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Major Trucking Industry Group Urges Feds To Lift Marijuana Research Roadblocks

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The American Trucking Associations (ATA) endorsed a set of marijuana-related policies on Tuesday, and that includes lifting federal restrictions on cannabis research.

A working group that studied the impact of state-level legalization efforts developed a series of recommendations aimed at improving safety on the roads and preventing impaired driving by truckers.

Among the stances that ATA’s Board of Directors approved is a position in support of increasing marijuana research, specifically when it comes to studies on impairment and drug testing technology. To encourage such investigations, the group said that it supports “lifting federal restrictions on marijuana research,” according to a copy of the recommendations that was shared with Marijuana Moment.

It’s not clear what ATA is specifically advocating for in order to lift those research barriers, but there’s general agreement that rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act represents one essential tool to accomplish that. A representative for the organization did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on its position regarding cannabis scheduling.

“Research on marijuana should include the effects of mixed-use (alcohol and marijuana) and polydrug use (marijuana and other controlled substances)” as well as “the use of oral fluid testing in developing impairment standards,” ATA, which represents more than 37,000 members, said.

Other recommendations from the organization’s Controlled Substances and Driver Health and Wellness Working Group include developing a policy that ensures employers can drug test drivers for marijuana, pursuing regulatory and legislation changes to permit drug testing “alternative specimens” such as hair and saliva. As it stands, the U.S. Department of Transportation only permits testing of urine samples.

ATA also supports the creation of a “marijuana victim’s compensation fund” that would be funded by cannabis dispensaries, growers and manufacturers. The policy doesn’t lay out who would be eligible for compensation or exactly how the funding would be sourced from industry participants.

Another recommendation that could be viewed as particularly controversial endorses the adoption of state and federal legislation that would “require that each time marijuana is dispensed to an individual, it is reported to the state” prescription drug monitoring program.

“ATA has long been an advocate for reducing impaired driving—in all its forms—so it only makes sense that we would call upon state and federal governments to consider the impact of increased use of marijuana on our roadways,” ATA President Chris Spear said in a press release. “As an industry that operates in all 50 states and across national borders, we need all levels of government to help us keep our roads and drivers drug-free.”

“This policy allows us to, while recognizing that the modern world is changing, advocate for strong, safety-oriented policies backed by sound science and data,” he added.

The list goes on to recommend support for impaired driving laws that allow law enforcement to prosecute drivers who are under the influence, increasing federal funding for drug recognition experts and facilities to test samples for evidence of drug use, creating a frequently asked questions guide to help the industry keep up with federal and state regulations, promoting the working group’s recommendations through congressional lobbying and public affairs channels and creating education programs in partnership with allies.

Working group members “are confident implementation of the Working Group’s recommendations is the first step to help mitigate the impacts of marijuana legalization on highway safety or the trucking industry’s ability to recruit and hire qualified individuals,” the document states.

Marijuana was a topic of conversation during a session at ATA’s conference this week.

Spear also briefly discussed cannabis policy during a keynote speech at the event, offering a window into the organization’s rationale behind establishing the working group.

“Eleven states, D.C. and Canada have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana, all while our federal government turns a blind eye,” he said. “And guess who gets caught in the middle?”

“You can just see the trial lawyers, sitting on the edge of their high, wing-back leather chairs, drooling over the thought of more legal ambiguity. We can’t just sit back and hand them yet another opportunity to litigate our industry,” he said. “To change direction, we need a member-led policy platform that helps lawmakers, regulators and courts make informed decisions about the impact substance abuse is having on safety and interstate commerce.”

Read ATA’s marijuana recommendations below:

ATA CSDHW WG Recommendation… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Leading Civil Rights Group Calls On Lawmakers To Support Comprehensive Marijuana Legalization Bill

Image curtesy of blinkend from Pixabay.

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.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Trade Associations And Civil Rights Groups Send Mixed Messages On Marijuana Banking To Senate

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A coalition of trade associations sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee leadership on Thursday, urging a vote on legislation to protect financial institutions that service state-legal marijuana businesses.

But those senators are also feeling pressure from leading civil rights groups like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, which sent an earlier letter insisting that they not allow cannabis banking to detract from more comprehensive reform that addresses social equity.

The organizations involved in the latest letter—including the American Bankers Association and Credit Union National Association—said that advancing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act or similar legislation is pivotal to ensuring that stakeholders receive needed clarity and are shielded from being penalized by federal regulators.

The letter, addressed to Banking Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), emphasized the bipartisan nature of the House passage of the bill in September and the growing movement at the state level to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.

“Our organizations support an initial legislative step that allows the legal cannabis industry into the banking system,” the groups, which also include the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, International Council of Shopping Centers and National Association of REALTORS, wrote. “Ultimately, protecting law-abiding financial institutions and ancillary businesses from their currently untenable position and addressing increasing public safety concerns.”

As more states reform their marijuana laws, however, “distribution, sale, possession, research, transaction, housing, employment, and a broader landscape of cannabis is becoming increasingly problematic” for stakeholders under federal prohibition.

“Ultimately, this creates more legal and security concerns that impact the operations and safety of businesses and consumers,” they said. “Finally, the lack of an available safe harbor for cannabis will continue to challenge the full adoption and deployment of the legal hemp and CBD products market in the U.S. due to the inextricable link between hemp and cannabis.”

“To resolve this, we urge the Committee to vote on the SAFE Banking Act or similar measures. Such measures are meant to create a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to businesses in a state permitting the use of cannabis. A safe harbor will enable law enforcement and states to effectively monitor and regulate businesses while simultaneously bringing billions into the regulated banking sector.”

The letter, also signed by Americans for Prosperity and R Street, recognizes that creating a federal regulatory scheme for marijuana will take time but says that the SAFE Banking Act represents “a critical first step to ensure that legal cannabis marketplaces are safe, legal, and transparent.”

Crapo has said that he’s interested in holding a vote on resolving the cannabis banking issue in his panel before the year’s end, but so far nothing has been scheduled. The chairman told Marijuana Moment in earlier interviews that there are several changes to the House-passed bill that he’d like to see but that he’s worried impeachment proceedings against the president will interfere with plans to hold a vote.

All that said, pressure from civil rights advocacy groups could complicate congressional efforts to get the banking bill approved. In October, several organizations including the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch and Center for American Progress sent a letter to Senate leadership, as well as Crapo and Brown, demanding that “marijuana legislation considered in the Senate include provisions that will guarantee equity in the industry.”

The letter, which doesn’t appear to have been previously reported and was obtained by Marijuana Moment, states that while the coalition agrees the SAFE Banking Act “is an incremental step toward rolling back the federal prohibition of marijuana, it fails to help communities that have been historically and disproportionately devastated by United States’ punitive drug laws.”

“As the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs considers similar legislation, we insist that the legislation include provisions that ensure equity in the marijuana industry by creating opportunities for individuals who have been prohibited from this growing business either by legal or financial means,” the letter, which was also signed by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and National Association of Social Workers, states.

“Indeed, this Congress has shown it understands the economic impact of legalization. But while progress on the business side of legalization is promising, it is not sufficient. Federal marijuana legislation must be comprehensive and lead with equity, addressing past and current harms to communities of color and low-income communities who bore the brunt of the failed war on drugs. We demand that any marijuana reform or legalization bill considered by the Senate] include robust provisions addressing equity. More than simply adding equity provisions to bills that address industry concerns, we need comprehensive reform that deschedules marijuana and addresses the inequities and harms continually inflicted by the failed war on drugs.”

In other words, the groups are insisting on broad reform prior to a vote on a bill viewed as largely beneficial to the cannabis industry—similar to a request they made of House members prior to the legislation’s passage in the chamber.

Read the marijuana banking letters from the trade associations and civil rights groups below:

Industry SAFE Senate Bankin… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Senate Leadership Letter Re… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Senators Demand Update From DEA On Marijuana Growing Applications

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Hemp Businesses Need Clarity On Credit Card Processing, GOP Congressman Tells Federal Regulators

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One day after federal financial regulators issued guidance relaxing requirements for banks doing business with hemp companies, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) called for further input on how financial institutions can work with the industry—particularly when it comes to credit card processing.

“I have heard from Kentucky bankers about this. They welcome this guidance, and it will go a long way to help the hemp industry thrive,” Barr said on Wednesday at a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

But after thanking witnesses—including Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) Chairwoman Jelena McWilliams and National Credit Union Association (NCUA) Chairman Rodney Hood—he reminded them that there is still much work to be done to give hemp businesses fair access to financial services.

Specifically, Barr called credit card processing services for Kentucky hemp companies “unreliable” and “unavailable” while pointing out that Tuesday’s hemp banking memo failed to clearly address the problem.

“I’ve read the guidance closely, as you can tell, and I didn’t see that in there,” Barr said. “That’s the financial service that has really been unreliable and spotty, so if you need to update that guidance to give more clarity to card processing businesses, that might be in order.”

McWilliams replied that her agency would “certainly take a look” at the issue and offered that “to the extent that we need to do additional explaining, we are more than happy to engage in that process.”

In response, Barr reminded her of the broader goals of congressional action to legalize hemp products under the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Congressional intent is not only that the regulators confirm the legality of industrial hemp and hemp related retailers under the Farm bill, but that those retailers and merchants can use card processing services to sell the product itself,” he said.

Watch Barr press federal regulators on hemp business credit card processing below:

This isn’t the first time Barr has raised the issued of hemp businesses’ ability to accept payments with cards.

“I’ve had constituent businesses tell me that their access to financial products, specifically card services, have actually deteriorated since we descheduled industrial hemp in the Farm Bill,” he said at an earlier hearing in May. “This obviously conflicts with congressional intent.”

The congressman’s questions and comments at the most recent hearing are emblematic of a larger bipartisan push to provide updated regulations to the hemp industry and banks that work with it.

Most notably, the House overwhelmingly approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in September. The legislation would protect banks and credit unions from being penalized by federal regulators for working with marijuana businesses, and Barr added an amendment clarifying that the protections also apply to hemp companies.

However, the vote came later than some observers expected, which may help explain why the growth in the number of financial institutions working with cannabis companies seems to have slowed down in the prior quarter of the fiscal year.

NCUA’s Hood, whose agency’s earlier hemp guidance released in August was among the first federal clarifications on the issue after the Farm Bill became law, testified on Wednesday about the steps NCUA is taking to open up access to financial services for companies in the industry.

“We are continuing to work with the industry to provide training to our examiners,” Hood said. “We will now be working with the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and other related parties to ensure that we get it right. We will be hosting a series of roundtables to gain insights from entities around best practices.”

In submitted testimony, he wrote that NCUA expects “to continue updating the credit union community now that the USDA has published its interim final rule [for hemp]” and said the agency has “received interest from credit unions eager to know the rules of the road for serving hemp-related businesses in their communities, and we want to make sure those credit unions have what they need to make informed decisions in this area.”

Jospeh Otting, comptroller of the currency, also discussed the latest guidance from federal regulators in testimony he submitted to the panel, writing that the joint statement from federal regulators “provides clarity regarding the legal status of commercial growth and production of hemp and relevant requirements for banks.”

Also discussed at the hearing was NCUA’s recent regulatory action on employment at credit unions by people with criminal records. Initially proposed by the agency in July, the move to allow participation by people convicted of minor offenses like simple drug possession was officially enacted by this week.

Asked by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) “what are you doing, and what can Congress do” to assist in the advancement of the so-called “second chance” decision, Hood responded that NCUA “recognized that individuals who have committed nonviolent criminal offenses who have paid their debts to society should have opportunities to work in federal credit unions.”

McWilliams called the second chance decision an “important social justice issue” and said FDIC is currently seeking input on how best to move forward. “I personally believe we can go a long way to enabling those individuals to re-enter the workforce,” she said.

Watch lawmakers and regulators discuss financial services employment by people with prior convictions below:

Outside of the House Financial Services panel, several lawmakers on Capitol Hill have recently pushed to make business easier for hemp companies.

Last week, for example, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on USDA to extend its public comment period for proposed hemp regulations. And in October, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to USDA asking for five specific changes in the rules.

Federal Regulators Ease Hemp Banking Protocols Following Crop’s Legalization

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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Major Labor Union Pushes Northeast Governors To Adopt Fair Marijuana Worker Protections

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A major international union is asking governors of states across the Northeast to ensure that workers in the marijuana industry are protected when legal cannabis markets are implemented.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union sent a letter to the governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island earlier this month, applauding their joint commitment to “limit licensing, prioritize small businesses, and develop programs to help those with past convictions.”

But along with those efforts, the administrations must “prioritize labor peace agreements” in whatever regional regulatory framework that the top state officials develop, UFCW said.

Such agreements don’t require unionization; rather, they are tentative policies where workers generally accept that they won’t strike or boycott businesses and companies are expected to distance themselves from discussions concerning labor union attempts to organize workers.

“These agreements generally require the employer, including management and supervisory staff, to agree to remain neutral regarding unions and their representation of the workforce,” UFCW said in a press release on Monday.

“America’s cannabis industry has the power to create thousands of good jobs that support hardworking families and the communities they serve,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said. “But we can only achieve this with strong labor peace agreements that set high standards that reward responsible businesses, strengthen worker voices, and put consumer safety first.”

“We urge these governors to make this a centerpiece of their cannabis framework as they continue to invest in the future of our economy.”

UFCW noted that New York and New Jersey already have labor peace agreements in place for medical cannabis businesses.

But as talk about a regionally coordinated plan to pursue adult-use legalization in Northeast states continues, the union organization is trying to get ahead of the curve, working to ensure that any legal market that evolves contains worker’s rights protections.

“Simply put, labor peace agreements benefit consumers and regulators, strengthen the voices of workers, foster healthy employer-employee relationships, and help businesses recruit and retain the talent they need to succeed,” UFCW said. “We strongly encourage you to consider requiring labor peace agreements for cannabis licensing in your states.”

It’s a timely request, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) have been in consistent communication about the need to protect public safety by making sure that each state pursuing legalization maintains a basic regulatory framework that prevents people from crossing state lines to obtain cannabis products.

The two governors arranged a cannabis summit with their counterparts from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as representatives from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Colorado, last month to work toward reaching regional agreements about various policy provisions of legal marijuana programs.

Read UFCW’s letter to the governors below: 

UFCW Letter to Northeast Go… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Discusses Marijuana, Joe Biden And Prohibitionist Activists

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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