Each month, Cannabis World Congress offers a convenient roundup on the biggest cannabis news stories and hemp headlines emerging from Capitol Hill. Get these updates in your inbox by subscribing to our email newsletter, or follow up on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to get the most recent edition when it’s published.
For entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, it’s important to understand the who, what, when, where, and the why of federal cannabis news to take full advantage of both emerging opportunities and challenges ahead. After all, 2022 could hold some major developments when it comes to federal cannabis policy, and your business will need to be ready to take full advantage.
To that end, CWCBE presents this first installment of our monthly federal news round-up, which will keep you informed about major developments in the industry and the movement for cannabis legalization in the U.S.
1. Congress gets cold feet on the SAFE Banking Act – again
The SAFE Banking Act, which was added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2022, was removed from the bill in December 2021, just three months after it was once again up for a vote in Congress.
The #SAFEBankingAct has been sitting in the Senate for three years and with every passing day their unwillingness to deal with the issue endangers and harms businesses, their employees, and communities across the country.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) December 7, 2021
The SAFE Banking Act was written as a response to the dearth of financial services available to cannabis businesses. The bill was first introduced to congress back in May 2017, authored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) as a way to insulate financial institutions from penalization for doing business with cannabis companies. The law would effectively codify existing federal regulations on banking with high-risk businesses for cannabis; it is designed to assure bankers they would not face government reprisal for working with the industry.
“As we begin our economic recovery, allowing cannabis businesses to access the banking system would also mean an influx of cash into the economy and the opportunity to create good-paying jobs,” Perlmutter said in a statement.
Up until this point, the SAFE Banking Act has passed in the U.S. House five times, most recently in September 2021 as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2022.
And while the bill continues to be pushed around, advocacy for reform continues from all ends of the political spectrum.
The cannabis advocacy group NORML, for example, has started a letter campaign urging advocates to take action and share their support with legislators.
“No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions,” reads the group’s website. “Congress must move to change federal policy so that this growing number of state-compliant businesses, and their consumers, may operate in a manner that is similar to other legal commercial entities.”
While there is strong bipartisan support for the bill, some reform advocates, including The Drug Policy Alliance, have expressed that federal legalization would preempt the need for the reforms included in the SAFE Banking Act.
The group stated in a press release that the passing of a banking bill without federal legalization first will continue to perpetuate the effects of the War on Drugs – and noted the importance of tackling the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Education (MORE) Act first, which first passed the House in December 2020.
2. New decriminalization bill is introduced in Congress
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) proposed a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would decriminalize cannabis on a federal level. The States Reform Act comes after skepticism over whether or not a Democratic-led bill will be able to pass without GOP support. The measure would federally decriminalize cannabis and regulate the substance in a similar manner to alcohol.
The States Reform Act also institutes a baseline 3 percent excise tax on all cannabis products to support community reinvestment, law enforcement, and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) activities. It also features certain social equity provisions, including record expungements for those with non-violent cannabis convictions.
As noted by Congresswoman Mace, federally decriminalizing cannabis would grant states much more freedom for determining their own rules and regulation surrounding full legalization.
“The States Reform Act takes special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws,” Mace explained in a statement on her website. “Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward. This bill does that.”
3. Marijuana Policy Project appoints new leadership
In December 2021, MPP appointed a new President and CEO. The title now belongs to Toi Hutchinson, a former Illinois state Senator and senior advisor to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on cannabis legalization. As the CEO of Marijuana Policy Project, Hutchinson will lead the group in reform initiatives pertaining to medical cannabis, federal legalization, and social justice advocacy.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) started in 1995 with the goal of reducing penalties on marijuana cultivation, sales, and use. Today, MPP is the leading marijuana reform group in the United States, responsible for spearheading most major state-level reform initiatives including laws surrounding medical cannabis.
“I’m pleased to be joining the team at MPP, where I will continue my yearslong effort to develop and support cannabis legalization legislation that centers on equity,” Hutchinson said in a news release.
No stranger to cannabis, Hutchinson previously held the role of executive director of MPP since 2018 and is also the CEO of the U.S Cannabis Council, a role in which she will continue as she assumes President and CEO responsibilities at MPP. Hutchinson is also a member of the Chicago Federation of Women, the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, Links International, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
4. Green Wednesday is bigger than ever
A play on Black Friday, Green Wednesday has been marked with sales and special promotions by dispensaries for several years. In 2021, it had its biggest showing ever. Recently released Green Wednesday and Black Friday sales data shows those two days were the second and third highest sales days for legal cannabis in the U.S. Dispensaries brought in $98.2 million in sales, and Black Friday saw another $99 million in revenue for dispensaries nationwide.
While dispensaries last year saw a 40% increase in sales on Green Wednesday as compared to any other Wednesday in November, cannabis businesses in 2021 saw a 78% spike from daily averages between the dates of November 24th through 27th.
According to a survey conducted by the dispensary Ayr Wellness, 69% of cannabis consumers will use cannabis to deal with holiday-related stress, and nearly 8 in 10 people intended to consume cannabis they’d buy on Green Wednesday with family or friends. This statistic underscores the fact that the stigma around cannabis is receding and more people are accepting cannabis products as part of their four-day weekend celebrations.
New year, new insight
As the industry continues to expand, it’s important that businesses know what’s trending. With the right information, businesses can ensure that they are operating not only within regulations but in line with consumer trends. Following industry news, joining networking groups, and attending cannabis trade shows and expos are a great way to keep yourself informed.