Happy Friday everyone! This is your top 5 marijuana news stories for the week and I am Richard Lowe. Every week it feels like efforts to reform cannabis laws have made more headway in both states and nationally. If Colorado’s cannabis laws were not already relaxed enough, now they are going to be putting up marijuana lounges and delivering recreational weed. North Dakota may not have legalized weed during the midterms last November but reform continues to advance. Alabama is considering medical marijuana too, but Kentucky may be holding us back with its greedy desire to hoard hemp profits. Let’s start off with the latest and biggest national news though. Today is May 10th, 2019.
U.S. Attorneys General Push for Safe Banking Act
Ah, U.S. Attorneys General! Cannabis legalization advocates have probably learned more about U.S. Attorneys and their authority than they ever planned to since 2013 when the Cole Memorandum was issued. The memo guided U.S. attorneys around the country to leave state legal cannabis businesses alone, until former AG Jeff Sessions rescinded it in early 2018. Now Bill Barr is the U.S. Attorney General and he told a Congressional committee that federal laws should match state laws pertaining to cannabis now that the majority of states have legalized it in some form. While a number of bills are working their way through Congress for national marijuana law reform, the one that has made it the furthest is the SAFE Banking Act sponsored by Rep. Earl Perlmutter out of Colorado. There is a companion bill in the Senate as well. If the bill were to pass it would prevent federal authorities from seeking legal actions against financial institutions for working with state legal cannabis companies.
It would remove the largest hurdle facing the entire legal cannabis industry, access to banking. If cannabis companies can access loans, the floodgates will open and we will all see just how big this industry can become. As of now though, most cannabis businesses operate on a cash only basis making filing taxes super challenging and leaving them vulnerable to theft. Due to these ever increasing problems as the industry grows, the Association of Attorneys General issued a letter to Congress on Wednesday endorsing the SAFE Banking Act and adopting it as official policy. This all came shortly after 17 State Treasurers called for the bill to pass as well. Not only do U.S. Attorneys and State Treasurers feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face with so much cash floating around, they plainly can see that it will only get much worse over time. It is a huge endorsement for the SAFE Banking Act and any opposition to it will look very bad. If the bill passes, it is a knockout punch to cannabis opponents around the country. Suddenly dispensaries, cannabis lab testing companies, cultivators, extractors and any other business that touches the plant will be able to make bank deposits and operate the company like any other normal business. Loans will allow them to expand their operations and insurance underwriters will offer more coverage. Even more investors will jump on board and the already amazing 250,000 jobs the cannabis industry has created will grow much further. While the SAFE Banking Act does NOT deschedule cannabis federally making it officially legal, it does unchain this monster of an industry.
The biggest hurdle to the SAFE Banking Act will be the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell out of Kentucky. The bigger the cannabis industry gets, the less potential Kentucky has to capitalize on the newly legal hemp industry. He many never even allow it to see a vote on the Senate floor. The Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, even went on a radio show recently and said Kentucky would never legalize adult-use marijuana while he was in office because of all the overdoses from edibles being reported in Colorado. 🙄 The SAFE Banking Act would also likely create a push for more state ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana, probably bringing more democrats to vote in the 2020 Presidential election which could endanger President Trump’s bid to get reelected. While the endorsement from the U.S. Attorneys General is compelling, it still may not be enough. It is politics, you know?
The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act
Sticking with federal news. Senators Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries introduced the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act this week. This is another bill meant to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act making it legal federally. The bill would also set aside funds to encourage minorities and women to own and operate cannabis companies. It is a forward thinking bill that has little chance of ever becoming law with our current Republican controlled federal government. It joins similar pieces of legislation such as the Marijuana Justice Act and the famous 420 Bill.
North Dakota Decriminalizes Weed
Moving to some state news. North Dakota voters had the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana last November with a ballot initiative that ultimately failed. North Dakota is a very conservative state and if they will reform marijuana laws then there is no reason to think that the rest of the politically conservative states around the country won’t as well. Cannabis law reform has met its biggest opposition from the Republican party but everyday it becomes more of a bipartisan issue. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgman signed HB 1050 this week making his state the 25th to decriminalize marijauna. The new law means that anyone over the age of 21 with a half ounce or less of cannabis cannot be arrested and at most face a $1,000 fine. The bill also calls for the state legislature to look into the efficacy of legalizing recreational cannabis.
Alabama Moves Closer to Legalizing Medical Marijuana
This week the Alabama Senate passed a bill that would create a permissive medical marijuana market. The bill needs to be passed in the House and signed by the governor still, which could be a challenge. If passed the bill would allow patients 19 years-of-age or older struggling with anxiety, cancer, autism, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, depression and all terminal conditions access to medical marijuana. It would be legal to purchase, possess and consume medical cannabis.
69 Year-old Woman Arrested at the Entrance to Disney World for Possessing CBD
Field test kits for cannabis potency are a work-in-progress which was certainly evidenced at Disney World recently. Hester Jordan Burkhalter, a 69 year-old woman struggling with chronic pain but looking forward to a magical day at Disney World with her family, instead got handcuffed and arrested before the day began all because she had a bottle of CBD oil with her. The arresting officer said he tested the CBD with a “marijuana presumptive testing kit” and when it turned red indicating the presence of THC, he arrested her. She was later released on $2,000 bail and all charges were dropped against her. Talk about the opposite of a magical day.
That’s it for this week everyone. I will be away next week, so no summaries, but I will be back the following week. 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!