Hello everyone, it’s Richard Lowe again. Here is your weekly update with 5 of the top marijuana news stories of the week coming to you on February 8th, 2019. This week we have a whole lot of cannabis politics to cover and some new stats about why people in the U.S. want to see marijuana legalized. We also have some news from Israel’s marijuana industry. Let’s start though with politics and how the United States Congress is talking seriously about cannabis legalization for the first time ever.
The House of Representatives Discussing Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses
Next week, on February 13th, a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will sit down and have a first of its kind serious discussion on the banking problems plaguing the state legal marijuana industry. They have titled the hearing, “Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses.” Due to the Schedule I status of marijuana, banks have remained concerned about allowing state legal marijuana companies that handle the physical cannabis plant to maintain bank accounts in fear of being accused of money laundering. Also, due to the illegal federal status of marijuana, banks are audited more often by the IRS and holding the accounts means more paperwork, time and money. The end result is that businesses such as marijuana dispensaries have been forced to stay cash-only businesses, leaving them vulnerable to robberies which even left one guard dead at a Colorado dispensary. Marijuana businesses must also contend with Tax Code 280E that does not allow them to write-off normal business expenses. While certain Representatives have attempted to make the cannabis banking problems facing the industry a priority in Congress, not enough support has been garnered for any efforts to bare any sort of fruit. We will have to see what will come of this hearing.
The Candidates for the 2020 Presidential Election that Support Marijuana Legalization
Staying with federal politics. Last week, Senator Cory Booker announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election. In his very first radio interview he called for the legalization of marijuana, making it a top issue for his campaign. He is joining a number of other democratic nominees for president that support cannabis legalization on the federal level including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and more. It seems that the social injustice aspect of marijuana prohibition is the number one reason for their support of marijuana reform, but they also argue for the medical benefits of cannabis, as well as the economic benefits. Sen. Booker is the main sponsor for The Marijuana Justice Act which would deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act and focuses on expunging records for people carrying non-violent marijuana convictions. Many of the states that have legalized marijuana have made throwing out marijuana possession convictions and other low-level cannabis related convictions a top priority. Support for cannabis legalization has been on the rise around the country which can be directly connected to the support now being seen by presidential candidates as well.
Understanding the Rise in Support for Cannabis Legalization in the Country
Let’s stick with the support for cannabis legalization topic for another moment. A new report published on TheConversation.com attempts to explain why so many people in the United States now support the legalization of weed. It is rather astonishing that in 1969 only 12.5% of Americans wanted to see cannabis legalized, and in 1988, just 24% supported marijuana reform. But, a Gallup poll last year showed that 66% of the people in the U.S. wanted to see marijuana completely legalized. According to the report, media publications, like the New York Times, started changing the tune of their marijuana-based articles from lumping cannabis with heroin, drug trafficking and crime to the topic of medical marijuana. Support for legalization started to climb shortly after the media started portraying marijuana in a different light. It does not necessarily mean that the public is very impressionable, but that once people were able to look at cannabis from another perspective, their beliefs about cannabis began to change. The report also correlates the rising support for criminal justice reform with the support for cannabis legalization. The President signed the First Step Act late in 2018 which reduced sentencing for federal inmates serving time for non-violent misdemeanors of all sorts. Today, with the internet and its by-products, like social media, the ability for media to spread awareness on topics like cannabis legalization and criminal justice reform has never been so powerful.
The End to the Ban on Smoking Medical Marijuana in Florida Will Not Be So Easy
The last political topic of the week has us back in the state of Florida. We reported a couple of weeks ago that Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, announced to reporters that he would pull the state’s appeal to lift the ban on smoking medical marijuana if the Florida Legislature did not change the law first. It turns out the Florida lawmakers are adamant about keeping the ban on smoking even though the vast majority of voters want the ban lifted. They did not come out this week and say no, instead in typical bureaucratic fashion they proposed an amendment to the current medical marijuana law that requires patients to see an additional doctor outside of the medical marijuana program and get a recommendation from that doctor that smoking marijuana is the only way for the patient to receive the full benefits of medical cannabis. The added cost of seeing yet another doctor would likely prevent most Floridians from pursuing state legal medical marijuana. Florida’s House Speaker José Oliva, in particular, is opposed to lifting the ban, stating that he believes it would create a de facto recreational marijuana market in Florida. It leaves Governor DeSantis with little choice but to pull the state’s appeal on the court’s decision that the ban on smoking marijuana is unconstitutional.
Israeli Medical Marijuana Has Made it to the United States
Our last story has to do with the international marijuana industry. If you were unaware, Israel is a world leader in marijuana research and legalized medical marijuana over a decade ago. In particular, one company called Tikun Olam leads the way in marijuana research and its products have already begun to be sold in Washington and Delaware, and should be available in both Florida and California soon. They have been testing medical marijuana with cancer patients, opioid addiction, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, people with autism along with many more diseases and conditions. They have six proprietary strains they are offering here in the U.S. but there are a total of 32 strains in Israel they are working on. Since marijuana is still federally illegal in the U.S., Tikun Olam is partnering with state licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to grow their genetically identical strains of marijuana here in the U.S. and produce tinctures, oils and topicals for sale to medical patients. Tikun Olam believes their medical cannabis products have been refined and tested more than any other cannabis products on the market.
That’s it for this week everyone. Remember to follow our Youtube channel, The National Marijuana News, along with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @NationalMJNews. I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.