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Marijuana Legislation

Is SAFE Banking Act Getting Closer To Passage? Senators Agree This Issue Is At Play



By Joana Scopel

Sponsors of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act recently discussed the urgency of enacting cannabis reform this session, reiterating the public safety imperative of providing the industry access to the financial system.

Bipartisan and bicameral sponsors of banking reform said “it’s time to take action on the House-passed standalone legislation,” reported Marijuana Moment.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) brought together more than 100 stakeholders for two days of lobbying on Capitol Hill involving more than 100 meetings with legislators and staff to advocate for the Cannabis Act Banking SAFE to be enacted in 2022.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, talked about  violent crime targeting marijuana businesses and workers, as well as bipartisan support for stand-alone legislation. “It’s a political positive. It’s good policy and good politics,” Merkley said. “So we’re here today to say it’s way past time to get the SAFE Banking bill done.”

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Recently, Merkley discussed the so-called “SAFE Banking Plus” bill at the Payments, Banking, and Compliance (PBC) Conference. “Every legal business deserves the same access to the same resources as any other—resources like bank accounts, loans, payment processing, and so much more,” Merkley separately said in a press release. “When it comes to cannabis, the country is changing fast and it’s long past time that our federal laws caught up.”

A Public Safety Issue

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said SAFE Banking bill “obviously is a public safety issue. It is a tax issue. It is an issue of civil justice (…) We can get this done. We will get this done. We need some more Republican cosponsors” that the congressman expects will join them soon.

RELATED: SAFE Banking, Veterans Medical Marijuana Access Approved In House As Part Of National Defense Act

“I know, in the House, that whatever they pass in the Senate, we will get passed in the House. And this will be law by the end of this year, with your help and your hard work,” Perlmutter added.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the GOP lead on the standalone legislation called the legislation “a public safety issue—when legal Montana cannabis businesses don’t have a way to safely conduct business and are forced to operate in all cash our communities become vulnerable to crime.”

The SAFE Banking Act has passed in the House seven times but has not moved in the Senate.

What Do Minnesota’s Senators Think About This Issue?

GOP Minnesota Sen. Carla Nelson and DFL challenger Aleta Borrud debated cannabis legalization for recreational purposes, among other issues including health care, election integrity, guns and abortion.

Nelson, who has served in the Minnesota Senate since 2010, beat Borrud in a close race 50.9% to 49%, reported Yahoo News.

RELATED: Senate Rejects SAFE Act For The Sixth Time

When senators were asked if they support the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, they expressed themselves as follows:

“I absolutely do support the legalization of cannabis. Cannabis has been used for millennia, and people in our community are using it. People should not be going to jail, especially our Black and brown neighbors going to jail for using it. It becomes an issue of equity. If we legalize it, we can regulate it and improve its safety,” said Borrud.

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“I’ve heard concern from law enforcement about the packaging of gummies that are now for sale. I think we have to make sure that these are not falling into the hands of our kids.”

On the other hand, Nelson expressed that she has the endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. “And I will tell you what our public safety officials all say in this regard. Until there is a field sobriety test, it is irresponsible to legalize marijuana for the broader population,” she continued.

Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Means Social Justice

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Black Minnesotans are nearly five times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites.

“In 2021 there were 6,055 marijuana arrests in the state,” according to BCA’s latest data. Cannabis accounted for a little over one-third of all Minnesota drug arrests. “Close to 90% of marijuana arrests in Minnesota are for simple possession, rather than sales or distribution.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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Marijuana Legislation

Senators Introduce Amendments For Legalizing Medical Cannabis For Veterans




By Joana Scopel

Recently, Senators filed another pair of marijuana amendments to a large-scale defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Cannabis-related amendments proposed for the Senate version of the NDAA include legalizing medical cannabis for military veterans and pressuring the VA to provide federal home loan benefits to veterans in the cannabis industry.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced an amendment that mirrors the language of a standalone bill, the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act “that he’s sponsoring,” reported Marijuana Moment.

veterans PTSD
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

What If These Measures Come Into Law?

One of the measures would allow veterans to legally possess and use marijuana under federal law, as recommended by doctors in accordance with state law. VA doctors would also be allowed to issue such recommendations for the first time.

Additionally, it would require the VA to study marijuana’s therapeutic potential for pain and reducing opioid misuse. The text said that Congress must provide as many funds as “necessary to carry out” the investigation.

In addition, Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) separately filed an amendment to NDAA that simply expresses “the sense of Congress” that veterans “should not be denied access to Department of Veterans Affairs home loans on the basis of income derived from State-legalized cannabis activities.”

RELATED: SAFE Banking, Veterans Medical Marijuana Access Approved In House As Part Of National Defense Act

However, “many veterans continue to be denied access to home loans on the basis of income derived from State-legalized cannabis activities,” the amendment stated.

Related to the above, the senators said the VA “should improve communication with eligible lending institutions to reduce confusion among lenders and borrowers on this matter.”

veterans marijuana
Photo by DerwoodPhotography/Getty Imagess

Measures Recently Filed

Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) filed measures that would prevent the denial of federal security clearances for people over cannabis use at any time, while the other would limit the protection only to people who admit to past use prior to entering national security vetting.

RELATED: As Suicide Rates Surge, Nebraska Gov. Says There’s No Evidence Cannabis Helps Veterans With PTSD

According to one of the senator’s amendments, the “use of cannabis by an individual shall not be determinative to adjudications of the individual’s eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position.”

The other one, which Wyden is sponsoring with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), focuses on past cannabis use.

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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GOP Lawmaker Questions MMJ Legalization, Calls It ‘Stepping Stone’ To Recreational Use




By Jelena Martinovic

Tennessee, one of several states where only CBD oil is legal, has seen its fair share of legislative action on cannabis by GOP legislators, yet medical and recreational marijuana has not come close to legalization or decriminalization.

Still, cannabis continues to be a hot topic among politicians in this southern state. Rep. Sabi ‘Doc’ Kumar (R-Springfield) was the latest to share his stance on the issue.

“I oppose recreational marijuana because of its effect on society in regards to homelessness, increased crime, increased availability, especially for our adolescents and teenagers,” Kumar, who has a four-decade career as a surgeon, told Nashville News.

However, he is not against medical cannabis use, even though he believes it can become a gateway drug.

“A lot of states, that’s been a stepping stone to recreational marijuana, and I’m certainly opposed to recreational marijuana,” he said. “I think our General Assembly is pretty much opposed to it because it adds another drug to the streets.”

Interestingly, Kumar objected to the data reported by ACLU suggesting that Black and brown people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people.

“If you didn’t commit the crime, you would not be in jail. So, really, it may be culturally that certain people are more prone to commit that crime,” he said. “But certainly, if you committed a crime, that’s why you went to jail. You didn’t go to jail because of your color.”

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Fellow Republican Agrees

Meanwhile, Kumar’s fellow Republican, Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), has a fairly similar opinion on the issue, doubting the benefits of marijuana touted by medical cannabis users.

“People claim that it helps a lot of medical problems, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t help some things,” Hensley, also a doctor, told the news outlet. “I don’t think it helps all the things people claim it helps.”

RELATED: GOP Senator Continues Push For Legal Medical Marijuana In Tennessee: Will Second Time Be A Charm?

Still, he thinks that the descheduling of cannabis as a Schedule I on the federal level paved the way for more research on the effect marijuana has on the human body.

“We just need to be able to change the scheduling on it and then be able to do some studies, and then see what we need to do after that,” Hensley said.

medical marijuana
Photo by RODNAE Productions via Pexels

Tennessee Legalization Efforts

Meanwhile, legislation sponsored by the two Republican lawmakers — Rep. Bryan Terry and Sen. Ferrell Haile — that sought to create a medical cannabis program in the state got a hearing in the House Criminal Justice Committee earlier this year.

Republican Senator Janice Bowling, known for her cannabis policy reform efforts, is getting ready for another push.

RELATED: GOP Lawmakers Urge Dems To Consider Environmental Impact Of Cannabis Legislation

Her bill, SB2477/HB2458, would allow those with qualifying medical conditions to use medical cannabis legally. It will also regulate the cultivation, production, distribution, transport, sale, and possession of cannabis for medical use and research.

Meanwhile, Tennessee recently got its first bar and restaurant to serve products containing THC derived from hemp. Located at 1246 3rd Avenue in the Germantown neighborhood, Buds & Brews features a menu of “upscale bar fare” paired with a line of “delicious cannabis-infused sauces.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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Amazon Loudly Backs Cannabis Legalization, But Silently Bans Weed Grinders




By Nina Zdinjak

Amazon made headlines last year when it came out in support of ending marijuana prohibition. Now, it seems the company has gotten cold feet. It is reportedly clearing spice grinders, used by some to grind weed flower, from its site ostensibly in keeping with company policy not to sell drug paraphernalia.

What Happened

In a Seattle Times story from earlier this week, Lauren Rosenblatt shared an example of one company, Golden Gate Grinders, which has been selling spice grinders on Amazon for nine years. Then, all of a sudden, the platform banned them.

“There was no indication in all those years that this is a prohibited product,” Arnold Marcus, founder of Golden Gate Grinders told the Times. “One day, they were supporting me and then one day it ended.”

Leafly pointed out that there are about a thousand other items that can be used to help consumers enjoy their weed, such as lighters. Even an apple can be used to create a makeshift pipe. Where, then, do we draw the line?

RELATED: Buying Weed On Amazon? Don’t Hold Your Breath

To confound the situation, Amazon has removed some spice grinders and left others. One grinder still on the site describes one of its benefits as a place to “just keep your weed […] until you need it,” writes the Seattle Times. A search for “spice grinders” on Amazon shows more than 8,000 results for grinders and at least 660 for “spice grinders for cannabis.”

Photo by Christian Wiediger via Unsplash

So what gives? Lesley Hensell, co-founder of Riverbend Consulting, which helps third-party sellers on Amazon attempts to explain.

“They’ve always said there’s no drug paraphernalia but there were lots of products that were ambiguous products that were able to sell on the platform for years and years,” Hensell said.

Endless Complexity Of The Cannabis Industry 

With federal and state laws not being in sync, the marijuana industry is a difficult place to operate. Chris Shreeve, co-founder and VP of business development at Seattle-based ad agency PrograMetrix calls it “inherently risky.” Shreeve, who co-owns a weed dispensary said “We have to play the hand that we’re dealt in the cannabis space. It’s a difficult hand, but we’ve got to do it.”

Large platforms like Google, Meta, and Amazon are “tiptoeing around acceptance,” Shreeve said, noting that companies tend to search out the gray areas for their products and services.

RELATED: Apple Joins Amazon In Supporting Legal Weed — What Does This Mean For Marijuana Industry?

“I don’t fault cannabis and CBD brands for trying to navigate the ambiguous rules and regulations on some of these larger platforms. But it needs to be done under the assumption that there is risk.”

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

Where Is Amazon Heading And Why? This Is What Happened Last Year

For starters, Amazon openly backed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act), last June. At the time, Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consume, which deals with Amazon’s retail websites, wrote this on the company’s blog: “We know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting the MORE Act, federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities. We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law.¨

At the same time, the company announced it would stop testing its employees for marijuana use and would lobby Congress to end the federal prohibition of marijuana.

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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