December 2022 Federal Cannabis News: Congress Eyes Reforms As Americans Demand Legalization

Each month, Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) offers a convenient roundup of the biggest cannabis news stories and hemp headlines emerging across the nation. Get these updates in your inbox by subscribing to our email newsletter, or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to get the most recent edition when it’s published.

With 2023 around the corner, it’s essential to stay in the loop on trending topics and news affecting the cannabis industry. This month’s federal news update covers a recent public opinion poll that reveals Americans remain more supportive of legalization than ever, as well as some important reforms in the works at the federal level that could bring the U.S. one step closer to ending cannabis prohibition.

Biden signs medical cannabis research bill

In a first on the federal level, a bipartisan bill to simplify studying medical cannabis was signed by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on December 3rd.

The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act removes certain federal restrictions long regarded as barriers to continued research on medical applications for cannabis in the United States. It also establishes a new, simplified registration process for those who want to research cannabis for medical purposes. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and was overwhelmingly approved in the House.

The bill was celebrated by the research and scientific community. For decades, medical cannabis research was notoriously difficult, with red tape, delays, and other problematic restrictions making it near impossible to effectively research the plant. It’s believed that these meaningful changes can make a significant difference and help learn more about the plant and its myriad applications. The signing of this legislation is also widely seen as a signal that change to cannabis policy on the federal level may be easier than once thought. 

American support for legalization remains at all-time high 

Gallup released their latest public opinion poll on cannabis legalization on November 15th, reaffirming for the 10th year in a row that the majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis. For the third consecutive year, an all-time high 68% of Americans reported they support the federal legalization of cannabis for medical or adult use. 

While support of federal cannabis legalization has remained steady in recent years, it has risen significantly since the start of the Gallup polls. Just 12% of Americans voted in favor of legalizing cannabis when Gallup first polled Americans on the question of legalization in 1969. Support grew over time, reaching 31% by 2000 and eventually surpassing 50% for the first time in 2013. Since 2016, at least six in 10 respondents supported cannabis legalization.

The annual Gallup poll includes those with no religious preference, self-identified liberals, Democrats, young adults, and those who seldom or never attend religious services. Among the variety of groups polled, those with no religious preference remain the highest number of supporters at 89%, followed by Liberals at 84% and Democrats at 81%. 

Federal job applicants may no longer need to report cannabis use

A November 23rd document published by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) outlines potential changes to federal job applications and how new rules could treat cannabis consumers with much more leniency. 

Noting the current “legal landscape at the state level” regarding cannabis consumption, the document submitted to the federal registrar suggests that distinguishing between cannabis and other illegal substances may improve the pool of applicants for federal employee and contractor positions. Previously, reported cannabis consumption could bar job candidates from being hired for federal positions or from being awarded federal contracts.

“Questions regarding illegal drug use … are divided into separate areas to distinguish between use of marijuana or cannabis derivatives containing THC and use of other illegal drugs or controlled substances, in recognition of changing societal norms,” reads the document. 

Current job application forms ask prospective federal employees about cannabis use within one year, five years, or seven years, depending on the security level of the position they’re seeking. Under the proposed revisions, however, a person would only be asked about consumption that occurred within the past 90 days. The document remains open for public comment and has not yet been enacted as official OPM policy. 

Safe PLUS Banking Act inches forward in the Senate

Access to reliable banking services continues to be one of the biggest hurdles in the legal cannabis industry. The U.S. Senate has been working for months to finalize the “SAFE Plus” package in an effort to protect access to financial services and also the expungement of past convictions. 

Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the SAFE Plus package serves as an updated version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. Though the text of the bill has yet to be released, we can expect it to include provisions regarding access to banking services and finance opportunities for cannabis businesses, as well as record expungement for those convicted on non-violent cannabis charges. According to Marijuana Moment, talks regarding the bill are intensifying in the Senate. 

“We are looking forward to reviewing the final language of the ‘SAFE Act Plus,’” Maritza Perez, director of the office of federal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), told Marijuana Moment. “We are ready to support meaningful reform in the SAFE Banking Act as well as the HOPE Act,” referring to a standalone expungements bill filed late last year by Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). 

Starting the new year right

Start the new year off right with all the necessary tools for success in the cannabis industry. To help your business succeed, CWCBExpo offers a variety of sources for businesses beyond our monthly news round-ups. Check out our website for more resources, including comprehensive guides, blog posts, and of course, our annual cannabis industry conference, scheduled for June 1 – 3, 2023 at the Javits Convention Center.

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