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.
The federal government may still consider cannabis an illegal Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, but there are signs that the groundwork for a post-prohibition future is already being laid on Capitol Hill.
The growth of legal cannabis markets at the state level have set the stage for cannabis reform and federal legalization. In D.C., there are numerous efforts underway to pave the way for a legal industry. This month, we’re looking at some of these attempts to help establish a regulatory framework and infrastructure upon which a federally legal cannabis industry might soon be built.
NIDA announces $1.5M for medical cannabis registry
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced plans to provide $1.5 million in funding to researchers who can develop a national cannabis registry to track patients’ purchases, consumption, and health habits.
The registry would maintain reports on medical cannabis patients’ reasons for consumption, the products they consume, and the associated medical outcomes. The purpose of the database is to “inform research, policy, and clinical recommendation practices” on medical cannabis and related conditions and outcomes, according to NIDA’s announcement.
The registry would also aim to diversify the variety of conditions that currently qualify a patient for a medical card. Because these qualifying conditions currently vary significantly from state to state, NIDA hopes this expansion of research will result in a more standardized list.
“As many patients are already using cannabis products for medicinal applications, it is important to identify the evidence that exists and as it evolves, and to harmonize and coordinate this information to maximize the potential benefits to patients,” the statement said.
This announcement comes at the heels of news shared last month that the agency is searching for partners to supply cannabis for research purposes.
Bill pushes for increased cannabis access for veterans
A bipartisan bill to provide military veterans with access to medical cannabis, the Veterans Equal Access Act, was reintroduced to Congress by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Mast (R-FL) on Thursday, June 23.
If passed, the bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to authorize physicians and other health care providers employed by the department to provide recommendations and opinions on the use of medical cannabis to veterans living in areas where use is legal under state law. This bill would also require health care providers for the VA to document such recommendations in the veteran’s health records.
Co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Blumenauer and Mast are the chief sponsors of the Veteran Equal Access Act. They continue to push for the measure, despite several unsuccessful attempts. Both sponsors shared the importance of legal cannabis access for veterans in a Dear Colleagues letter shared with Marijuana Moment.
“Most states with state-legal medical cannabis programs require some sort of recommendation or approval from a medical provider for patients to enroll in the program,” the letter says. “However, VA policy prevents VA physicians and care providers from any participation, including helping with the required paperwork or forms. This forces veterans to seek care outside of the VA system to receive their medical cannabis recommendations, which can interrupt continuity of care, lead to mistakes or gaps in care, and require veterans to pay out of pocket for additional physician visits.”
New cannabis banking act introduced in the House
Last month, U.S. Representatives Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-LA) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) introduced the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act. If passed, the CLIMB act would enable cannabis businesses to access a broader range of banking services, including credit cards, money transfers, and savings accounts. It also provides protection to lenders and government agencies, promoting the economic growth of the industry.
Unlike the SAFE Banking Act that has been continuously introduced and shot down in Congress, the CLIMB Act would also allow for the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and other national securities exchanges to list cannabis businesses. Because U.S. cannabis companies cannot currently list on U.S. exchanges, this change would significantly increase liquidity from institutional investors providing market support and decreased volatility.
“The bipartisan CLIMB Act is a huge opportunity to bring equity and equal opportunity into our nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry,” Congressman Carter noted in a press release. “It’s clear that access to capital remains one of the biggest barriers to entry and to success in the industry. By bringing symmetry into the business ecosystem with the CLIMB Act, we can help communities that have long been harmed by the criminalization of marijuana move to now be leaders in the business sphere.”
With federal prohibition intact, state-legal cannabis businesses do not currently have safe and protected access to banking services. Both the SAFE Banking Act and the CLIMB Act are reform measures aimed at resolving access to banking and lending for state-compliant cannabis businesses.
Staying in the know about national cannabis news
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the news the national cannabis industry generates every day. If you want to stay up to date without your head spinning, our monthly news updates offer quick hits of the headlines you need to know as you grow your cannabis business. 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.