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It’s been a busy year for state cannabis law. Is all of the activity leading to legalization – or even incremental progress in changing federal law?

State cannabis reform has not yet taken effect, but not due to a lack of experimentation. In 2021 alone, several high profile cannabis laws were proposed in both chambers of Congress, while others were promised later that year.

In the second half of 2021, let’s examine key federal cannabis laws, assess their current status, and with the help of industry experts, make some predictions about the future.

The Marihuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Exungement (MORE) Act

Presented to the House of Representatives by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and other Democratic officials

May 2021

The current flagship law for comprehensive cannabis legalization, the MORE Act, was first introduced in the summer of 2019. In December 2020, it passed a full vote and went down as the first bill in history to explicitly pass cannabis in Congress.

However, since the bill’s inception, the momentum has been slowed by a lack of bipartisan support – particularly related to the bill’s strict provisions on social justice, which would provide federal grants to the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

“To pass the Senate, you have to get 10 Republicans on board with a rescheduling draft without alienating the Democrats, and I think that can be quite difficult,” said Morgan Fox, director of media relations for the National Cannabis Industry Association in the telephone interview. “Especially since in the GOP the most important sticking point is usually social justice.”

Last month, Rep. Nadler reintroduced the MORE Act and, in an accompanying statement, highlighted the progress made in federal cannabis reform: “Since I introduced the MORE Act in the last Congress, numerous states across the country, including my home state, have been New York, moved to legalize marijuana. Our federal laws need to keep pace with this pace, ”said Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Healthcare Professionals

Introduced in the house of Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK)

May 2021

Perhaps in recognition of their Republican party’s desire for simple legalization with no social justice provisions, two GOP officials tabled a bill to remove cannabis from the DEA’s controlled substances schedule, protection for cannabis-related financial services companies, and comprehensive protection for veterans would offer to use medicinal cannabis in accordance with state laws.

Reps Joyce and Young, who are members of the bipartisan cannabis caucus of Congress, may have introduced the bill as an opening up to Republicans in the House of Representatives to support simple legalization without tying their votes to the kind of progressive reform measures that contained in other laws.

“One of the reasons Joyce Bill was brought into the House of Representatives was to see which Republicans are completely against legalization and which are in favor of a simple, straightforward law that only terminates and does not include social justice or restorative issues.” said, “Fox.

Untitled Comprehensive cannabis reform

Coming to the Senate from Senators Cory Booker (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

(Announced) February 2021

This state cannabis law differs from others in one important way: Nobody saw it. After what the senators have been saying about this for several months, the legislative package will focus on legalizing cannabis reform while trying to “correct the injustice of this failed war.” [on drugs] and put an end to decades of damage done to colored communities ”and“ take action that will erect people wrongly targeted in the war on drugs. Its promised social justice and equity measures have been eagerly awaited by the industry, but details are sparse.

“To the best of my knowledge, no one has looked at the actual language outside of their offices,” said Fox. “So far we’ve heard that it should be about restorative justice and social justice… but here, too, we don’t know exactly what that looks like. I think it will be pretty important when we see the details to work line by line with the MORE Act and see how they compare and contrast. “

Dasheeda Dawson, cannabis program manager for the city of Portland and chair of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), said it was fair to expect the Senate’s legalization package to go beyond the MORE Act when it comes to restorative justice given the story goes to the senators involved.

“We anticipate MORE will be the foundation for Schumer, Booker & Wyden’s efforts in the Senate,” Dawson said in an email to the Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. Much of the foundation for the MORE Act was built on the 2017 Marijuana Justice Act by Booker. If anything, I believe that because of the extra time and landmark law legalizing New York City, I believe the Senate Act will be a small step above the MORE Act on restorative justice and justice. ”

The safe and fair enforcement of the (SAFE) Banking Act

Introduced in the house of Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)

March 2021 – passed April 2021

The SAFE Banking Act is a gradual reform move that would allow cannabis companies access to the same banking products available to other businesses, including credit and insurance products. It also provides legal protection for ancillary companies that provide services to the cannabis industry, such as contractors and packaging companies.

The draft law has now voted twice in plenary: once in September 2019 and once in April, after it was last introduced by the Member of Parliament. Now that more Americans are backing full legalization of cannabis, some in the industry are hoping that the time has finally come to give cannabis companies at least access to relatively simple business tools.

“SAFE Banking has the support of the banking industry and many Republicans, so it could be viewed as a fallback option should full legalization ultimately fail,” said Kris Krane, founder of 4Front Ventures and president of Mission Dispensaries.

However, others believe that incremental advances could actually represent a step backwards for cannabis equity.

“On the surface, the SAFE Banking Act is a helpful patch for those who already have the privilege of participating in this evolving industry,” said Dawson. “The transition from SAFE would be a gradual step that would actually widen the equity gap for this industry, even if it temporarily eases the burden on small cannabis companies.”[es] of the suppression of the pure cash economy. There is also a danger that it will encourage much larger industry players like Amazon to begin their money movements in order to position themselves for future supremacy. ”

In a blog post in early June, Amazon announced that it would no longer check potential employees for cannabis and that its policy team would “actively support” the MORE Act.

The SAFE Banking Act is awaiting a Senate hearing for now after it has been voted in the House of Representatives – just like the MORE Act.

The Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act

Introduced to the Senate by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

May 2021

Like the SAFE Banking Act, the Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act is a step-by-step cannabis law that would affirm the legal status of cannabidiol (CBD) and other hemp-derived supplements in food and beverages. The bill is a companion to the hemp- and hemp-derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2021, which was brought to the house in February.

The Hemp Access Act is intended to help bring clarity to a lucrative but confusing industry: Hemp and CBD. At the moment these products are sold in a gray area as they are not technically approved under federal law. According to the Farm Bill of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should create guidelines to regulate this important sector of the cannabis industry. To date, however, apart from a few statements and official updates, not much has changed.

“The Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act is a bill that only exists because the FDA failed in its job of regulating hemp-derived cannabinoids as an ingredient,” said Dawson. “I suspect this bill is supported because it essentially forces the FDA to specifically treat hemp-derived CBD like a dietary supplement.”

“In theory, it could be pretty easy as it is pretty tightly focused and prescribes something that the FDA promised anyway and that has not yet come to pass,” added Fox when asked about the prospect of the bill in the Senate.

Despite all of this activity, industry insiders are still pessimistic about federal cannabis legislation – especially on its broader side.

“I think something will definitely happen this year, but I don’t necessarily think it will be a comprehensive rescheduling scheme,” predicted Fox.

“At this point, we don’t expect government legalization to happen this year,” said Dawson. “There is still too big a gap in cannabis literacy at the federal level, between lawmakers and budding regulators.”

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