Marijuana businesses would gain greater access to insurance policies under a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate on Monday.
The Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act would address one of several obstacles that cannabis firms face under the federal framework of prohibition, which currently restricts their ability to gain property, casualty and title insurance coverage.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, is sponsoring the legislation with cosponsoring Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
The bill’s introduction comes one day before the Senate Banking Committee will meet to discuss separate bipartisan legislation that would protect banks that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal financial regulators.
Under the CLAIM Act, insurers couldn’t be penalized for, or discouraged from, providing coverage to cannabis businesses or those that indirectly work with the industry such as lawyers or property managers. Those insurance policies couldn’t be terminated or limited simply due to its association with a state-legal cannabis market, either.
Further, federal entities wouldn’t be able to “recommend, incentivize, or encourage an insurer not to engage in the business of insurance in connection with a policyholder, or downgrade or cancel the insurance and insurances services offered to a policy holder solely because” they are a marijuana business, according to text of the legislation.
The bill also provides protections for employees of insurers, affirming that they could not be held liable just because they work with a cannabis company.
“Current federal law prevents these small business owners from getting insurance coverage, and without it, they can’t protect their property, employees, or customers,” Menendez said in a press release. “We can solve this problem with legislation that allows insurance companies to provide coverage to these enterprises without risk of federal prosecution or other unintended consequences.”
Paul added that “the principles behind the CLAIM Act are simple: respect the voices of the states and their people and stop shutting out legitimate businesses from obtaining basic protections.”
“The states are making their own decisions on these issues, and it’s time for the federal government to accept that,” he said.
Cramer argued that “federal law should not prohibit access to insurance for employees of local businesses these states voted to support, nor should it prohibit employers from acquiring insurance that protects their stores.”
The senator, who raised cannabis businesses’ financial services access problems during a Banking Committee hearing in February, said that the marijuana legalization movement has made it necessary for lawmakers to “ensure these businesses can fully operate just as any other legal small business would.”
Supporters of the legislation argue that providing insurance access to these businesses would mitigate safety risks and prevent the companies from being denied bank financing, which can occur when the businesses lack insurance coverage.
“The cannabis industry should be able to access insurance services just like any other agricultural commodity and related industries, and we are happy to support this legislation introduced by Sen. Menendez,” Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Marijuana Moment. “There are currently only a very few forward-thinking insurance companies willing to work in the cannabis space and provide these farmers and the businesses that service them the peace of mind that comes with protection from unforeseen hardships or disasters.”
“We’ve seen from the impact of wildfires in the fertile cannabis growing areas of California and elsewhere over the last several years just how necessary this bill is to the long-term health and sustainability of the industry,” he said.
“In America, people and businesses need insurance, whether it has to deal with marijuana makes no difference,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Ultimately, Congress must amend federal policy so that these growing numbers of state-compliant businesses, and those millions of Americans who patronize them, are no longer subject to policies that needlessly place them in harms way. Cannabis businesses ought to be held to the same standards as other commercial enterprises.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who recently signed legislation expanding the state’s medical cannabis program, also weighed in on Menendez’s bill in a press release.
“It is our responsibility to make sure that businesses associated with this life-changing medical treatment are treated similarly to other medical services providers,” Murphy said. “I thank Senator Menendez for introducing legislation that will protect the access of these businesses to insurance. We must do everything in our power to ensure patients have access to treatment.”
Read the text of the cannabis insurance bill below:
This piece was updated to include comments from Paul and Cramer.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording
President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.
Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote
Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.
The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.
“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”
The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.
“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.
The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.
The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.
The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.
Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.
But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.