Tag: Forbes

Cannabis Can Be a Big Part of an Economic and Jobs Stimulus Plan

The economic situation in the United States is extremely dire for millions of people as our nation recovers from the COVID pandemic. So many industries have been decimated and the American people across demographics need assistance. Some help appears to be on the way as Congress is debating a relief and stimulus package. While our elected officials debate the size of stimulus checks, whether to increase the minimum wage, or several other aspects of their next major economic bill, they should be making plans to assist the cannabis industry, one of our nation’s few bright spots.

As Iris Dorbian writes in Forbes, the cannabis industry is booming on one level, but beneath the surface, you can see major obstacles remain because of federal prohibition:

Unlike other industries that were badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, hiring in the legal cannabis industry has been booming. Experts attribute the industry’s designation as “essential” at the start of the outbreak as a key reason for the surge. However, challenges still mount. For instance, the industry may be growing exponentially, it is fragmented thanks to the federal illegality.

Federal law prevents or extremely complicated cannabis businesses’ access to banking accounts and other financial services while taxing companies at a ridiculous rate as normal business expenses cannot be deducted. While legal states announce record-breaking cannabis sales and revenue generation, small businesses, the lifeblood of our country’s economy are hindered while multinational corporations flourish. While it would be great for cannabis regulations to promote smaller operators, at the very least they should provide some type of even playing field. Instead, as usual, the mom-and-pops suffer disproportionately, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Craft cannabis boutique’s like Pendleton, Oregon’s Kind Leaf, are providing jobs, generating millions for important state programs, and give back to their local communities. By embracing the cannabis industry, the United States can improve our economy and improve lives.

Step by Step Towards Legalization, Congress Should Pass SAFE Banking Act

Yes, it’s way past time that cannabis be legalized. Science and common sense as swept Reefer Madness into the dustbin of history. A supermajority of Americans support ending prohibition and view legalization as inevitable. Vice President Kamala Harris co-sponsored the MORE Act last year. And the new Senate Democratic Majority is on the record supporting the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and just included cannabis reform as a part of his racial and economic justice policy platform. Momentum is clearly behind the cannabis community and there has never been a better time for federal drug policy reformers.

However, political momentum is about to crash into political reality once again. There’s a saying in baseball that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. The baseball cliche means that a team can be on a great winning streak, but a fantastic game by the opposing team’s pitcher or a bad game by their own pitcher, can cause them to lose the next game. Previously, Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate was an immovable object that could stifle both legislation introduced in the Senate, even if supported by fellow Republicans, and reforms passed by the House. Now, McConnell is in the minority, but the filibuster, the hotly debated Senate rule that allows any senator to force legislation to need 60 votes to pass, instead of a simple majority. With a 50-50 Senate, it seems likely that full legalization, whether it’s the STATES Act or the MORE Act will be filibustered and have a difficult time garnering 60 votes.

Where should cannabis reformers look to continue the momentum over the next two years? The SAFE Banking Act. Allowing state-regulated cannabis businesses to utilize banking services will be huge for the industry, especially for craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. Small businesses and mom and pops are at a huge disadvantage compared to multinational corporations without arbitrary banking regulations and fees, let alone being prohibited from banking and loans with most financial institutions.

Forbes, reporting on potential cannabis reforms over the next two years:

In addition to the STATES and MORE Acts, another notable pro-cannabis measure that has been languishing in the Senate since its passage in the House of Representatives has been the SAFE Banking Act, which allows banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis companies without fear of prosecution. This is a critical piece of legislation, which if passed, would be a watershed as many cannabis businesses are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises because of the federal illegality.

Fighting for legalization can be maddening at times, when it is so obvious that the war on cannabis is a terrible failure, but we must be realistic and not be discouraged to continue what has worked for us thus far: positive change step by step. Oregon first decriminalized in 1973, California passed medical in 1996, and then Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012. Success begets success. Passing the SAFE Banking Act will help out cannabis businesses and improve public safety and it will be a prudent next step to build upon as we march towards true freedom and equality for the cannabis community.

Just Like Every Year, 2020 Will Be a Big Year for Cannabis

Since California passed Proposition 215, becoming the first state to legalize medical cannabis, back in 1996, virtually every single year has been a big year for the cannabis community, as we’ve continued to make progress dismantling Reefer Madness-inspired prohibition across the nation. Major election years tend to have the biggest developments and 2020 is certainly no different as we’ll be seeing numerous states consider important reforms either at the ballot box or through legislative actions. Of course, the federal elections will go a long way towards Uncle Sam’s cannabis policies in the coming years.

One of the most important ballot measures, particularly to those of us living in the Great Pacific Northwest is a medical proposal currently gathering the 50,000+ needed valid signatures in Idaho, the last bastion of complete prohibition in the area. Full disclosure–I helped draft early versions of the initiative, and am extremely proud of the dedicated, hardworking advocates that are currently traveling the state urging folks to sign the petition. With conservative Utah passing medical cannabis in 2018, there is optimism that Idahoans will join the medical cannabis majority, as support for medicinal use as strong majority support across demographics.

Tom Angell reported on Idaho, and 15 other states with potential 2020 reform measures for Forbes, here’s what he had to say about the Gem State:

Idaho is one of only a handful of states in the U.S. that doesn’t even allow patients to access CBD medications with low-THC content. That could change, however, under a proposed medical marijuana ballot measure for which activists are currently collecting signatures.

The Idaho Cannabis Coalition’s proposal would let approved patients and their caregivers possess up to four ounces of marijuana. A system of licensed and regulated growers, processors, testers and retail dispensaries would be established.

Patients would not be allowed to grow their own medicine unless they qualify for a hardship exemption for those who have have a physical, financial or distance difficulty in acquiring marijuana at a dispensary. Those patients could grow up to six plants.

It will be great to see Idaho and other states move forward with positive reforms as there are still too many people getting arrested and patients in need across the United States. In addition to people’s freedom and wellbeing being harmfully disrupted, federal business regulations, particularly tax and banking policies that are hurting small businesses, will only be addressed with a groundswell of support as we increase our political power state by state. So long as we keep working hard and spreading the truth about cannabis, 2020 will be another banner year for our community.

Banking and Hemp Laws Highlight Some Big Victories for the Cannabis Community

Author and historian Joseph Marshall III stated that, “Success is rarely the result of one swell swoop, but more often the culmination of many, many small victories,” while author Chris Brogan, said, “Celebrate small victories often. Mourn failures quickly.” These quotes have stuck with me over the years and are good reminders for activists working in cannabis law reform, or any other field. The cannabis community has had victories big and small over the years, with a few major setbacks, but building upon our wins and not letting our losses detract us, have been important to our momentum.

When the end of the year winds down, there are always a rush of “Top 10” lists and cannabis is no different. Tom Angell listed his top 10 marijuana victories of 2019 in Forbes, including banking and hemp legislation. Here’s a snippet:

After decades of being swept up in broader cannabis prohibition, hemp finally became legal late last year through the 2018 Farm Bill. In response, numerous federal agencies have taken major steps in 2019 to implement the legalization of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cannabis cousin.

While the most high-profile move was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal in October of broad rules under which states can submit hemp regulatory plans, a number of other developments occurred following the Farm Bill’s passage.

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In other big cannabis news from Capitol Hill, the full House of Representatives voted in September to approve a bill to let banks service marijuana businesses without fear of being punished by federal regulators.

The roll call tally, 321 to 103, demonstrated broad bipartisan support for fixing an issue that industry leaders and regulators alike have pointed to as a public safety concern. Current law, by preventing many cannabis operators from being able to store their profits with financial institutions, forces them to operate on a cash-only basis and makes them targets for robberies.

The victories for the cannabis community in 2019 will certainly be a springboard into 2020 as the U.S. Senate should take up banking legislation and the federal government is expected to provide more clarity around all things hemp. We can look forward to reforms to pass in a few more states and the advances we make in 2020 will reverberate across Washington D.C., and across the country. We have made such great progress over the years, that it is easy to forget to celebrate all of our victories. Let’s not fall into that trap, let’s appreciate how far that we have come and come back in 2020 more motivated than ever before to fight for freedom and equality.