Paul Finds Unlikely Support From Marijuana Advocates

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA :Among the top contributors to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign are the usual suspects — a financial management firm, a real estate developer, a manufacturer of hand tools.

But Paul also is getting significant support from an unlikely source for a conservative Republican — the marijuana industry.

The Marijuana Policy Project gave Paul’s campaign $5,000 — the legal limit that a political committee can give a candidate, according to campaign finance records.

The National Cannabis Industry Association gave $5,000. Its executive director and federal lobbyist added another $2,000, according to a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks campaign spending.

NCIA Lobby Days 2015 Recap

by Bethany Moore, NCIA Development Officer

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: While the cannabis industry and movement has grown at a phenomenal rate this last year, the body that governs our federal laws is notorious for moving at a glacial pace. Between the House of Representatives and the Senate, the future of our country is determined by the votes of more than 500 individuals representing the wishes of their constituents. This is why every year, the National Cannabis Industry Association descends upon Capitol Hill with dozens of our members to meet with these offices to explain the unfair burdens we’re facing, and how we’d like them to fix them.

 NCIA Lobby Days

The contingent of NCIA members participating in the cannabis industry’s Annual Lobby Days grows bigger and bigger each year. This year, NCIA hosted an educational Policy Symposium to kick off the Lobby Days. NCIA director of government relations, Michael Correia, provided training and insider tips for effective lobbying and navigating the House and Senate offices.

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The crowd lit up with smiles when Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton representing the District of Columbia entered the room, and spoke to us about her continued support for our issues, and the great need for the work we are doing to change marijuana laws. Attendees also enjoyed a fireside chat between Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, where they dug deep into the many layers of taxation policy and messaging cannabis industry issues on Capitol Hill.

Around 80 NCIA members gathered into small pre-organized groups, armed with folders containing talking points and one-pagers on our issues, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Members split off and navigated around the Senate and House buildings, headed to meetings with Congressional offices and their staffers to describe the challenges they face due to the country’s outdated federal laws first hand.

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John Davis, owner of Northwest Patient Resource Center in Seattle, and vice-chair of NCIA’s board of directors, attended Lobby Days for his third consecutive year. “I really appreciated being able to talk to people that are on the front lines along with my business on the 280E tax provision. I am already knowledgeable on the subject but the NCIA Policy Symposium did not disappoint on the details.”

Also from Washington state, Eden Labs owner AC Braddock joined us for her third year of lobbying with NCIA. “In two days we got into over 100 offices and the difference in reception from last year was significant. Legislators were interested in what we had to say, our opinions on different legislation initiatives, and how 280E and banking restrictions were genuinely hindering legal businesses.” said Braddock. “This work has restored my faith in our government processes. It is truly empowering to be heard and sought after as a source of advice.”

On the second day, NCIA kicked off the formal lobbying with a press conference in front of the Capitol. We were joined by several of our industry-friendly allies in Congress. Several pieces of legislation were introduced in the weeks surrounding the Lobby Days event, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-CA) “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015,” which effectively gets the Federal government out of the business of the states, thus allowing each state to determine its own destiny with regard to a regulated cannabis industry. During the NCIA press conference in D.C., Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) re-introduced “The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015” (H.R. 2076), which resolves the banking crisis facing cannabis businesses. This bill would provide a safe haven for banks to offer services to cannabis-related businesses without fear of risk of breaking money laundering laws.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also introduced “The Small Business Tax Equity Act” (H.R. 1855 andS. 987) in both the House and Senate. The companion legislation would create an exception to Section 280E allowing state-compliant cannabis businesses to take normal business expense deductions like any other legal business. Rep. Blumenauer has introduced a similar bill in the House before, but this is the first time such legislation has been proposed in the Senate.

Even earlier this year in February, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a comprehensive solution that would address the banking crisis, the 280E fiasco, and other problematic federal cannabis policies. The “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act” (H.R. 1013) would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, and allow states to set and enforce their own marijuana policies without federal interference, thus giving each state the freedom to choose its own approach to cannabis, and also removing the many unintended consequences of the current conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

These bills, though introduced in their respective bodies of government, await being debated and passed through their initial committees before moving to the floor for a full vote.

“While full legalization may not happen for a while, the industry should not have punitive rules in states where is it legal,” noted Braddock. “It is up to our legislators to make the laws viable and effective, and it is up to us to help them understand what that looks like. That is why it is so important to get in front of them.”

The meetings were phenomenal. Starting the dialog with your elected officials opens up a relationship with them and more importantly their legislative aids. My contact list has become quite impressive since I joined NCIA.” said Davis. “This is a big part of why my organization is active in NCIA. Change is needed at the federal level as well as in state and localities. This is our chance to be effective in advancing the changes that are needed to make our industry work.”

National Cannabis Industry Association, a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade organization, would not be able to accomplish this work were it not for the active dedication, passion, and professionalism of its membership. With nearly 900 member businesses across the country, approximately 10% of our membership was represented in Washington D.C. this year, visiting more than half of the 535 total Congressional offices. Our goal next year? Visit with all 535…

 

Pot Lobby Turns Its Back On ‘Cheech & Chong’

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The marijuana lobby is tired of the “Cheech & Chong” stoner jokes and wants to be taken seriously in Congress.

That’s why the National Cannabis Industry Association dropped actor and marijuana activist Tommy Chong from its Capitol Hill lobbying push slated for the end of April. According to an internal email obtained by POLITICO, the cannabis industry wants to move past the stoner stereotypes embodied by Chong as it tries to remake itself as a serious and respectable segment of the economy.

In a Monday email sent to Chong’s representatives and allies, NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith said that after deliberations and feedback from “allied members of Congress,” the group decided Chong is not the best representative in stodgy Washington, particularly when it comes to lobbying right-of-center lawmakers.

“Having Tommy out in DC for the NCIA Lobby Days will detract from the overall message we aim for with the event, which is that cannabis business people are regular professionals and relatable to the generally conservative members of Congress we are looking to appeal to,” Smith wrote. “We are here to break ‘stoner’ stereotypes rather than reinforce them.”

 

 

Historic Senate Pot Vote Imminent

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Advocacy groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, and Americans for Safe Access are urging citizens to contact their Senator today as a historic vote on de-funding the war on weed nears.

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) proposed amendment to the Commerce, Science & Justice appropriations bill would block the Department of Justice from spending money raiding lawful medical marijuana providers in states that it is legal. The idea passed the House 219-189 in May, in a surprise example of bipartisanship, but it faces much tougher odds in the Senate.

Democratic Senators like Diane Feinstein remain opposed to ending the federal war on medical pot, her office said. She said the amendment would interfere with the police’s ability to shut down “rogue” clubs. Advocacy groups call that argument factually incorrect.

The National Cannabis Industry Association notes: “The amendment does not legalize marijuana but simply prevents tax dollars from being spent undermining state medical marijuana laws.
 The Amendment does not prevent enforcement from combating marijuana-related activity that is not in compliance with state laws.”

 

Grand Rapids Hotel Lights Up Occupancy Rates With Smoking Rooms – Pot Included

MICHIGAN: The Howard Johnson franchise on 28th Street in Grand Rapids has seen occupancy soar since owner Bob Sullivan made a seemingly unfashionable business decision: accommodate smokers. [Read more…]