also allow the Small Business Administration to provide loans and grants to cannabis-related businesses and support state and local equity licensing programs, permit doctors within the Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis to patients in accordance with applicable state laws, and prevent discrimination based on cannabis consumption during immigration proceedings.
When the House version of the MORE Act was originally introduced in 2019, it was referred to eight Committees (with the Judiciary Committee being primary). Each Committee had provisions of the bill that fell under its jurisdiction and had authority to hold hearings and or amend specific jurisdictional provisions. Two Committees (Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means) were expected to be very active on language affecting regulations and taxes. The Energy and Commerce Committee even held a legislative hearing on MORE in January, and were expected to hold more… and then COVID hit… and priorities changed.
Before the Floor vote, the main sponsor of MORE, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, offered a “manager’s amendment.” The majority of the language was taken straight from H.R. 1120/S. 420: the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act. It included a graduated tax, and language on federal permitting and bonding. During debate, Congressional leaders gave assurances to include the cannabis industry advocates in future discussions and listen to cannabis industry concerns. Although passage of the MORE Act is historic, no legislation is perfect and NCIA staff will continue working with congressional champions to improve MORE and eventually get it passed into law.
Now, as we near the end of the 116th Congress, the NCIA team will continue to work and strategize various ways forward in Washington, D.C– on SAFE Banking, the MORE Act, and beyond. As we see more and more legislative victories each Congress, it is important to relish in our success and continue to propel the momentum forward (we could all use a moment to celebrate after 2020!). The MORE Act vote, being the most comprehensive cannabis bill on Capitol Hill, gives us the momentum to accomplish more in the next congressional session. Thank you to each and everyone one of you who took the time to call your Representative. Stay tuned for the 117th Congress!
Video: NCIA Today – The MORE Act, 2020 Election, Board of Directors, and More!
Tune in to this month’s episode of NCIA Today with Deputy Director of Communications, Bethany Moore.
This month, we’re sharing even more important news about The MORE Act, an analysis of the results of the 2020 election, plus our own Board of Directors election results, and a new policy report from NCIA’s Policy Council. We review some clips from the educational panels from our very first CYBER edition of our Cannabis Business Summit & Expo.
We’re doing a great job staying home, wearing masks, and socially-distancing through these difficult times. We can’t wait to get back to hosting our national and regional events in person later in 2021. In the meantime, make sure you’re subscribed to our email list, and listening to NCIA’s weekly podcasts hosted by myself and Tahir Johnson. And now is a great time to invest in the future of our industry by getting more involved in NCIA, registering for our educational webinars, and learning more about the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program SPONSORSHIP opportunities! Join NCIA members who have stepped up their support by becoming DEI Program Sponsors like 4Front Ventures and Greenbridge Corporate Counsel.
Senate Race Runoffs in the Peach State
By Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
As you’ve probably heard by now, which party controls the Senate won’t be known until January 5 — but those results could quite literally determine if marijuana will become federally legal over the next few years.
In Georgia, no candidate can advance through a primary or a general election system without first earning more than 50% of the votes. If no one does, the top two vote getters advance to a runoff election, ensuring that one will earn the majority of votes cast.
This year, the state’s two Senate races — one regular, the other a special election to fill the remainder of a retired senator’s seat — have gone to a runoff. The first will be between incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) and Democrat Jon Ossoff; the latter will be between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. If Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be tied 50-50, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie breaking vote.
It can’t be overstated that the Democrats have an uphill (but not impossible!) battle ahead. In November, Sen. Perdue garnered 86,000 more votes than Ossoff, while Warnock benefited from the fact that two Republicans — both Sen. Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins — were on the ballot in his race, splitting the party’s votes.
And of course, it’s 2020, so I would be remiss not to mention the pandemic! The runoff is taking place in an off-election year in (what will likely still be) the middle of a serious surge of COVID-19 cases. On top of that, Republicans historically have a stronger track record of turning out in runoffs in the state.
Despite all of that, Democrats are working hard to turn out the vote and organize early. In addition to relying heavily on both first-time voters and Black voters, Democrats are also hopeful that young voters will be the key to winning the runoff in January. Ossoff recently said:
“There are 23,000 young people here in Georgia who will become eligible to vote just between the November election and this January 5 runoff, and a decade of organizing, much of this work led by Stacey Abrams, has put the wind in our sails here in Georgia. What we’re feeling for the first time in four years is hope.”
As I said before, which party controls the Senate could quite literally be the difference between whether or not cannabis could become federally legal in the next one to two years. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was interviewed in October and said:
“I’m a big fighter for racial justice, and the marijuana laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense. And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in the policing, in economics, and in everything else. Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom and states’ rights.”
Schumer was referencing the bill he introduced, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing states to set their own policies. It also includes provisions to help funding to cannabis businesses owned by women and people of color through the Small Business Administration; funding studies on traffic safety, impairment detection technology, and health effects of cannabis; restricting advertising that could appeal to children; and setting aside $100 million over five years to help states develop streamlined procedures for expunging or sealing prior cannabis convictions.
Time is of the essence. Voters must be registered by December 7 in order to participate in the runoff election. If you’re in Georgia, or know anyone who is a resident, please check out the Cannabis Voter Project to learn more and make sure you’re ready to vote. If you can, consider making a donation to the Ossoff campaign or the Warnock campaign. The future of cannabis legalization in this country depends on it!
ACTION ALERT: Congress to Vote on Historic MORE Act
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (H.R. 3884) is expected to come to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2020. NCIA has been building support for this bill in Congress for the last year and now we need your help!
Please call your member of Congress and ask them to vote YES on the MORE Act today!
Look up your congressional representative and contact info by zip code, here.
Reference our congressional scorecard to find out if your representatives are sponsoring NCIA’s priority legislation, including the MORE Act.
Sample script to help guide your call:
Hello! My name is _______________ and I am a constituent of yours in (city, state, zip code). I am calling today to ask that Representative _____________ votes “Yes” on H.R. 3884, the MORE Act, when it comes to the Floor for a vote in December.
This bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act at the federal level, leaving marijuana policy up to the individual states. It also creates avenues towards expungement, re-sentencing, and assists those communities that have most been impacted by the failed war on marijuana. Additionally, legal cannabis is a huge economic driver and would help both the federal government and states’ revenue shortfalls during this pandemic.
Thank you for your time today. Again, I hope Representative _____________ will vote “Yes” on H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act.
*Feel free to tell a personal story if you feel it is relevant or powerful, but remember that staffers are busy so sometimes short and sweet is best!*
Summary of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act of 2019:
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (H.R. 3884, S. 2227), commonly known as the MORE Act, was introduced in 2019 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Senator (now Madam Vice President-Elect) Kamala Harris (D-CA).
This bill would:
Decriminalize cannabis federally: The bill removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving cannabis policy up to the states
Allow for expungement of marijuana convictions and arrests, sealing of records, and re-sentencing: Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions and arrests and seal court records for those not under a current criminal justice sentence and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those under a criminal justice sentence.
Establish sales tax and “Opportunity Trust Funds”: Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
The Community Reinvestment Grant Program, administered by the Department of Justice, would provide services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), would provide funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The Equitable Licensing Grant Program, also administered by SBA, would provide funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
Make available SBA programs and services to cannabis businesses: Specifies that the SBA may not negate eligibility for loans and other services based on a business being cannabis related.
Clarify federal public benefits: Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
Protects immigrants: Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
Provide for data Collection: Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to assess whether people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
Age equity for juveniles: The bill applies equally to juveniles and adults, protecting young people from harmful criminal records.
What to Watch in the Lame Duck Session
by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
Following the presidential election, we’ve entered the lame-duck session. This occurs after an election, but before new members are sworn in, and allows for time on the legislative calendar for Congress to pass additional legislation. Before Congress heads home for the holidays, a new administration takes office, and the 117th Congress returns, let’s take a look at what to keep an eye on during the lame-duck session.
The House of Representatives has approved the SAFE Banking Act in some form THREE times in just over a year. The text of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has passed through two different COVID-19 relief packages on the House side: the HEROES Act, and the HEROES Act 2.0, and also passed as standalone legislation in September 2019. However, in the upper chamber, we’ve seen Senators criticize including marijuana components in coronavirus legislation, arguing that it is not germane to the issue at hand. Specifically, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) took to the floor to complain that the House bill provides “special treatment to the marijuana industry,” stating that the legislation “mentions the word ‘cannabis’ more times than the words ‘job’ or ‘jobs.’” Regardless, it’s evident that SAFE banking has bipartisan support and could help mitigate the spread of the virus by ending the industry’s reliance on cash transactions.
Additionally, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a coronavirus relief bill last month that contains the SAFE Banking Act. We’ve seen pushback from the Republican-controlled Senate and the Trump administration, however, Senator Schumer’s inclusion of cannabis provisions is a positive sign that Democrats will make an effort to continue to push for these provisions. As Congress and the Trump Administration continue to negotiate coronavirus relief legislation, we will continue to keep our eyes on banking. Also, a friendly reminder to call our representatives and senators and encourage them to support cannabis banking reform. If they are already a champion on our issues, thank them for their support.
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act
Regardless of all of the trials and tribulations that 2020 has brought, there is still great excitement and optimism around the MORE Act! House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed that marijuana legalization is still on the table before the presidential transition and will get a vote in December. Previously, Representative Hoyer announced this past summer that the chamber would vote on the MORE Act in September, but that plan was postponed following pushback from certain offices who were concerned about the optics of advancing cannabis reform before passing another coronavirus relief package.
The MORE Act is the most comprehensive cannabis legislation to date. The bill would: federally deschedule cannabis, completely removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a federal give percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war. Additionally, the legislation would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to use. The fact that we have a potential vote on the MORE Act before the end of the 116th Congress is exciting news for the cannabis community. As we gear up to the end of the year, look out for updates on the MORE Act, and remember, please call your representative and senators and urge them to support this significant piece of cannabis legislation.
Success Through Hardship in the 116th Congress
This year has been unlike any other year we’ve faced as a country. Since March, Congress has exhausted their legislative efforts to agree on coronavirus relief bills. With differences on both sides of the aisle and with the administration reaching any sort of legislative success seems near impossible. However, on a positive note we’ve seen our champions on Capitol Hill not give up on cannabis-related provisions. Although we are faced and halted by frustrations in the Republican-controlled Senate, we still see members of Congress working to include the much-needed cannabis reform our nation is calling for. Not to mention Election Day – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all passed measures making cannabis legal and regulated for adults, while Mississippi and South Dakota chose to legalize medical cannabis. Every success and victory in cannabis policies around the country creates more momentum for Congress to fix the out-dated cannabis laws. As we wrap up the 116th Congress, we will be left with more momentum than ever before to enter the 117th Congress to reach new legislative victories.
Three Takeaways From The 2020 Election
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
It may not feel like it, but election season 2020 is drawing near an end – mostly. While many of us have been glued to the news for what feels like an eternity, let’s take a look at what actually happened and focus on three main takeaways from the election and how they may impact cannabis policy in the 117th Congress.
Democrats maintained their majority in the House of Representatives — by a slimmer margin than expected
For the last two years, Democrats have held the majority in the House by a margin of 232-197. Many people in Washington and pollsters believed that that majority would increase this cycle, however, that was not the case. As of publication, Democrats hold 216 seats to Republicans’ 196, with 218 seats needed for the majority. A total of 23 seats have still not been called.
While votes are still being counted, it is expected that Democrats will retain a comfortable majority in the lower chamber. Leader Hoyer has already publicly committed to a vote on the MORE Act by the end of the year, which is expected to pass. However, the legislation will surely need to be reintroduced next session and will hopefully have a swift path through the legislative process.
The bottom line: Democratic leadership and committee chairs in the House have been incredibly receptive and supportive of reforming our outdated cannabis laws. Expect to see more of that in the 117th Congress and keep an eye on comprehensive bills like the MORE Act, and incremental bills like the SAFE Banking Act.
We won’t know who won the Senate until January 5
The race to control the Senate continues. As of publication, both Democrats and Republicans hold 48 seats, with four races (Alaska, North Carolina, and both Georgia seats) yet to be called. It’s expected that the Republican incumbents in both Alaska and North Carolina will hold on to their seats, which would give Republicans a total of 50 seats. That means the Senate majority will likely hinge on the two runoff Senate races happening concurrently in Georgia.
In Georgia, no candidate can advance through a primary or a general election system without first earning more than 50% of the votes. If no one does, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election, ensuring that one will earn the majority of votes cast. This year, the state’s two Senate races– one regular, the other a special election to fill the remainder of a retired senator’s seat — have gone to a runoff. The first will be between incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) and Democrat Jon Ossoff; the latter will be between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock.
In terms of cannabis, the uncertainty around the majority in the upper chamber leaves big question marks. If Democrats are able to take the majority, Leader Schumer (D-NY) has committed to bringing cannabis legalization up for a vote. Democratic committee chairs would also be more likely to bring up cannabis-related bills. However, if Republicans maintain control, we can expect more uphill battles. An important asterisk to that statement, however: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is expected to replace current Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) if the GOP retains control. While Sen. Toomey is not a known cannabis champion, advocates feel optimistic about working with him on bills like the SAFE Banking Act.
We now (presumably) have a new President, Vice President, and Administration to work with
Former Vice President Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris are now presumably the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States. The campaign made history not only in terms of voter turnout but also by electing the first-ever female and woman of color vice president. President Trump has yet to concede and has vowed to fight the results, however, there has been no proof of voter fraud and the Biden/Harris team is already getting to work on the transition.
What does this mean for cannabis? President-elect Biden has repeatedly voiced his support for decriminalization, while future Madame Vice President Harris is the main Senate sponsor of the MORE Act. She has also continuously reiterated her commitment to expungement and resentencing for those convicted of cannabis offenses. Advocates also feel optimistic about working with a new administration that could potentially codify reform in various ways, such as memos.
Bonus: cannabis initiatives won big on election night
ICYMI, the real winner last Tuesday was marijuana! Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all legalized adult-use cannabis, bringing us to 15 states with legal marijuana. South Dakota and Mississippi also legalized medical cannabis, bringing that total to 36 states. Want to learn more about what happened? Check out this awesome post NCIA’s Media Relations Director, Morgan Fox, put together.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this was one long and anxiety-inducing election cycle! The results are still trickling in, but here at NCIA, we’re excited to continue working on behalf of you and your business. Have more questions about the election, or want to chat with our government relations team about the results? Find Mike, Michelle, Maddy, or Andrew over on NCIA Connect. Talk to you there!
MORE Act House Vote Delayed, NCIA Submits Comments on FDA Guidance
by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations
In what House leaders have assured supporters is merely a temporary delay, lawmakers announced that the vote on the MORE Act which was originally scheduled for this week has been postponed until at least after the November election.
This legislation – which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), expunge federal cannabis convictions, and establish programs to promote diversity in the cannabis industry and help communities that have been unfairly targeted by marijuana enforcement – was eagerly awaited as the first bill of its kind to get a floor vote in either chamber of Congress. No other de-scheduling bill, particularly one that contains robust restorative justice provisions, has ever gotten a vote since the original passage of the CSA in 1971, and advocates were confident that it would be approved in the House. In recent months, dozens of additional lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, bringing the current total to 113.
Unfortunately, despite recent polling showing majority support for the MORE Act among Republican voters (and its job- and revenue-creating potential), some in the GOP attacked Democratic House leadership for moving forward with the bill before Congress had come to an agreement on a new pandemic relief package.
While this is certainly disappointing, House leadership has promised that the MORE Act will get a vote before the end of the year. That gives us at least another seven weeks to continue building support! In the meantime, attention is turning back to pandemic relief, where we are still pushing for the continued inclusion of SAFE Banking language in the final package if Congress can come to an agreement. There are also a number of cannabis-related provisions in this year’s appropriations bills, including removing barriers to research, protecting universities engaged in cannabis research, and preventing federal interference in state-legal medical and adult-use cannabis programs.
Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support ALL these measures!
In other federal news…
With the help of our Policy Council, Hemp Committee, and Scientific Advisory Committee, NCIA submitted comments to the Food & Drug Administration this week providing recommendations on a number of issues related to how the agency will classify cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in the future. You can read the full comments here. While the current comment period is now closed, the FDA has been expressing increased interest in input from a variety of stakeholders, suggesting that they are preparing for a change in policy in the relatively near future. It is very likely that there will be more opportunities to weigh in on their policies that could affect the cannabis industry for years to come.
The DEA and USDA both have open comment periods right now, so be on the lookout for more information about how you can help us influence cannabis and hemp policy at those agencies in the coming weeks!
MORE Act Headed For Vote, SAFE Banking Still In Play
by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations
We asked, you answered, and your efforts are seeing results!
Over the past months, our Government Relations team in Washington, D.C. has been hard at work gathering support in Congress for the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, and many of our members responded to the call to contact their lawmakers to urge them to support the legislation and bring it to a floor vote in the House. Well, our mutual work is paying off!
Last week, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) announced that the MORE Act would be called for the vote! This was confirmed Monday as taking place during the week of September 21.
This legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and do away with the continuing conflict between states with modern cannabis laws and the federal government. It would also expunge federal cannabis convictions, remove barriers to research, eliminate the current problems with the 280E tax code and lack of access to banking, promote more diverse participation in the cannabis industry, and establish funds to help undo the disparate harms caused by prohibition.
Make no mistake: this vote will be historic. This will be the first time that a bill to end cannabis prohibition has come up for a full vote in either chamber of Congress, and the results of the vote could determine the path of cannabis policy reform efforts for years to come.
This means we have just three weeks to drum up as much support as possible and show our elected officials where the vast majority of Americans stand on cannabis.
If your representatives are not among the 87 current cosponsors of the MORE Act, please contact them and urge them to join in showing their support for this momentous and necessary bill.
Meanwhile, our efforts to maintain momentum for cannabis banking reform have continued throughout the negotiations of the next pandemic relief bill. Despite a somewhat contentious public debate over the size and scope of the stimulus funds in general, hope is still alive for the SAFE Banking Act provision to be included in the final legislation if Congress can come to some agreements on the numerous other issues at stake.
What is not up for debate is that SAFE Banking is an absolutely necessary part of COVID-19 relief. This measure will improve public health and safety by enabling more social distancing and decreasing cannabis businesses’ reliance on cash transactions which can spread contagions and make them a target for crime. Most importantly, it will help thousands of small businesses – with hundreds of thousands of employees across the country – survive these difficult times while providing uninterrupted healthcare services. It doesn’t get more COVID-relevant than that.
While it is still uncertain when or how the House and Senate will arrive at a compromise for pandemic relief, we don’t have much time before the elections divert most of their attention.
Keep an eye out for updates on ways you can help get SAFE Banking passed this year.
We couldn’t do this work without the support and assistance of our valued members. If you are not yet a member, please support our work byjoining today. If you already are a member, thank you for making our advocacy work possible.
Together We Can – Working To Achieve Legislative Victories
by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
Can you believe we are already coming to the end of August? 2020 has certainly not been what we were expecting – but we will persevere together. At NCIA, we want you to know we are here for you through these unstable times and now more than ever we will stand as a united cannabis community. As members of NCIA, we appreciate your dedication and contribution to continue the good fight to reach legislative victories at the state and federal levels. With your dedication to NCIA and our dedication to you, we can continue to achieve success through education and advocacy.
As the Government Relations Manager, I want you to know we are still working continuously in D.C., with a unified message, to achieve legislative victories. Next month, the House of Representatives may vote to make cannabis legal and start repairing the harms caused by decades of failed prohibition policies. As the legislative session draws to a close and what is sure to be one of the most pivotal elections in history nears, there is a renewed effort in Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform before the end of the year. And this includes the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The MORE Act was introduced in the House last year by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and already made history when it became the first legislative bill to be approved by the congressional committee (House Judiciary) in November.
This legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively decriminalizing it at the federal level and eliminating the ongoing conflict with effective regulated state cannabis markets. It would also expunge federal cannabis convictions, remove barriers to research, eliminate the current problems with the 280E tax code and lack of access to banking, promote more diverse participation in the cannabis industry, and establish funds to help undo the harms that have been disproportionately inflicted on marginalized communities by the war on drugs.
Now, a growing chorus of lawmakers are calling for it to receive a floor vote in the House in September, and we need your help!
Pleasecall your member of CongressTODAY and urge them to support the MORE Act and help bring it to a vote this year. When you call your representative’s office explain to them how important the MORE Act is to you and your business. The staffer that answers the phone is there to pass along the message to YOUR representative so the more calls they get the better.
On another note, I’d love the opportunity to chat with you over the phone or zoom to discuss the challenges you are facing in the cannabis community. As we continue to meet with Hill offices virtually, it is important to relay your stories about the difficulties you face within the cannabis industry. Real-life examples help paint the picture of the reality our cannabis businesses face every single day. This is imperative to illustrate just how necessary legislative victories, like the MORE Act, are to us. So, if you have the time please send me an email to Madeline@TheCannabisIndustry.org and I will schedule a time for us.
As we draw closer to the end of this legislative session, the NCIA team will continue to work hard to reach legislative victories. We are nearing the 10th anniversary of NCIA and have come a long way together, from legislative victories in appropriations to the SAFE Banking Act passing the House, and we will continue to reach more legislative success in the halls of Congress. We must not lose hope during these unstable times but propel forward more unified than ever before.
A (Mostly) Non-COVID-19 Legislative Update
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
I don’t know about you, but it seems no matter where I look, everything is about COVID-19. And with good reason — many of us are still working from home, helping their families with distance learning, and overall dealing with the effects of the virus. That being said, this week I wanted to take a look at two pieces of cannabis legislation — non-COVID related — and update you on where things stand, since we’re already nearly halfway through 2020!
The SAFE Banking Act
Last September, the SAFE Banking Act became the first piece of cannabis reform legislation to ever pass out of the United States House of Representatives by an astounding bipartisan vote of 321-103. The first iteration of the bill, named the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, was introduced to the 113th Congress back in 2013 and has made a long journey to get to this point in the legislative process.
Now that the SAFE Banking Act has passed the House, its journey has continued in the more conservative, Republican-controlled Senate. However, just before Christmas, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) issued a press release detailing his opposition to cannabis policy reform — including the SAFE Banking Act as it’s currently written. In the release, Chairman Crapo said,
“I remain firmly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana on the federal level, and I am opposed to legalization in the State of Idaho. I also do not support the SAFE Banking Act that passed in the House of Representatives. Significant concerns remain that the SAFE Banking Act does not address the high-level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash to launder money into the financial system.”
Even now with COVID-19, NCIA is virtually lobbying for the SAFE Banking Act, or some of its provisions, to be included in the next coronavirus relief package. Before COVID-19, the all-cash situation cannabis businesses face created an unnecessary public safety risk and undue safety burden on state and local tax and licensing authorities who must receive and process large cash payments. Now, as recent reports show that viruses can live on cash for up to 17 days, the public safety concerns of this cash-only system compound. The lack of access to financial institutions places industry workers, government employees, and the public-at-large at risk as banknotes circulate from consumers and patients to businesses to government.
NCIA is continually working with Sen. Crapo, congressional and committee staff, coalition partners, and the bill’s cosponsors to ensure that all parties have the materials and information that they need in order to solve this pressing public safety– and now, public health– issue and pass the SAFE Banking Act into law!
The MORE Act
In November, by a vote of 24-10, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, or H.R. 3884. This bill was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and currently has 73 cosponsors. This was the first time that a congressional committee held a vote on – let alone approved – a comprehensive bill that would make cannabis legal. Perhaps even more significantly, this bill recognizes and works to address the disproportionate impact prohibition has had on marginalized communities and people of color while helping to increase access and opportunity in the legal cannabis industry.
The bill still has a long way to go, though. While the House Judiciary Committee has passed the legislation, there are still six more congressional committees with jurisdiction over the bill, including the Energy and Commerce, Agriculture, Education and Labor, Ways and Means, Natural Resources, and Oversight and Reform committees. In January, the House Small Business Committee waived its jurisdiction over the MORE Act.
While the MORE Act does not contain an explicit regulatory structure for cannabis after it is descheduled, Chairman Nadler said in a press conference the day before the markup vote that it was possible amendments could be added to the bill as it moves through the House.
All that being said, it’s unclear what Congress’ schedule will look like for the rest of the year. The Senate returned to Washington yesterday, however, the House remains out of session as concerns about legislating in the age of COVID-19 remain. On top of that, 2020 is an election year, which complicates matters (and scheduling) even more. Regardless, I hope you can rest assured knowing that NCIA’s government relations team is working around the clock to advocate for the cannabis industry — whether that be banking reform, ending cannabis criminalization, or allowing for SBA relief. From D.C. to wherever you are, stay healthy!
Picking Up Speed In The 116th Congress – An Overview Of Our Progress
by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
We’ve seen an extraordinary amount of momentum sweep through Capitol Hill so far this Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 and the Judiciary Committee marked up the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019. On top of these significant policy gains and historic achievements, we’ve seen an increase in cannabis-related bills, committee hearings, amendments, and markups.
With strong Democratic leadership on the House side, the question of legalizing cannabis has even been put on the table. Conversations are happening in hearings and markups that will help educate lawmakers. For example, as cannabis remains a Schedule I substance, significant federal research is still unattainable. These are the important conversations we are having with lawmakers. The SAFE Banking Act passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support, with a vote of 321-103. This bill has been supported by the American Bankers Association, the Governors Association, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the credit unions across the country. The McClintock-Blumenauer-Norton amendment, which would prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state cannabis programs, passed the House with a vote of 267-165. This historic vote shows just how far we have come and with continued momentum where we can go.
Now, we need your help. It is more important than ever that Congress hears from their constituents. Your stories and experiences are what resonates the most with Hill offices. Now that the SAFE Banking Act passed the house, we need to turn our attention to the Senate.
Please call your U.S. Senators and urge them to support S.1200, the SAFE Banking Act, which prevents federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with cannabis-related businesses that are obeying state laws or halting their services, taking action on loans made to those businesses, or limiting depository institution’s access to the Deposit Insurance Fund. As you call your Senators, be sure to explain the frustration you have had with a lack of access to banking. Personal stories resonate with our Congressional offices, so take a few minutes to make these important calls.
To find your Senators, click this link and simply enter your address. The office phone number will pop up next to their photos.