Connect with us

Politics

Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Give Marijuana Businesses Access To Insurance Coverage

Published

on

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:

Marijuana Insurance Bill by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

This piece was updated to include comments from Paul and Cramer.

Bipartisan Lawmakers File Congressional Bill To Encourage Marijuana Research

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Politics

Andrew Yang Peddles Marijuana-Themed Presidential Campaign Merchandise

Published

on

2020 candidate Andrew Yang announced on Saturday that his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is rolling out a line of marijuana-themed merch.

The limited edition products blend Yang’s love of mathematics with his support for cannabis reform. A t-shirt being offered for $30 simply says, “Math. Money. Marijuana.” And a now-sold-out baseball cap says “Math” on the front and displays a cannabis leaf on back. There’s also a bumper sticker that says, “Legalize Marijuana.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Buttigieg Pledges To Decriminalize Possession Of All Drugs In First Term As President

Published

on

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a comprehensive plan on Friday that calls for “decriminalizing all drug possession” in his first presidential term as a means to combat the opioid epidemic and treat addiction as a public health, rather than criminal justice, issue.

Decriminalization is just one action the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he’d pursue in order to reform the country’s mental health care system and bolster substance abuse treatment. His plan also includes proposals to reduce sentences for drug offenses other than possession, increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone and make it easier to implement syringe exchange programs.

Buttigieg’s “Healing and Belonging in America” plan emphasizes the need to divert people suffering from addiction away from prisons and into treatment. He said he’d accomplish that by expanding diversionary programs and evidence-based training “for drug courts, mental health courts, and other alternatives to incarceration for justice-involved persons.”

The goal of decriminalization and diversion is to reduce “the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75 percent in the first term.”

Under his plan, sentencing reform for drug offenses other than possession would be applied retroactively and coupled with expungements for past convictions. Buttigieg pointed to research demonstrating that “incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths” and instead “actually increases the rate of overdose deaths.”

“We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this public health problem.”

“To ensure that people with a mental illness or substance use disorder can heal, we will decriminalize these conditions,” the proposal states. “When someone is undergoing a crisis or is caught using a drug, they should be treated by a health professional rather than punished in a jail cell.”

“All presidential candidates should join Pete Buttigieg in recognizing that the criminalization of people for their drug use is wrong and simply bad policy,” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Action, said in a press release. “Possession of drugs for personal use is the single most arrested offense in the United States, eclipsing arrest rates for any other offense. With overdose numbers skyrocketing and entire communities, disproportionately black or brown, suffering from criminalization, it’s time for policymakers to shift gears. Taking an evidence-based, health-centered approach to address this crisis is not only true leadership – it’s common sense.”

The mayor also made harm reduction policies a key component of his strategy. He said take-home naloxone programs would be expanded to all 50 states by 2024 and that harm reduction services would be expanded “to reduce overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases related to needle sharing.”

The plan would make naloxone “broadly available in order to reverse overdoses” and remove “legislative and regulatory restrictions on the use of federal funds for syringe service programs.”

Buttigieg said the federal government should provide funding for state and local health departments to purchase the medication, make sure that it’s “available in public spaces and workplaces” similar to first aid kids and encourage “co-prescribing of naloxone with opioids, either by individual physicians or direct dispensing by pharmacists.”

Existing federal law makes it difficult to establish syringe exchange programs, in part because federal funds can’t be used to buy needles. The restrictions “hamper state and local responses, both because they limit resources and because they convey a negative message about the value of these programs, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they can prevent transmission of HIV and hepatitis.”

In addition to lifting those barriers, the candidate said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “would also work with states to remove any criminal liability for those participating in” syringe exchange programs.

“Harm reduction programs are a critical part of any effective response to the opioid and injection drug use crisis. They minimize the negative impact of drug use without encouraging it, while reducing other side effects of drug use. In particular, this means access to syringe service programs for people who inject drugs, that link them to treatment, and provides access to sterile syringes. These programs help prevent transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infectious diseases associated with needle sharing, and reduce overdoses by deploying medication such as naloxone that help reverse the effects of opioids.”

One harm reduction policy that didn’t make the cut in Buttigieg’s plan is safe injection sites, where people could use illicit drugs under the supervision of medical professionals who could reverse overdoses and recommend treatment options. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who are also running for the Democratic nomination, both proposed legalizing such facilities as part of criminal justice reform plans they released this month.

“Decades of failed mental health and addiction policy, coupled with mass incarceration that criminalized mental illness and drug use, have left us with a mental health and addiction care system so broken that today there are more people with serious mental illness in prisons than in treatment facilities,” Buttigieg said.

The candidate also made ending incarceration for drug possession—as well as legalizing marijuana—central principles of his previously released criminal justice reform plan, which he released last month.

But while the prior plan did not explicitly describe the move as “decriminalizing” drugs, even though advocates commonly use that word to refer to policies that remove the threat of being imprisoned for possession, the new document does use that terminology—signaling a shift in clarity as Buttigieg continues to develop his campaign messaging.

In other instances, he borrowed language from his criminal justice reform plan, specifically as it concerns how criminalizing drug use can increase rates of overdose, for his mental health proposal.

“Despite equal rates of use, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for using marijuana,” the criminal justice plan states. “Research shows that incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths. In fact, some studies show that incarceration actually increases the rate of overdose deaths.”

Buttigieg mentioned that, as with drug offenses, black people are also more likely to die from overdoses. And that’s due to “the current broken system that criminalizes mental illness and addiction” that was “built during the crack epidemic of the 1980s.”

Elizabeth Warren’s Criminal Justice Plan Involves Legalizing Marijuana And Safe Injection Sites

This story was updated to include comment from the Drug Policy Action.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

White House Drug Officials Say Legal Marijuana Is Up To States

Published

on

Two top federal drug officials, including the White House drug czar, recently said that marijuana legalization should be left up to states.

The comments stand out coming from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has historically played a central role in defending blanket federal prohibition.

Jim Carroll, the Trump-appointed drug czar who directs the administration’s drug policies, told Fox 59 reporter Kayla Sullivan that he considers legalization a states’ right issue. He added that he’d like to see targeted education campaigns concerning cannabis use during pregnancy and underage usage as well as research into impaired driving.

It’s a particularly notable position given that federal law stipulates that the drug czar is required to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” listed as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, including marijuana.

Even if Carroll’s remarks arguably don’t directly violate that statute, they are significant in that he doesn’t seem to have taken the opportunity to proactively oppose state legalization efforts when asked by a reporter.

Anne Hazlett, senior advisor at ONDCP, also weighed in on cannabis legalization on Wednesday, telling CentralIllinoisProud.com that marijuana legalization is “a state decision.”

“Marijuana is an ongoing challenge that is being addressed in many of our states,” she said. “This is a state decision, and we would like to see additional research done so that these decisions being made at a state level are being made in a manor that is fully informed.”

Though the comments from Carroll and Hazlett seem to reflect an evolving understanding of the federal government’s role in imposing prohibition on the states, the ONDCP director has previously made clear he’s not enthusiastic about the burgeoning legal market.

During a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing in May, Carroll raised concerns about THC potency in marijuana products, saying “the marijuana we have today is nothing like what it was when I was a kid, when I was in high school.”

“Back then the THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes you high, was in the teens in terms of the percentage,” he said. “Now what we’re seeing is twice that, three times that, in the plant.”

He also said that more research is needed and that the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the Department of Health and Human Services are “working hard to make sure that we understand the impact of legalization of marijuana on the body.”

Federally Funded Journal Exposes How Marijuana Prohibition Puts Consumers At Risk

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Stay Up To The Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!