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.

Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Urge Colleagues to Pass Federal Cannabis Reform Following Sweeping Ballot Measure Victories

Cannabis reform was clear winner on election day

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, sent a letter to their House colleagues urging strong support of comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation that will be voted on this year.

The letter comes after resounding victories last week in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Mississippi, where voters approved a series of cannabis ballot measures. Cannabis will now be legalized for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states.

“One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies, and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws,” Blumenauer and Lee wrote. “There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.”

Yesterday, House leadership asserted that the MORE Act – landmark legislation to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and enact restorative justice for communities of color most impacted by the failed cannabis prohibition – would receive a vote on the House floor next month, which Blumenauer and Lee are urging their colleagues to support.

“The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people,” Blumenauer and Lee added. “This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.”

A PDF copy of the letter sent today by Blumenauer and Lee is available here.

Following is the full text:

Dear Colleague: 

One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws. There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. 

Last week’s results reaffirm the strong bipartisan support to reform our failed cannabis prohibition. Even in states where Republicans easily swept elections, like in Mississippi and South Dakota, cannabis-related ballot measures passed with strong support. The success in Arizona, Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey and South Dakota means that cannabis will be legal for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states. More than 109 million people will live in states where cannabis is legal for adults to use, that is more than one in three Americans. In total, almost 99% of Americans will live in states with some form of legal cannabis. We cannot ignore the will of the people any longer.  

This comes as no surprise—national support for federal cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, and trends show that support will continue to grow. Polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 67% of registered voters think “the use of cannabis should be made legal,” and the Center for American Progress found that 73% support expunging the records of those previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. This finding is confirmed by the fact that in the last three elections, 16 of the 18 pro-cannabis reform ballot initiatives were successful—even in places like Utah and Mississippi.

This past election further demonstrated that cannabis reform is popular, non-partisan, and the just thing to do as states have also made clear their commitment to restorative justice. Montana, which ranks first in the country for having the largest racial disparities for cannabis arrests will allow an individual currently serving a sentence for a prior low-level cannabis offense to apply for resentencing or an expungement of the conviction.

The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people. This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.

The House was poised to vote on the MORE Act, the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation we’ve ever seen, back in September. As the House kept our focus on providing struggling Americans with relief from COVID-19, we received commitment from our Caucus leadership that Congress would take steps to end the failed war on drugs by voting on the MORE Act before the year was over.  

We have an opportunity and duty to correct course now. As we head into the lame-duck session, we must remember the promise we made to the American people to pass the MORE Act.

Thank you for your urgency.

NORML PAC Endorses Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Blumenauer And Young

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML-PAC) has announced their endorsements of Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK) in their reelection campaigns. Blumenauer and Young serve as lead co-chairs of the Cannabis Caucus in the House of Representatives.

“Representative Earl Blumenauer has been supporting sensible marijuana law reform longer than anyone currently serving in the House of Representatives. He cast a vote in favor of decriminalization in Oregon in the 1970’s as a member of the state legislator and has been one of the leading champions for ending our failed prohibition on marijuana at the federal level since he was first elected to Congress,” commented NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “It is our honor to support his reelection in 2018 and supporters of marijuana law reform couldn’t ask for a better ally to have in the arena.”

young-blumenauer-pac

“Representative Don Young has shown how truly bipartisan marijuana law reform efforts can be by his leadership as a co-chair of the House Congressional Cannabis Caucus,” said NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Alaska voters should send him to Congress for another term so he can continue to advocate for federal reform and help convince more of his colleagues in the Republican Party to join the fight against the outdated and failed policy of prohibition.”

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus was formed in 2017 to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.


For more information, contact NORML PAC at (202) 483-5500.

Gardner, Warren, Joyce and Blumenauer Unveil Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies

Forty-Six States, Washington D.C., Two Territories, and a Number of Tribes Have Legalized Marijuana in Some Form

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) today introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders. The bill also extends these protections to Washington D.C, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely.

Forty-six states currently have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana or marijuana-based products – and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribes have similar laws. As states developed their own approaches to marijuana enforcement, the Department of Justice issued guidance to safeguard these state actions and ensure practical use of limited law enforcement resources. However, this guidance was withdrawn earlier this year, creating legal uncertainty, threatening public health and safety, and undermining state regulatory regimes.

“In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry.  But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government,” said Senator Gardner. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted.  The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”

“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” said Senator Warren. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”

“We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,”said Representative Joyce. “If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”

“For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” said Representative Blumenauer. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”

Ignoring the ability of states, territories, and tribes to determine for themselves what type of marijuana regulation works best comes with real costs. Legitimate businesses that comply with state laws are blocked from access to basic banking services. Illicit markets often spring up and local law enforcement must divert resources needed elsewhere. Thousands of people are prosecuted and locked up in our criminal justice system. Qualified scientists and state public health departments struggle to conduct basic and epidemiological research or spur medical advances, and the fundamental nature of state and tribal sovereignty is violated. As more states, territories, and tribes thoughtfully consider updates to marijuana regulations, often through voter-initiated referendums, it is critical that Congress take immediate steps to safeguard their right to do so by passing the STATES Act.

The legislation has been endorsed by organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Safe Access, Americans for Tax Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign for Liberty, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Liberty, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the National Cannabis Bar Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Federalism Fund,NORML, the Northwest Credit Union Association, R Street, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

The STATES Act:

  • Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that – as long as states and tribes comply with a few basic protections – its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with State or tribal laws relating to marijuana activities.
  • Clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
  • Removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances under the CSA.
  • The following federal criminal provisions under the CSA continue to apply:
    • Prohibits endangering human life while manufacturing marijuana.
    • Prohibits employment of persons under age 18 in drug operations.
  • Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
  • Prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.

A fact sheet about the legislation is available here, and the full bill text is available here.

The Wink In Weed: Why You Should Join Me At CCC PDX

By David Rheins

2018 will be a crucial year for the legal cannabis industry.  Five years after the first adult-use marijuana marketplaces opened in Colorado and Washington, our industry has grown large and gone mainstream.  Big and getting bigger, with the opening of the California and Nevada markets, Oregon is now part of a contiguous legal West Coast spanning from Canada to Mexico. CannaFest Destiny has never seemed more apparent, and competition never more fierce.

Legal cannabis production has never been higher, while wholesale prices have never been lower.  The harsh reality for an industry that is hyper-competitive, overtaxed and over-regulated, is that for most licensees profit margins have never been tighter.  Many mom and pops have already sold out, and many more are on that fence.  Add to this the recent saber rattling of drug-warrior-turned-Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, and it is easy to see that for many in the industry, 2018 has begun as a time of great uncertainty and anxiety.

CCCPDX issues an industry call to action

CCCPDX issues an industry call to action

As I wrote in my “Open Letter to Jeff Sessions,”  now is the time for industry leaders, businesses and supporters to stand united.  We must show that not only has our legal industry become a vital engine of reform and economic activity —  generating hundreds of millions in new tax revenues — but we have reinvigorated communities across the country by creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

The industry has arrived at a critical juncture in its evolution, and Oregon is on the front lines of the fight for an independent legal industry.  As the Cannabis Collaborative Conference’s Mary Lou Burton puts it, “The CCC has grown up with the industry in Oregon.  Now three years into full legalization, we no longer need to offer cannabis 101 education.  Now we are focused on education geared towards successfully and profitably operating in the current environment. ”

Differentiate: The commercialization and mainstreaming of the legal cannabis industry has put enormous pressure on licensees , who must focus on building brand equity and establishing effective marketing practices that will allow them to stand out from the competition.  I’m delighted to be moderating the marketing panel discussion at CCC this year, where along with canna-brand experts Stephen Gold, The Daily Leaf; Sean Lucas, NUG Digital Marketing; and Ryan Michael, KindTyme, we will discuss the top branding and marketing trends  that every canna-marketer must know. 

Activate: Congressman Earl Blumenauer will once again deliver a keynote speech at the conference. “This is a call to action.” he said in response to the Sessions announcement. “It’s time for anyone who cares about cannabis to mobilize to defend state marijuana laws.”

Burton added, “come together with fellow law abiding and tax paying professionals in the Cannabis Industry and unite!  CCC 4.0 provides the perfect opportunity to ban together and show the media and the world that we will not back down.”

REGISTER TODAY and receive $50 off (promo code: CCC50)

Post Sessions: CCC PDX Calls For Industry Mobilization

Congressman Blumenauer said in response to the Sessions announcement that this is a call to action. It’s time for anyone who cares about cannabis to mobilize to defend state marijuana laws
 
So…what can we do now?
Come together with fellow law abiding and tax paying professionals in the Cannabis Industry and unite!  CCC 4.0 provides the perfect opportunity to ban together and show the media and the world that we will not back down.
REGISTER TODAY and receive $50 off (promo code: CCC50)
 
WHY TO ATTEND?  It’s time to be profitable!
The CCC has grown up with the industry in Oregon.  Now three years into full legalization, we no longer need to offer cannabis 101 education.  Now we are focused on education geared towards successfully and profitably operating in the current environment.  
 
 
There’s something for everyone at the CCC 4.0.  Session topics include:
  • Growers meet Buyers – wholesale, retail, processors
  • Ask the budtender – find out what’s hot & what’s not
  • State of the Industry; Congressman Blumenauer
  • OLCC Updates, Seed to Sale training, Q&A
  • Cameron Forni and Matt Morgan- “The Journey of a Cannabis Business”
  • Energy Pavilion – Energy reduction costs & rebates
  • Banking Panel with Maps & Salal Credit Unions and OR Dept of Treasury
  • Cannabis Connex & Investor Lounge buying? selling? meet with cannabis valuation experts & investors
  • Moving across state lines – Expansion, licensing
  • Processing overview and post-extraction experts
  • Science utilization; DNA mapping, terpenes, scent control
  • Running the business more efficiently
  • Collaborate with 120 industry vendors
  • Product will be on display
  • Investor Forum: accessing capital, securities law, trademarks, attracting investors, California update, Investor due diligence & partnerships

Veterans May Gain Easier Access To Medical Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  A bill introduced in Congress would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana for their patients.

The Veterans Equal Access Act. Introduced Thursday by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) with 10 bipartisan cosponsors, would lift a ban on VA doctors giving opinions or recommendations about medical marijuana to veterans who live in states where medical marijuana is permitted.

“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” Blumenauer said. “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”

Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD and depression, according to a 2012 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some scientists have suggested that marijuana may help PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. In a recent study, patients who smoked cannabis saw an average 75 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms.

President Obama Signs Farm Bill With Amendment To Allow Industrial Hemp Research

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: President Obama has signed the Farm Bill which contains an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes. Originally introduced by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amendment allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully worked to retain and strengthen the hemp research amendment during the Farm Bill conference committee process. [Read more…]