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Diversity Provisions Added To Marijuana Banking Bill Up For Congressional Vote This Week

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The sponsor of a marijuana banking bill scheduled for a key committee vote in Congress this week is moving to amend the legislation to add provisions requiring the federal government to track and issue recommendations on how to expand financial services to minority-owned and women-owned cannabis businesses, among other changes.

The bill, the the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, is slated to be voted on by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

In general the proposal seeks to protect banks from bring punished by federal regulators for working with marijuana businesses that are legal under state laws—a key goal for the cannabis industry, the lack of which is seen as a major roadblock to certainty, security and growth.

Current policy makes many financial institutions reluctant to work with marijuana growers, processors or sellers out of fear of violating money laundering or drug laws. And that has forced many cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis, which can make them targets for robberies.

The new House Democratic majority has identified moving on the banking issue as the first step in what could be a broad marijuana reform agenda, although top Republicans are seeking to delay the vote from happening at all this week.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s chief sponsor, wants to strike the current bill’s provisions and replace them with a new version—an “amendment in the nature of a substitute,” in Capitol Hill parlance.

Many of its core provisions, and the main thrust of the legislation, which currently has 143 cosponsors—nearly a third of the entire House—remain the same, however.

Chief among the changes are the diversity and inclusion provisions that would require federal financial regulators to issue reports on an annual basis compiling “information and data on the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses” and make “regulatory or legislative recommendations for expanding access to financial services” for those businesses

Separately, the Government Accountability Office would be directed to “carry out a study on the barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and the access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

Another change would spell out more clearly which activities are covered under the legislation’s protections. The original version referred to the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to define “financial service.”

The amended language, however,  specifies that the protections provided in the bill cover armored car services and money transmitting businesses, as well as the “authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring for deposit, transmitting, delivering, instructing to be delivered, reconciling, collecting, or otherwise effectuating or facilitating of payments or funds, where such payments or funds are made or transferred by any means, including by the use of credit cards, debit cards, other payment cards, or other access devices, accounts, original or substitute checks, or electronic funds transfers.”

The substitute additionally makes sure to clarify that protections under the legislation are extended to federal reserve banks and employees of marijuana businesses.

The amendment also deletes a requirement for federal banking regulators to issue guidance and procedures to banks but maintains a related provision directing the Financial Institutions Examination Council to develop the guidance.

“With access to banking services, cannabis businesses would longer need to operate as a cash only business, which could promote public safety and improve the efficiency of collecting taxes and fees from these businesses,” reads a new committee memo on the bill released ahead of Tuesday’s markup.

The legislation was the subject of a lengthy hearing last month.

Here’s a closer look at the changes Marijuana Moment spotted in a side-by-side comparison of the original bill and the substitute amendment, with technical and non-substantive changes listed last:

OLD:
[no comparable provision]
NEW:
SEC. 8. ANNUAL DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION REPORT.
The Federal banking regulators shall issue an annual report to Congress containing—
(1) information and data on the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses; and
(2) any regulatory or legislative recommendations for expanding access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.

 

OLD:
[no comparable provision]
NEW:
SEC. 9. GAO STUDY ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION.
(a) STUDY.—The Comptroller General of the United States shall carry out a study on the barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and the access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.
(b) REPORT.—The Comptroller General shall issue a report to the Congress—
(1) containing all findings and determinations made in carrying out the study required under subsection (a); and
(2) containing any regulatory or legislative recommendations for removing barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and expanding access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.

 

OLD:
(6) FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘‘financial service’’ means a financial product or service as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481).
NEW:
(6) FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘‘financial service’’—
(A) means a financial product or service, as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481);
(B) includes, whether performed directly or indirectly, the authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring for deposit, transmitting, delivering, instructing to be delivered, reconciling, collecting, or otherwise effectuating or facilitating of payments or funds, where such payments or funds are made or transferred by any means, including by the use of credit cards, debit cards, other payment cards, or other access devices, accounts, original or substitute checks, or electronic funds transfers;
(C) includes acting as a money transmitting business which directly or indirectly makes use of a depository institution in connection with effectuating or facilitating a payment for a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider in compliance with section 5330 of title 31, United States Code, and any applicable State law; and
(D) includes acting as an armored car service for deposit with a depository institution or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System with respect to any monetary instruments (as defined under section 1956(c)(5) of title 18, United States Code.

 

OLD:
[no comparable provision]
NEW:
(b) PROTECTIONS FOR FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS.—With respect to providing a service to a depository institution that provides a financial service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider (where such financial service is provided within a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of cannabis pursuant to a law or regulation of such State, political subdivision, or Indian Tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable), a Federal reserve bank, and the officers, directors, and employees of the Federal reserve bank, may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation—
(1) solely for providing such a service; or
(2) for further investing any income derived from such a service.

 

OLD:
(b)FORFEITURE.—A depository institution that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan or another financial service provided to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or to an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing such loan or other financial service.
NEW:
(c) FORFEITURE.—
(1) DEPOSITORY INSTITUTIONS.—A depository institution that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan or another financial service provided to an owner, employee, or operator of a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or to an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing such loan or other financial service.
(2) FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS.—A Federal reserve bank that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan or another financial service provided to an owner, employee, or operator of a depository institution that provides a financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or to
an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to such a depository institution, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing such loan or other financial service.

 

OLD:
ISSUANCE BY FEDERAL BANKING REGULATORS.—The Federal banking regulators shall each issue guidance and examination procedures for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers that are consistent with the uniform guidance and examination procedures developed under subsection (a).
NEW:
[no comparable provision]

 

OLD:
(5) FEDERAL BANKING REGULATOR.—The term ‘‘Federal banking regulator’’ means each of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration, or any Federal agency or department that regulates banking or financial services, as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.
NEW:
(5) FEDERAL BANKING REGULATOR.—The term ‘‘Federal banking regulator’’ means each of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration, the Department of the Treasury, or any Federal agency or department that regulates banking or financial services, as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

 

OLD:
(5) prohibit or penalize a depository institution, or entity performing services for the depository institution, for, or otherwise discourage a depository institution, or entity performing services for the depository institution, from, authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring, reconciling, or collecting payments for a cannabis-related legitimate business, where such payment is made by any means, including a credit, debit, or other payment card, an account, check, or electronic funds transfer
NEW:
(5) prohibit or penalize a depository institution (or entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution) for, or otherwise discourage a depository institution (or entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution) from, engaging in a financial service for a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.

 

OLD:
(a) IN GENERAL.—With respect to providing financial services within a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of cannabis pursuant to a law or regulation of such State, political subdivision, or Indian Tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable, a depository institution that provides financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, and the officers, directors, and employees of that depository institution may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation—
(1) solely for providing such financial services;
(2) for further investing any income derived from such financial services.
NEW:
(a) IN GENERAL.—With respect to providing a financial service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider within a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of cannabis pursuant to a law or regulation of such State, political subdivision, or Indian Tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable, a depository institution, entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution, or Federal reserve bank that provides a financial service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, and the officers, directors, and employees of that depository institution, entity, or Federal reserve bank may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation—
(1) solely for providing such a financial service;
(2) for further investing any income derived from such a financial service.

 

OLD:
Nothing in this Act shall require a depository institution to provide financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.
NEW:
Nothing in this Act shall require a depository institution or entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution to provide financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.

 

OLD:
The purpose of this Act is to increase public safety by expanding financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers and reducing the amount of cash at such businesses.
NEW:
The purpose of this Act is to increase public safety by ensuring access to financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers and reducing the amount of cash at such businesses.

 

OLD:
FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘financial service’ means a financial product or service as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481).
NEW:
FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘financial service’ has the meaning given that term in section 10 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.

 

OLD:
CANNABIS-RELATED LEGITIMATE BUSINESS.—The term ‘cannabis-related legitimate business’ has the meaning given that term in section 8 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.
NEW:
CANNABIS-RELATED LEGITIMATE BUSINESS.—The term ‘cannabis-related legitimate business’ has the meaning given that term in section 10 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.

 

OLD:
SERVICE PROVIDER.—The term ‘service provider’ has the meaning given that term in section 8 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.
NEW:
SERVICE PROVIDER.—The term ‘service provider’ has the meaning given that term in section 10 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.

 

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

GOP Congressman Falsely Claims Marijuana Can Be Legally Consumed In Public In ‘Many States’

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A Republican congressman wrongly claimed that marijuana can be legally consumed in public in “many states” in a Twitter post on Friday.

Following a House vote in favor of anti-vaping legislation that also included a ban on menthol cigarettes, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) argued that the bill is an example of government overreach and that it would not prevent youth from using vaping products.

“Now, Democrats propose making possession of a menthol cigarette a violation of federal law when smoking a marijuana joint in public is legal in many states,” he wrote in his tweet. “Instead, we need to focus on real healthcare issues like surprise billing, the opioid epidemic and curbing coronavirus.”

The claim about laws governing public cannabis consumption is likely to raise eyebrows among reform advocates familiar with state-legal marijuana programs.

It’s not the case that “many states” allow individuals to smoke in public areas. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly prohibited activities in legalization measures.

“Rep. Barr is anti-freedom and pro-false hysteria when it comes to cannabis,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Sadly, his desire to continue to see hundreds of thousands of Americans be arrested and incarcerated due to minor marijuana charges is held far too many of his colleagues in Congress.”

Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that Barr’s “facts and priorities are wrong.”

“No legalization state allows public smoking of cannabis (other than in adult-only locations in some cases), and almost all medical cannabis states forbid it,” she said. “Marijuana isn’t associated with increased mortality, while cigarettes are associated with more than 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone. Why is Rep. Barr maligning and voting against the safer substance, and working to keep it illegal?”

Here are some examples of public consumption policies in legal cannabis states.

Alaska: For adults over 21 years of age, the law permits “consumption of marijuana, except that nothing in this chapter shall permit the consumption of marijuana in public.”

California: “You can consume cannabis on private property but you cannot consume, smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in public places.”

Colorado: “Using marijuana in any way—smoking, eating or vaping—isn’t allowed in public places.”

Illinois: “There is no public consumption allowed for cannabis. Smoking or consuming weed is illegal in motor vehicles and public spaces, including your front porch.”

Massachusetts: “You can’t use marijuana in any form (smoking, vaping, edibles, etc.) in public or on federal land.”

Nevada: “Adults 21 years and older can legally consume marijuana, but with restrictions on where it can be consumed: You cannot use marijuana in any public place.”

Oregon: “Recreational marijuana cannot be sold or smoked in public.”

Put simply, the notion that public consumption of marijuana is widespread is a false narrative. A standout exception is Oklahoma, where medical cannabis patients are able to consume wherever tobacco is permitted. That said, Barr’s assertion that public marijuana smoking is legal in “many states” is patently false.

That the congressman is perpetuating that narrative isn’t especially surprising, however. Barr is no fan on cannabis, voting against spending bill amendments preventing the Justice Department from using its fund to interfere in state-legal medical marijuana programs as well as a separate measure last year that would’ve extended protections to all state cannabis programs.

That said, Barr isn’t alone in his opposition to the menthol cigarette ban that cleared the House on Friday. Several Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the measure in committee and on the floor. But their reasoning was generally that the targeted ban would lead to overpolicing of minority communities.

House Democrats Block Amendment To Restrict Marijuana Products In Anti-Vaping Bill

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VA Notice About Researching Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans Deleted Shortly After Posting

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will soon release a notice announcing that it is seeking information about the potential of marijuana and its components to treat medical conditions that commonly afflict military veterans.

A post describing the request was briefly uploaded to a government website this week, though it’s since been deleted—but not before Marijuana Moment downloaded a copy. A representative said in response to an e-mailed query that the document was “rescinded for edits” and a revised version will be published “at a future date.”

VA’s Clinical Science Research and Development Service wrote in the filing that it is interested in establishing a research program designed to “examine the potential for medical marijuana and cannabinoids to treat disorders and diseases prevalent in our Veteran population.”

In a request for white papers on the topic, the department said it’s especially interested in identifying potential medical uses for cannabis to treat neuropathic pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Unrelieved neuropathic pain experienced by Veterans after spinal cord or peripheral nerve injury contributes to depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep, and overall decreased quality of life,” VA said. “PTSD, also highly prevalent in Veterans, is a mental health problem often co-morbid with chronic pain.”

“A large percentage of Veterans who seek relief from these conditions, resort to smoking marijuana or use unregulated dietary cannabis supplements, etc,” it continued. “It is therefore imperative to determine which cannabinoid compounds are truly effective, for which symptoms, in which populations, as well as the associated risks.”

VA said it is committed to researching and developing evidence-based treatment options for veterans, and that’s what the program is meant to address.

“Without the needed evidence base for medical marijuana, this will not be a treatment choice within VA,” the department wrote. “We hope to support a series of clinical trials, which in case of positive outcomes, will generate robust data to support the use of cannabinoid(s) for pain and/or PTSD (or one or more of its symptoms).”

The department plans to conduct clinical trials if the evidence indicates that medical cannabis can be useful. It touted the “cadre of experienced clinical investigators, a highly participatory research population, and mechanisms in place to support every aspect of clinical research.”

White papers submitted to VA under the now-deleted solicitation must contain four components: 1) the “formulation and route of administration of the cannabinoid preparation,” 2) their ability to manufacture and supply those preparations, 3) the investigational new drug registration for compounds that aren’t already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and 4) evidence about the product’s efficacy in treating pain, PTSD and other conditions.

As drafted, the notice gives a deadline of March 15 to submit the requested one-page white papers, though it’s not clear if that will change when the updated notice is released.

Additionally, VA said it plans to collaborate with industry partners for “further understanding and development of evidence-based treatments such as medical marijuana and cannabinoids” and on April 27, will hold an “Industry Day” to discuss the “goals of the program.”

The department is “particularly interested in obtaining information about cannabinoid drugs availability, likelihood of their approval by the FDA (if not yet approved), and the data supporting their use for pain and PTSD treatment in Veterans,” the notice says.

Members of Congress and veterans advocates discussed the need for alternative treatment options, including medical cannabis, during a joint committee hearing earlier this week.

At the same time, bipartisan legislators are asking their colleagues to cosponsor a bill that would require VA to conduct research into the therapeutic potential of marijuana for veterans. That legislation already has 104 House cosponsors.

Read VA’s since-rescinded notice on medical marijuana research below: 

VA Request For Medical Mari… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

House Democrats Block Amendment To Restrict Marijuana Products In Anti-Vaping Bill

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House Democrats Block Amendment To Restrict Marijuana Products In Anti-Vaping Bill

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House Democrats pushed back against a Republican attempt to include a flavored marijuana vaping ban in a broader anti-vaping bill that passed the chamber on Friday, arguing that it doesn’t make sense to prohibit products that are already illegal under federal law.

Instead, several lawmakers argued that Congress should enact separate cannabis reform legislation that could include provisions designed to protect public health and reduce the appeal of marijuana to youth.

The issue first came up during a House Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday, with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introducing an amendment to “include a prohibition against flavored marijuana products” such that they would be “treated in the same manner as flavored tobacco products” under the bill.

While the congressman argued that language of the legislation implicitly already provides for such a ban, he said it was important to clarify to send a message to young people that they can’t vape products containing nicotine or THC.

“Let it not be said in 2029 that we had a chance and we felt maybe we were getting to it in 2020,” he said. “Let’s just go ahead and do it. Let’s say you can’t sell flavored marijuana THC vaping products. My amendment makes that clear.”

Watch the conversation below: 

Democratic members said they shared Griffith’s concern about underage use of flavored cannabis vaping products. However, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) pushed back and said the proposal is not germane because marijuana remains illegal under federal law and so regulating these products requires separate congressional action.

Earlier in the hearing, he suggested that his House-passed cannabis banking bill—the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act—could serve as a vehicle to address the body’s concerns.

“We have to start addressing it because we have 47 states that now are allowing some level of marijuana use when the statute under the Controlled Substance Act clearly makes it illegal,” the congressman said. “There’s a bill sitting in the Senate called the SAFE Banking Act that may get back here at some point, and we could put some testing and regulatory components on it.”

Watch this exchange below: 

Is a flavored marijuana vaping ban even necessary?

Also during the hearing, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) pressed Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) about the lack of specificity in the bill as it concerns marijuana vaping products. Woodall said he wanted that aspect addressed before he leaves office in nine months.

“It strikes me…more than strange that banana crush [nicotine vaping products] will no longer be available to adults in my district. But banana strawberry cream, which is an illegal [marijuana] product today, will continue to be available at 180 retailers near you,” Woodall said. “I don’t know how I take that message into my high schools and say that we’re going to reduce drug dependency in the months and years ahead.”

Watch the conversation below: 

Pallone said he appreciates Woodall’s concern that flavored vaping products can mislead consumers about what they’re actually putting into their bodies and that he “would tend to think that the same problem would exist” for flavored marijuana products. However, he said there’s a distinction to be made.

“Most people tell me that nicotine is much more toxic and much more dangerous to your health than marijuana so maybe we shouldn’t have restrictions on marijuana at all and maybe we shouldn’t have any restrictions on flavored marijuana because the marijuana doesn’t have the same health problems that nicotine has,” he said. “Maybe I should say, assuming that marijuana is dangerous then maybe the flavored should be. But it’s not as dangerous.”

“The reality is that we know that nicotine is much more dangerous than marijuana so maybe the flavors masking it is not as serious a problem as it would be for nicotine,” he said.

Griffith’s amendment was blocked from floor consideration in a party-line vote of 3-6 by the panel, but the conversation around flavored marijuana products continued on Friday on the House floor.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) brought a poster board showing pictures of flavored cannabis vaping products and lamented that they are not explicitly included in the anti-vaping bill.

“If you want to do something about kids—if you want to do something about lung disease—then we need to do something about marijuana and the oils it gets mixed with that this bill does not address,” he said.

But Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) pointed out that if Republicans are interested in ensuring that such marijuana products are properly regulated, the substance needs to be removed from the Controlled Substances Act to provide Congress with the means to enact regulations.

Imposing regulations on marijuana while it’s still federally prohibited is “like regulating flavored heroin,” he said. The congressman added that a bill to deschedule marijuana called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would give lawmakers the tools to protect public health.

“The challenge that we have now is to be able to move forward—to be able to protect young people and the public,” Blumenauer said. “Cannabis is a red herring. If we tax and regulate it, then we can deal with the products they’re talking about. But unless and until we bring it—as two-thirds of the states have done—to actually tax and regulate it, we can’t deal with that. It doesn’t matter.”

Not all Democrats were on board with the anti-vaping bill.

It was a tight 213-195 vote in the House on Friday. Top Democratic leaders are faced challenges as they worked to get the broader legislation approved. Some members of the party have expressed opposition over policies to ban flavored tobacco, including menthol, which they argue would lead to overpolicing of minority communities.

Banning CBD Products Would Be ‘A Fool’s Game,’ FDA Chief Admits

Image by Lindsay Fox from Pixabay.

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