March 2024 National Cannabis News: Cannabis Gains Political Momentum as Legal Industry Grows  

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March brought some dynamic shifts in the political culture surrounding cannabis. Vice President Kamala Harris led discussions on legalization and pardons, while Senate Democrats and House Republicans continued to push for cannabis banking reform. Could these developments be signs of growing momentum towards a shift in federal cannabis policy? Explore the impact of these updates on the cannabis industry nationwide.

VP Kamala Harris holds meeting on cannabis legalization and pardons 

Vice President Kamala Harris held a closed-door White House roundtable discussion on cannabis policy on March 15, 2024. Among the attendees were figures such as Cynthia Roseberry, Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Justice  at the ACLU; rapper Fat Joe; Chris Goldstein, Regional NORML organizer; Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear; and White House Director of Public Engagement Steven Benjamin. 

VP Harris used the discussion as an opportunity to emphasize the injustice of cannabis-related incarcerations, stating that “nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed.” According to Goldstein, Harris also shared meaningful dialogue with Fat Joe regarding the importance of legalization and expressed support for ending the federal prohibition.

“The moment where she raised her hands in the air and said, “We need to legalize marijuana” — saying those words out loud, saying it in the Roosevelt Room, it did feel very meaningful, and it wasn’t lost on anyone there what was going on in that moment,” Goldstein told Marijuana Moment.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted a scheduling review in August 2023 and concluded to the DEA that cannabis be reclassified to a Schedule III drug. While there is no timeline for when the DEA’s review could take place, conversations like these represent strides forward. “This is the first time the White House has asked for a scheduling review in the right manner, so we don’t have a context for how long they might be able to run out the clock,” Goldstein added. 

Senate Democrats and House Republicans continue to push for cannabis banking bill 

As Congress nears the passage of a package of spending bills for the 2024 Fiscal Year, bipartisan attention has again turned to advancing the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed optimism about the bill’s prospects in a recent interview, sharing hope that the measure will immediately pass on the floor this year. 

“We’ve got a House that’s still not moving on stuff that matters to Republicans,” he said, referencing party divisions in the chamber. “The truth is that’s really pushed us back on what we can do in the Senate with floor time.”

In parallel, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) reiterated his support of the SAFER Banking Act during an American Bankers Association (ABA) summit. Emmer emphasized the need for federal action on banking reform, citing the sluggish pace of incremental reform despite his personal stance on the issue.

“For whatever reason, the federal government has been slow to get that done,” he stated. “Like it or not, if your state has enacted laws creating this as a legal entity that is legitimate, our bankers should be allowed to bank,” he added. “It’s not whether you are a marijuana lover or hater, it’s more: This is a legitimate business that has been approved by the representative government of that state.”

IRS clarifies cannabis cash reporting regulations 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a memo clarifying the rules for reporting large cash payments between cannabis businesses. In response to a request for guidance on Form 8300, which mandates reporting for cash payments exceeding $10,000, the IRS emphasized that such transactions should not automatically be flagged as “suspicious” solely due to the federal prohibition of cannabis. 

An example of the other language in the memo includes:

Question 3: “Is it reasonable for a legalized substance business to check the suspicious activity box simply because of the type of product they deal with?”

Answer 3: No. When marking the suspicious activity box is purely done defensively, much like a Money Service Business filing defensive Significant Activity Reports, this is an abuse of the use of that box. If they are solely marking the box because of the industry and for no other reason, this is not an appropriate use of the box. If a business is checking the box in these circumstances, the agent should inform them that continuing to check the box could result in penalties for inaccurate forms. Of course, this depends on the facts and circumstances in each case.”

“We are working on additional guidance on questions related to cash couriers/armored cars who transport cash between growers/manufacturers and dispensaries/sellers,” reads the memo. 

Keeping tabs on the cannabis industry’s progress nationwide

Gradually, the federal government has made progress toward cannabis reform, and there is as much reason to be optimistic as ever. Given recent developments, it’s important to continue our path toward comprehensive reform, promising a future of equity, accessibility, and opportunity within the legal cannabis industry. Looking ahead, stay tuned for updates on these matters and mark your calendars for this year’s CWCBExpo on June 5 and 6 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, where professionals gather to network, learn, and shape the future together. 

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