USDA Agency And Company Partner To Explore Personal Care Products From Hemp

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Expanding the market for hemp seed oil is the goal of a new cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) involving Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and the Midwest Bioprocessing Center (MBC), a Peoria, Illinois-based firm specializing in organic chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

At the heart of the 24-month agreement is a patented process that a team of chemists with the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria developed, called “bio-catalysis.” In short, it involves using enzymes and heat rather than harsh chemicals and solvents to catalyze reactions that bind natural antioxidants like ferulic acid to lipids in soybean and other vegetable oils.

In prior research, the team used the process to create a class of compounds called feruloyl soy glycerides (FSGs) from soybean oil. These were subsequently licensed and commercialized for use as ingredients in skin- and personal-care products because of the ultraviolet (UV) absorbance and antioxidant properties that they offered.

Now, under the cooperative agreement with MBC, the team will explore creating similar ferulic-acid-based ingredients from bio-catalyzed hemp seed oil, potentially broadening the market for this commodity from an estimated 90,000 U.S. acres of industrial hemp, a type of Cannabis sativa that was legalized under the Farm Bill of 2018.

Hemp seed oil today is popularly used in cannabidiol-containing products for perceived health benefits. However, like soy or corn oil, hemp oil also contains a variety of nutrients, fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids) and bioactive compounds that can be transformed into specialty chemicals offering useful new properties.

Toward that end, the ARS-MBC team will focus on bio-catalyzing hemp oil to make “cosmeceuticals”—skin-care ingredients that perform specific functions, like protecting skin from UV light, retaining moisture, or stabilizing other active ingredients used in skin-care formulations.

“Collaborating with industry partners like MBC, which has expertise in enzymology and the infrastructure for scale-up, is critical to exploring expanded uses for our original technology,” said Compton, with the ARS center’s Renewable Technologies Research Unit in Peoria.

The research unit is one of seven comprising the NCAUR that collectively specialize in researching value-added uses for agricultural commodities as well as the byproducts of their manufacture into other processed goods.

The NCAUR has also played a lead role in devising sustainable approaches to processing these commodities with an eye towards expanding economic opportunities for growers of both established crops like corn, wheat and soybean, as well as emerging ones, like cuphea and industrial hemp.

In addition to opening the door to the cosmetics and personal care markets, NCAUR scientists are researching ways to better process hemp into fuels, lubricants and adhesives, as well as functional food ingredients and fiber products.


The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.

Congressman Blumenauer Lauds House Passage of Federal Legislation to Give Cannabis Businesses Access to Banking Services

Under SAFE Banking Act, cannabis businesses would not have to operate in cash, which has made Portland-area stores and workers a target for violent robberies.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: On April 19th, 2021 the U.S. House of Representatives passed federal legislation to provide legitimate cannabis businesses access to banking services, an issue that has long been championed by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The bipartisan passage of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the 117th Congress comes as Portland-area cannabis businesses and their workers continue to be targeted with violent robberies that have been linked to a system that forces cannabis businesses to deal almost exclusively in cash.

“Cannabis will soon be a $20 billion industry and is overwhelmingly supported by the American public. The insane prohibition on banking services serves no one’s interest, except for money launderers, tax evaders, or those who are going to rob these cash-rich businesses,” Blumenauer said. “As we continue to push forward with full legalization, addressing this irrational, unfair, and unsafe denial of banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses is a top priority. This is a critical element of reform that can’t wait, and I urge our cannabis champions in the Senate to take up this legislation as soon as possible.”

Under the federal prohibition on cannabis, banks and credit unions are currently prohibited from serving cannabis businesses, even with financial products as simple as savings accounts or payroll checks. Notwithstanding the financial and practical hardships facing legal cannabis businesses, forcing these businesses to operate on a cash-only basis creates a public safety risk and makes tracking revenue more difficult for tax purposes.

The cash-only nature of cannabis businesses also makes them easy and frequent targets for robberies, which puts workers at risk. According to a March 2021 report by Willamette Week, in the preceding 10 months, Portland cannabis shops were robbed, burglarized, or looted 95 times – often at gunpoint – resulting in one tragic fatality.

The legislation passed in the House would prohibit federal regulators from taking punitive measures against depository institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses and ancillary businesses like the electricians, plumbers, and the landlords that serve them. The SAFE Banking Act also requires a GAO study and annual regulator reports to Congress to ensure equal access to credit and to reduce barriers to marketplace entry for potential and existing minority- and women-owned cannabis-related businesses.

Full text of the SAFE Banking Act can be found here.

Congressman Don Young Introduces Legislation to Protect Second Amendment Rights and Personal Liberty

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Alaska Congressman Don Young, Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has introduced the Gun Rights And Marijuana (GRAM) Act, legislation to secure the Second Amendment rights of Americans living in jurisdictions with legal adult-use and medicinal marijuana. Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-18) and Rodney Davis (IL-13) have joined Congressman Young as original cosponsors of this legislation.

Under current law, an individual using recreational or medicinal marijuana in legal jurisdictions can be disqualified from exercising their Second Amendment rights. When attempting to purchase a firearm, individuals must fill out U.S. Department of Justice Form 4473. Question 21 (e) requires the individual to attest that they are “not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.” The form clarifies that “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized,” potentially disqualifying individuals who use state-legal marijuana from gun ownership, or forcing them to risk perjuring themselves.

The GRAM Act provides a simple exemption for those who use marijuana in states or on tribal land where it is otherwise legal. Alaska legalized adult-use cannabis in 2014, and the overwhelming majority of Americans now live in a state with some level of legal use, yet Federal prohibition means their fundamental rights may be revoked. No law-abiding citizen’s Constitutional rights should be threatened by outdated federal policy. The GRAM Act not only protects Second Amendment rights, but also defends a state’s Tenth Amendment right to set their own cannabis policy.

“When I was sworn into Congress, I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. That oath does not mean picking and choosing which Amendments to defend; it requires us as Members of Congress to protect the ENTIRE Bill of Rights. I am very proud to introduce the GRAM Act, which takes a critical step to protect our Constitution and secure individual liberty. There are two main pillars that make this legislation important. First, it protects the Second Amendment for individuals seeking to exercise their Constitutional rights. It also defends the Tenth Amendment right of states to determine their own cannabis laws, as Alaska did in 2014,“said Congressman Don Young.

“Gun ownership is a significant part of Alaska’s culture and lifestyle. When my constituents chose to legalize adult-use marijuana, they were not surrendering their Second Amendment rights. At a time when more individuals have been purchasing firearms for self-defense, sportsmanship, hunting, and countless other reasons, we have experienced a surge in state-level cannabis reforms. While we make progress in some areas, it is vital that we do not roll back progress in others. Throughout my career, many pundits and talking heads have described me as one of the most unique Members of Congress, to put it politely. As both Co-Chair of the Cannabis Caucus and a board member of the National Rifle Association, in addition to the fact that I represent a state with legal cannabis, I believe this fight was tailor-made for my experience. The federal government has no business unduly restricting responsible citizens from exercising their rights or restricting states from listening to their constituents and reforming marijuana laws. The GRAM Act bridges this gap. Given that it deals with both gun and marijuana rights, there really is something for those on both sides of the aisle to support. I want to thank my friends, Congressmen Mast and Davis, for their partnership on behalf of our Constitution, states’ rights, and individual liberty. I call on my colleagues in both parties to join us in this important effort.”

“It should be up to individual states to determine their own marijuana laws, not the federal government.  The Constitution says nothing about marijuana but the Second Amendment clearly outlines every American’s right to bear arms,” Congressman Mast said. “This legislation makes it so individuals who use marijuana in a State that permits legal adult-use are still able to purchase firearms.”

“State-legal marijuana use should not be used as a pretext to bar individuals from purchasing or possessing firearms, which is a clear and well-defined Constitutional right,” said Congressman Davis. “I’ve long believed that laws regulating the production and use of marijuana should be left to the states, not the federal government. With more and more states legalizing marijuana each year, we have to make sure that we are protecting the Second Amendment rights of Americans who reside in those states and use marijuana legally based on their state’s laws. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Young and look forward to working with him to move it through Congress.”

Congressman Joyce Leads Bipartisan Effort to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend Medical Cannabis to Veterans

Joins Rep. Lee, Senator Schatz in introducing Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) joined his fellow Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021. Senator Brian Schatz (HI) has introduced the bill in the Senate.

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss, recommend and prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs. Currently, VA doctors are prohibited from doing so as the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance. According to a 2017 American Legion survey more than 90% of veteran households support marijuana research and 82% want to see medical cannabis designated as a federally legal treatment option.

“There is a growing body of evidence about the beneficial uses of medical cannabis as treatment for PTSD and chronic pain, two terrible conditions that plague many of our veterans,” said Joyce. “If a state has made it legal, like Ohio has, the federal government should not be preventing a VA doctor from recommending medical cannabis if they believe that treatment is right for their patient. As the son of a World War II veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face when they return home. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure we are providing our veterans with the care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”

The legislation would also create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana and their doctors. Additionally, the bill would direct the VA to research the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain, as well as the relationship between medical marijuana programs and a potential reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.

In a recent study, researchers found that those who suffer from PTSD who used cannabis saw greater reductions in their PTSD symptoms and were 2.57 times more likely to recover from PTSD during the study than those who were not using cannabis. Furthermore, a 2016 study at the Minnesota Department of Health found that 58% of patients on other pain medications were able to reduce their use of those medications when they started taking medical cannabis. Of the patients taking opioid medications, more than 62% were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after 6 months.

According to the VA, nearly 20% of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience either PTSD or depression while more than 50% of older veterans receiving care at the VA are living with some form of chronic pain. Often times, people with PTSD experience depression, panic attacks, severe anxiety, or a substance use problem, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Tragically, the VA’s most recent annual report shows that nearly 18 veterans take their own life every day.

Organizations that support this legislation include: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veteran’s Initiative 22, Arizona Dispensary Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, and Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association.

Rep. Dave Joyce Objects To Marijuana-Related Firings at the White House

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Dave Joyce responded to last week’s reports that President Joe Biden fired five White House staffers over past marijuana use with a letter that urges Biden to reconsider his stance on employing people who’ve used marijuana.

The Bainbridge Township Republican’s letter observes that numerous states and territories have enacted “sensible cannabis reforms and legalization measures which have overturned decades-long policies that are both arcane and discriminatory,” and that “when used correctly and responsibly, cannabis has many proven health benefits, including the treatment of PTSD and serving as an opioid alternative to pain management.

“As our nation continues to grapple with an increased rate of PTSD amongst our veteran communities and a growing opioid crisis that has caused thousands of fatal overdoses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be encouraging these therapies, not finding ways to further stigmatize and disenfranchise them,” Joyce’s letter continued.

Joyce’s letter said he’s also concerned about the message the federal government is sending by penalizing people who have been truthful about cannabis consumption, saying that “in a nation where the truth is considered malleable, we need to demonstrate to our young public servants that telling the truth is an honorable trait, not one to be punished.

“I respectfully request that your administration discontinue punishment of staff for being honest about their prior cannabis use and reinstate otherwise qualified individuals to their posts,” Joyce’s letter continued. “Moving forward, I encourage your administration to focus its efforts within cannabis on establishing an effective federal regulatory framework which recognizes that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate. I stand ready and willing to work with you in this regard.”

Joyce also joined a bipartisan group of more than 100 colleagues in reintroducing a bill that would let marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system. Legal marijuana businesses must currently operate on a cash basis because current laws keep them from accessing the banking system, increasing robbery risks. Republicans Bob Gibbs of Holmes County, Steve Stivers of Columbus and Warren Davidson of Miami County cosponsored the bill.

When questioned about the firings on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted that marijuana remains federally illegal despite its legal status in some states. She said rules against marijuana use were “far more stringent” during the administration of former President Barack Obama. She said a number of the five individuals who are no longer employed at the White House had additional “security issues.”

“I think if marijuana was federally legal, that might be a different circumstance,” said Psaki.

Merkley, Daines Lead Senate Introduction Of Bipartisan Legislation To Ensure That Legal Cannabis Businesses Aren’t Shut Out Of Critical Financial Services

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) today introduced the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would ensure that legal cannabis businesses have access to critical banking services.

Most state legal medicinal or recreational cannabis businesses are denied access to the banking system because banks fear they may be prosecuted under federal law given the ongoing federal restrictions on cannabis. The lack of access to bank accounts, credit cards, and checks have forced state legal cannabis businesses to operate in cash, opening the door to tax evasion and to a dangerous pattern of robberies, including one that resulted in the murder of a store clerk in Portland.

Giving state legal cannabis businesses access to banking services would not only improve community safety, but also make it easier for Americans of color—who have long been disproportionately impacted by America’s racist ‘War on Drugs’ policies and generations of asset-stripping policies and practices—to access the capital necessary to participate in the merging cannabis industry.

“No one working in a store or behind a register should have to worry about experiencing a traumatic robbery at any moment,” said Merkley. “That means we can’t keep forcing legal cannabis businesses to operate entirely in cash—a nonsensical rule that is an open invitation to robbery and money laundering. Let’s make 2021 the year that we get this bill signed into law so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees safe.”

“Montana businesses shouldn’t have to operate in all cash—they should have a safe way to conduct business,”Daines said.“My bipartisan bill will provide needed certainty for legal Montana cannabis businesses and give them the ability to freely use banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without the fear of punishment. This in turn will help increase public safety, reduce crime, support Montana small businesses, create jobs and boost local economies. A win-win for all.”

To address the safety concerns resulting from these state legal businesses being shut out of banking services, the SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as an lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
  • Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.

The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services. The bill also provides protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD related businesses.

The bill would require banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis policies.

Momentum around the SAFE Banking Act reached new heights in the 116th Congress, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation, and included it in the HEROES Act.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Last week, the legislation was introduced by Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), and Warren Davidson (R-OH-08) and over 100 of their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Full text of the legislation is available here.

FDA Warns Companies Illegally Selling Over-the-Counter CBD Products For Pain Relief

Products Listing CBD as Inactive Ingredient Cited for Unapproved Drug and Misbranding Violations

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to two companies for selling products labeled as containing cannabidiol (CBD) in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). Specifically, the warning letters address the illegal marketing of unapproved drugs labeled as containing CBD. The FDA has not approved any over-the-counter (OTC) drugs containing CBD, and none of these products meet the requirements to be legally marketed without an approved new drug application. The letters explain that, as CBD has known pharmacological effects on humans, with demonstrated risks, it cannot be legally marketed as an inactive ingredient in OTC drug products that are not reviewed and approved by the FDA. Additionally, the letters cite substandard manufacturing practices, including failure to comply with current good manufacturing practices.

“The FDA continues to alert the public to potential safety and efficacy concerns with unapproved CBD products sold online and in stores across the country,” said FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D. “It’s important that consumers understand that the FDA has only approved one drug containing CBD as an ingredient. These other, unapproved, CBD products may have dangerous health impacts and side effects. We remain focused on exploring potential pathways for CBD products to be lawfully marketed while also educating the public about these outstanding questions of CBD’s safety. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor and take action, as needed, against companies that unlawfully market their products — prioritizing those that pose a risk to public health.”

The FDA issued warning letters to:

The products that are the subject of the warning letters issued today have not gone through the FDA drug approval process and are considered unapproved new drugs. There has been no FDA evaluation of whether these unapproved drug products are effective for the uses manufacturers claim, what an appropriate dose might be, how they could interact with FDA-approved drugs or other products or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.

The FDA has previously sent warning letters to other companies illegally selling unapproved CBD products that claimed to prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat or cure various diseases, in violation of the FD&C Act.

Under the FD&C Act, any product intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat or prevent a disease, and any product (other than a food) that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of humans, is a drug. OTC drugs must be approved by the FDA or meet the requirements for marketing without an approved new drug application under federal law, including drug products containing CBD, regardless of whether CBD is represented on the labeling as an active ingredient or an inactive ingredient.

The FDA has not approved any CBD-containing drug products other than one prescription drug for the treatment of seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in human patients.

The FDA has requested written responses from these companies within 15 working days stating how they will address these violations or providing their reasoning and supporting information as to why they believe these products are not in violation of the law. Failure to adequately address the violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure and/or injunction.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

SAFE Banking Act Reintroduced as Momentum for Cannabis Reform Continues to Grow

Landmark, bipartisan legislation passed U.S. House multiple times in last two years

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) reintroduced his landmark legislation to reform federal cannabis laws and reduce the public safety risk in communities across the country. The bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021 – authored by Perlmutter and sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), and Warren Davidson (R-OH-08) and cosponsored by more than 100 members – would allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system. The SAFE Banking Act is seen as the first of many cannabis reforms Congress needs to address.

Forty-seven states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia – representing 97.7 % of the U.S. population – have legalized some form of recreational or medical marijuana, including CBD. Yet current law restricts legitimate licensed marijuana businesses from accessing banking services and products, such as depository and checking accounts, resulting in businesses operating in all cash. This is a serious public safety risk for our communities, inviting theft, robberies, burglaries, or worse, as Colorado saw with the murder of Travis Mason in June 2016 and Michael Arthur in Portland, Oregon in December 2020.

“The genie is out of the bottle and has been for many years. Thousands of employees and businesses across this country have been forced to deal in piles of cash for far too long, and it is the responsibility of Congress to step up and take action to align federal and state laws for the safety of our constituents and communities. The public safety need is urgent, and a public health and economic need has also emerged with the pandemic further exacerbating the cash-only problem for the industry,” said Congressman Perlmutter. “In many states, the industry was deemed essential yet forced to continue to operate in all cash, adding a significant public health risk for businesses and their workers. 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. Thank you to Reps. Velázquez, Stivers and Davidson for their continued support and input on the bill, and I look forward to working with Senators Merkley and Daines to get the SAFE Banking Act passed in the Senate and signed into law.”

“The cannabis industry has been operating with great success, with many of these businesses deemed essential as the coronavirus pandemic took hold,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “However, without the ability to safely utilize the banking system, cannabis-related businesses are left behind and stuck resorting to tactics that can threaten public safety and economic success. That’s why I am proud to join to Reps. Perlmutter, Stivers, and Davidson in introducing the SAFE Banking Act, to allow these business in states that have legalized cannabis to access to the banking system, just as any other business currently enjoys. Doing so will help create jobs in communities throughout America, while stimulating the economy as we recover from the fallout of the pandemic.”

“We have a responsibility to legislate for the reality we live in, and the reality is that legal businesses in thirty-three states, including Ohio, are being denied access to the banking system and forced to assume huge risks as a result of operating solely in cash,” Congressman Stivers said. “The SAFE Banking Act is about keeping people safe, something that 321 of my colleagues recognized last year. I look forward to seeing this bill make it all the way to the President’s desk this Congress.”

“I’m excited we’re reintroducing SAFE Banking, again with bipartisan support. This bill is an important hedge against financial cancellation, and it will protect businesses and industries that find themselves out of favor with the latest trends of the day,” said Congressman Davidson. “Today we’re talking about banking cannabis, hemp, and firearms, but tomorrow there could be another industry that has its access to the banking system threatened by statute or by public opinion. With SAFE Banking, as long as its legal in the jurisdiction, no bank should be compelled to cancel their customers by a mob saying, ‘You aren’t going to bank THOSE people are you?’ Sadly, that has already happened too often in American history and it must end.”

“No one working in a store or behind a register should have to worry about experiencing a traumatic robbery at any moment. That means we can’t keep forcing legal cannabis businesses to operate entirely in cash—a nonsensical rule that is an open invitation to robbery and money laundering,” said Senator Merkley (D-OR). “Let’s make 2021 the year that we get this bill signed into law so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees safe.”

“The ‘SAFE Banking Act’ will help Montana small businesses, create jobs, boost local economies, and improve public safety,” stated Senator Daines (R-MT). “I’m glad to be working on this bipartisan legislation to provide certainty for small businesses in Montana. Montana business owners should have the ability to freely use banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without the fear of punishment.”

In the 116th Congress, 206 members cosponsored the SAFE Banking Act and it passed the U.S. House in a broad bipartisan vote of 321 to 103, with 91 Republicans and one Independent voting in support. The bill also passed as part of the Heroes Act, an earlier COVID relief package which was approved by the House on two separate occasions. In February 2019, the SAFE Banking Act prompted the first-ever congressional hearing on the issue of cannabis banking.

The SAFE Banking Act provides protections from money laundering laws for any proceeds derived from these state-legal marijuana businesses. This will get cash off the streets and into the financial system which is built to root out fraud and illicit activity. This bill also includes protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD related businesses, which still struggle in accessing financial services despite the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. The current version of the bill has been updated slightly to include minor technical changes to the safe harbor, strengthened hemp provisions, and other technical updates.

The U.S. cannabis industry continues to grow at a rapid rate, with the current value estimated at $17.7 billion, a substantial amount of which remains unbanked. As of January 2021, the legal cannabis industry supports 321,000 jobs across the country. Over the 2018-2028 period, job growth in this market is projected to climb 250%, the fastest rate for any sector in the U.S. Bringing in this cash will make the industry safer and give banks and credit unions more capital to lend during the economic recovery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congressman Boyle Introduces Bill to Remove Antiquated “Habitual Drunkard” Provision & Decriminalize Marijuana Offenses In Naturalization Process

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02) introduced a bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to strike out the “habitual drunkard” provision and remove marijuana offenses as grounds of inadmissibility or consideration in a good moral character determination. This commonsense bill will modernize the naturalization process and ensure marijuana related offenses do not negatively affect an applicant’s chance of becoming a prospective U.S. citizen.

“As applicants go through the Green Card and/or naturalization process, they currently encounter questions that ask, “Have you ever been a habitual drunkard?”, or for details about an applicant’s level of marijuana use”, said Boyle. “These questions are wholly unrelated to citizenship, and only serve to reinforce societal stigmas connected to alcohol and substance abuse. It is extremely troubling to see federal applications like this that continue to use a harsh and antiquated term such as “habitual drunkard”. Moreover, prospective citizens should not be penalized for relatively harmless and non-criminal offenses. This careless language only serves to reinforce societal stigmas and misunderstandings about substance abuse, and it is time we modernize the process.”

Boyle’s bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by striking the “habitual drunkard” provision and exempt low-level marijuana related offenses as grounds for inadmissibility and/or deportation.

DC Council Chairman Mendelson Introduces Equitable Recreational Cannabis Legislation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson – along with Council members Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Christina Henderson, and Mary Cheh – introduced the most comprehensive, progressive, and equitable legislation to regulate the sale of recreational Cannabis in the District of Columbia.

“This legislation is the culmination of over a year of work by my office and external stakeholders,” Mendelson said. “It creates a comprehensive regulatory framework for the cultivation, production, and sale of recreational cannabis and most significantly, this bill centers reinvestment and opportunity for people and communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.”

The “Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021” differs from previous iterations of recreational marijuana sales bills in that it establishes:

  1. A Social Equity program that mandates at least half of all licenses to be set aside for Social Equity applicants (defined as residents who have been previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses or have lived ten of the last 20 years in areas with high rates of poverty, unemployment and arrests);
  2. A Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund to provide financial assistance to Social Equity applicants. This is especially important given that traditional financing options are unavailable for cannabis and especially difficult for social equity applicants. Thirty percent of tax revenues from cannabis sales would be deposited into this fund;
  3. A Community Reinvestment Program Fund that would provide grants to organizations addressing issues such as economic development, homeless prevention, youth development and civil legal aid in areas hardest hit by the drug wars. Fifty percent of tax revenues from cannabis sales would be deposited into this fund;
  4. A robust public education campaign that will inform District residents of the law and focus on responsible use and harm reduction strategies for residents of legal age who consume cannabis;
  5. Automatic expungement of cannabis-related arrests and convictions, and opportunities for resentencing for individuals currently serving sentences for cannabis-related convictions;
  6. Protections for District residents who legally possess and consume cannabis pursuant to the Act so that they do not lose benefits, employment, or access to other critical resources; and
  7. Authorization for banks in the District to conduct business with cannabis licensees, and allowances for local tax deductions for cannabis licensee business expenses.