Current Federal Marijuana Reforms
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
2019 appears to be an optimistic year for cannabis reform at the federal level! There are multiple efforts underway to begin to chip away the outdated regulations and laws that have surrounded cannabis since the heydays of "Reefer Madness" in the 1930's. These efforts are aimed at legitimizing cannabis as an effective medical treatment option, in addition to removing age-old stigmas that have held marijuana back socially and medically in America.
Recent Legislative Efforts
The SAFE Banking Act: this piece of legislation comes back after being ignored for 6 years, and is picking up momentum quickly! After receiving a hearing - an unprecedented step for this piece of legislation - it passed easily through the House Financial Service Committee with a 45-15 vote. There are expectations that SAFE could receive a full House vote within weeks.
Attorney General William Barr recently stated publicly that an approach to protect state-legal cannabis programs such as the STATES Act would prove preferable to the current "intolerable" conflict between federal and state laws.
The STATES Act has been reintroduced into both chambers, with at least some bipartisan support. This bill would officially recognize the legalization of cannabis, in addition to any marijuana-related activities that are permitted by state law - meaning it would only truly affect those states that have approved recreational or medical cannabis programs. Ultimately, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect state-compliant patients from federal intervention.
New potential markets opened as Missouri and Utah approved medical marijuana, and Michigan voters approved adult-recreational use - the first Midwest state to pass recreational marijuana!
Last November the U.S. House flipped to the Democrats, which experts told Marijuana Business Daily should improve the likelihood of passage of pro-cannabis legislation. Ultimately, leaders of the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate hold the key on any measure that will get a hearing or vote in that chamber.
SAFE Banking Act
While there is optimism in the cannabis industry for broad reforms of federal cannabis laws, it is perhaps banking that holds the most momentum and, consequentially, the catalyst for the flood gates of reform; the House version of the SAFE Banking Act collected more than 165 co-sponsors, and a Senate companion bill with more than 20 co-sponsors. It is important to note that the key Senate leaders must allow the bill to be heard before official votes can be cast.
Critically, the financial industry and other key groups have joined in support of the bill, including the American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, banking supervisors from two dozen states, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and the National League of Cities.
There are now 34 states (and Washington D.C.) with state-level medical marijuana programs, as well as 10 recreational states (along with D.C.). Furthermore, a recent polls show that about two-thirds of Americans currently support marijuana legalization at a federal level.
Lobbyists and former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner are also playing a crucial role in cannabis reform at the federal level. The Cannabis Trade Federation has 15 lobbyists in D.C., and the New York-based, multi-state operator Acreage Holdings co-founded a new lobbying group called the National Cannabis Roundtable. Boehner is a member of Acreage Holdings' board and is an advisor to the Roundtable. With the Canada-based company Canopy Growth attempting to settle a $3.4 billion buy of Acreage Holdings, and the deal being contingent on the U.S. legalizing marijuana at a federal level, the deal could provide some influence in D.C.
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