U.S. House Approves SAFE Banking Act as Part of Military Spending Bill in Historic Vote

The U.S. House approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act on Thursday in a bipartisan 316-113 vote as part of the latest National Defense Authorization Act, a military spending bill. It’s the fifth time the legislation has been approved in the House as a standalone bill or an amendment as part of larger legislation.

Since statewide cannabis reform has been enacted over the past four decades, cannabis businesses still are not fully tolerated, most evidently in federal restrictions, such as the way banking is restricted.

Representative Ed Perlmutter re-introduced the bill, as promised, saying that it would allow cannabis businesses to access the banking system—like any other industry—and would bring more money into the economy and offer the opportunity to create good-paying jobs. 

On September 21, the House Rules Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act as they sifted through over 800 amendments filed for the $778 billion FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to determine which ones will get a floor vote. As Representative Perlmutter sits in the Rules Committee, the move suggests he has influence.

Currently, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Guidance from the Department of the Treasury provides informal guidance on banking with cannabis businesses, but still nothing to immunize a financial institution from federal prosecution—only an act of Congress can do that.

Bloomberg reported that the SAFE Banking Act would be a boon for cannabis companies—which up until now have been forced to do business in cash thanks to federal banking restrictions. Cannabis-adjacent companies that provide financial services agreed.

“Passage of the SAFE Banking Act is a historic, significant step forward for the cannabis industry, which deserves more legitimacy and access to banking, insurance and other services just like any other mainstream industry. This legislation will open up much-needed access to financial institutions and loans for cannabis industry entrepreneurs,” said Ryan Hale, Chief Sales Officer of Operational Security Solutions (OSS). “Meanwhile, as the sheep dogs for the industry in security, we know that many compliance issues will remain as long as cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug and passage of the SAFE Banking Act will only mean more regulation for the industry.”

The bill would protect banks that cater to state-licensed cannabis business from facing punishment from federal regulators. As of December 2020, the U.S. Treasury found that 515 banks and 169 credit unions already provide such services.

NORML sent leaders in Congress a letter in support of its inclusion as part of the NDAA. NORML Political Director Justin Strekal applauded the legislation cautiously:

“It is critical to balance the need to accomplish comprehensive reform at the federal level and make every effort possible in the immediate term to support the successful state-level programs to ensure safe and efficient consumer access to quality cannabis that is cost-competitive with the unregulated market,” Strekal said. “For those reasons, we support the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in any piece of legislation that is going to be enacted into law.”

Advocates speculated that the SAFE Banking Act might have a better chance of success than a standalone bill, because of its bipartisan support and because Senators don’t want any minor bill holding up the “must-pass” NDAA.

Leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Cory Booker have been somewhat hesitant to support the bill without seeking broader reform. Both see more comprehensive cannabis reform such as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).

“As someone who has been working inside the banking industry for most of my career, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges banks face when trying to serve cannabis businesses,” said Andrew Montgomery, Founder and CEO of HD Compliance. Montgomery is a seasoned banking professional with more than 25 years as a senior executive in the industry. 

He continued, “Though this is not the first time that lawmakers have added a seemingly unrelated bill to a broader bill that is likely to pass without increased scrutiny, we must remember that the SAFE Banking Act has already been passed four times in the House, two of them were associated with COVID-19 economic relief bills. The Senate failed to act on each of those bills. However, burying it in the Defense Authorization Act may give cover to GOP senators that want to support SAFE Banking and allow Senator Cory Booker to oppose the bill. This very well could be a back door way of passing this needed legislation.”

While some leaders argued about the appropriateness of including the SAFE Banking Act in a military spending bill, veteran support for cannabis is high. NORML, for instance, clarified that the spending bill was indeed an “appropriate vehicle” for cannabis reform. According to the American Legion, nearly one in four veterans currently consumes cannabis for medical reasons.

The post U.S. House Approves SAFE Banking Act as Part of Military Spending Bill in Historic Vote appeared first on High Times.

Surge of Advocacy Groups Weigh In on Federal Cannabis Reform Bill

Yesterday was the deadline for the comment period on the draft version of the federal cannabis reform bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), and cannabis advocacy groups did not disappoint—with an avalanche of commentary rolling in before the time was up.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) signed on as lead sponsors for a sweeping bill to end the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level.

The draft version of the measure was released in July, which led to an open public comment period giving people time to weigh in on what will be the revised measure.

Several well-known cannabis advocacy organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MMP) released their comments.

The Marijuana Justice Coalition opted to send a joint letter on the legalization proposal. The Marijuana Justice Coalition is made up of members including the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, MoveOn, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

In a 30-page comment document, NORML called for strengthening civic protections to provide justice to those previously wronged by federal marijuana criminalization and revising outdated employment policies. The organization also called for ensuring that small and local businesses can compete both with larger corporations and the illicit market by reducing regulatory and tax burdens. NORML also asked to narrow the scope of the proposed excise tax to exempt medical cannabis consumer markets and balance the roles of the FDA, TTB, ATF and antitrust regulators.

“We appreciate the leadership by Senators Schumer, Booker, and Wyden in their efforts to end America’s failed, unjust, and racially biased experiment with cannabis prohibition. The CAOA draft represents a thoughtful path forward toward ending federal marijuana criminalization. We are confident that similar language, once finalized and formally introduced in the US Senate, will possess bipartisan appeal — as we know that voters of all political parties strongly support repealing the federal government’s failed marijuana policies,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. 

The summary of NORML’s discussion draft can be read here.

MPP also stressed the importance of easing restrictions on medical cannabis patients. MPP outlined two major areas of concern: the possible upending of state licensing and regulatory systems, which does nothing but drive sales underground, and the impact on medical cannabis access, including for those under the age of 21.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Booker, Schumer, and Wyden to end an eight-decades long policy failure and appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback as the sponsoring offices refine the bill,” said Karen O’Keefe, state policies director at MPP. Federal prohibition urgently needs to end. It has wasted billions of dollars while upending tens of thousands of lives—disproportionately those of Black and Brown Americans—over a plant that is safer than alcohol.

The NCIA stated that the CAOA presents a “thoughtful foundation for comprehensive cannabis policy reform that clearly illustrates the authors’ engagement with stakeholders during the drafting process.” Read the NCIA’s full draft of recommendations here.

“Ending nearly a century of disastrous prohibition policies is a monumental effort and one which should not be taken lightly,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of NCIA. “We appreciate Senate leadership for taking a big step toward that goal which a significant majority of Americans support. There is a lot of work left to be done and it is vital to include those most impacted by both prohibition and the proposed legislation in this process.”

The wave of commentary represents the importance of the bill and how the industry hinges upon those fine details.

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Episode 367 – Are the Feds Ready for Legalization?

Heather Sullivan and first-time guest Brian Adams join host Ben Larson to talk about the just-announced federal legalization bill the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (or “CAOA”), introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Marketeering Group/Flickr

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Chuck Schumer Lists Marijuana As A Priority In First Post-Election Cannabis Comments (Marijuana Moment)

// Massachusetts city drops onerous ‘impact fee’ on cannabis businesses (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Top New York Official Responds To Marijuana Advocates’ Criticism Of Governor’s Legalization Plan (Marijuana Moment)

These headlines are brought to you by the upcoming Homegrown Weed Summit, the first and only online event dedicated to teaching you how to grow elite cannabis from seed to harvest right in your home. The Homegrown Weed Summit is coming up on February 15 and will feature four days of online events with noted cannabis pros like Tommy Chong, Danny Danko, and Ed Rosenthal. You can learn more about the Homegrown Weed Summit and get your free ticket now over at HomeGrownWeedSummit.com!

// New Mexico Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address (Marijuana Moment)

// Police In New Jersey’s Largest City Continue Marijuana Arrests At Pre-Legalization Rate (Marijuana Moment)

// Maine labs receive go-ahead to start testing adult-use cannabis (WGME 13 CBS)

// Martha Stewart Launches Pet CBD Products ()

// Arizona’s initial adult-use marijuana licensing leaves some cities underserved (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Lawmakers in Costa Rica ask government to speed up medical cannabis debate (Tico Times)

// Did iAnthus Bankers Conspire To ‘Wipe Out’ Shareholders? (Green Market Report)

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Photo: John Brighenti/Flickr

Chuck Schumer Urges FDA To Quickly Issue CBD Rules

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expediently issue guidance so that hemp-derived CBD can be lawfully marketed.

In a press call on Oct. 23, 2019, the senator said that the lack of regulatory clarity is inhibiting the growth of a burgeoning market, noting that while hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized through the 2018 Farm Bill, FDA has yet to release rules allowing CBD products to be sold. Most hemp farmers in upstate New York are producing cannabidiol, he said.

He referenced a letter that he and several other senators sent to FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless earlier in October, which asked the official to provide “an outline of your agency’s current plans for a specific regulatory framework related to CBD along with a timeline for when comprehensive enforcement policies for CBD products will be finalized and implemented” within 90 days.

CBD is brimming with potential to be a billion dollar industry across New York State, bringing along countless jobs and truly meaningful economic development with it,” Schumer said in a press release. “But before that can happen, farmers, growers, producers, consumers and vendors need to know exactly what the rules of the road are and right now they’ve got no idea.”

“That’s why I’m calling on the FDA to do its job in a timely manner and issue guidance related to CBD classification, labeling, quality, marketing, and sales. And once the feds spell out these ABC’s of CBD, the industry will seed and grow from one corner of the state to the other, many jobs will be created in the industrial hemp space, and farmers will be able to safely cash in on this cash crop.”

Schumer said that FDA rules for cannabidiol are necessary not only to unleash the full potential of the hemp industry but also to ensure that CBD products are subject to rigorous quality control standards to protect consumers.

FDA, in turn, has said that it recognizes that Congress intended for hemp legalization to include the lawful marketing of CBD products but stressed that there are regulatory challenges that it’s working to address. Because the compound exists as an FDA-approved drug in the form of the prescription medication Epidiolex and hasn’t been introduced into the food supply before, the agency is exploring alternative regulatory pathways.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who recently suggested that the federal government should get involved in regulating state marijuana programs, suggested while he was still leading the agency that congressional action may be necessary to allow CBD sales, or else it may take years to develop rules.

Schumer is far from alone in his interest in speeding up the rulemaking process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who spearheaded the hemp legalization provision of the agriculture legislation, also contacted FDA and asked that the agency release enforcement discretion guidelines so that CBD businesses can proceed with some level of assurance that they won’t be penalized.

FDA said it is only targeting companies that make claims about the therapeutic benefits of CBD that it considers especially inappropriate. On Oct. 22, 2019, FDA and the Federal Trade Commission sent a warning letter to a CBD business that they said met that standard.

Feature image: New York, NY – January 21, 2019: US Senator Charles Chuck Schumer speaks during 33rd Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (Shutterstock)

This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content-sharing agreement. Read the original article here

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