Federal authorities would no longer be able to punish banks that work with businesses that grow, process and sell hemp products under an amendment up for consideration in the U.S. Senate this week.
The measure, submitted on Tuesday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), seeks to include the protections for hemp banking in the large-scale Farm Bill, which is currently on the Senate floor. The legislation, as currently drafted, already includes provisions that would legalize the cultivation of the non-psychoactive marijuana cousin.
Paul’s fellow home-state senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been the leading force for hemp legalization in Congress this year.
“American consumers are buying hemp but thanks to heavy-handed regulation, the only option at scale is importing hemp from foreign producers,” he said in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday. “Enough is enough.”
It is unclear if Paul’s amendment will receive a floor vote.
See the full text of the new hemp banking amendment below:
______ SA 3198. Mr. PAUL submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 2, to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: At the end of subtitle F of title XI, add the following: SEC. 11618. SECURE AND FAIR BANKING ENFORCEMENT. (a) Safe Harbor for Depository Institutions.--A Federal banking regulator may not-- (1) terminate or limit the deposit insurance or share insurance of a depository institution under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1811 et seq.) or the Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.) solely because the depository institution provides or has provided financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business; (2) prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a depository institution from providing financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business or to a State or Indian tribe that exercises jurisdiction over hemp-related legitimate businesses; (3) recommend, incentivize, or encourage a depository institution not to offer financial services to the owner, operator, or an individual that is an account holder of a hemp-related legitimate business, or downgrade or cancel financial services offered to an account holder of a hemp- related legitimate business solely because-- (A) the account holder later becomes a hemp-related legitimate business; or (B) the depository institution was not aware that the account holder is the owner or operator of a hemp-related legitimate business; and (4) take any adverse or corrective supervisory action on a loan to an owner or operator of-- (A) a hemp-related legitimate business solely because the business owner or operator is a hemp-related business without express statutory authority, as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act; or (B) real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a hemp-related legitimate business solely because the owner or operator of the real estate or equipment leased or sold the equipment or real estate to a hemp-related legitimate business. (b) Protections Under Federal Law.-- (1) In general.--In a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacturing, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, sale, or purchase of hemp pursuant to a law (including regulations) of the State, political subdivision of the State, or the Indian tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable, a depository institution and the officers, director, and employees of the depository institution that provides financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law (including regulations)-- (A) solely for providing the financial services pursuant to the law (including regulations) of the State, political subdivision of the State, or Indian tribe; or (B) for further investing any income derived from the financial services. (2) Forfeiture.--A depository institution that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan made to an owner or operator of a hemp-related legitimate business, or to an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a hemp-related legitimate business, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing the loan or other financial services solely because the collateral is owned by a hemp-related business. (c) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section shall require a depository institution to provide financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business. (d) Requirements for Filing Suspicious Activity Reports.-- Section 5318(g) of title 31, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``(5) Requirements for hemp-related businesses.-- ``(A) Definitions.--In this paragraph-- ``(i) 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); ``(ii) the term `hemp' has the meaning given the term in section 10111 of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018; ``(iii) the term `hemp-related legitimate business' has the meaning given the term in section 11618(e) of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018; ``(iv) the term `Indian country' has the meaning given the term in section 1151 of title 18; and ``(v) the term `Indian tribe' has the meaning given the term in section 102 of the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 479a). ``(B) Reporting of suspicious transactions.--A financial institution or any director, officer, employee, or agent of a financial institution that reports a suspicious activity related to a transaction by a hemp-related legitimate business shall comply with appropriate guidance issued by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The Secretary shall ensure that the guidance is consistent with the purpose and intent of this paragraph and does not inhibit the provision of financial services to a hemp-related legitimate business in a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that has allowed the cultivation, production, manufacturing, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, sale, or purchase of hemp, or any other conduct relating to hemp, pursuant to law or regulation of the State, the political subdivision of the State, or Indian tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country.''. (e) Definitions.--In this section: (1) Company.--The term ``company'' means a partnership, corporation, association, (incorporated or unincorporated), trust, estate, cooperative organization, State, or any other entity. (2) Depository institution.--The term ``depository institution'' means-- (A) a depository institution as defined in section 3(c) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1813(c)); (B) a Federal credit union as defined in section 101 of the Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1752); or (C) a State credit union as defined in section 101 of the Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1752). (3) 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. (4) 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). (5) Hemp.--The term ``hemp'' has the meaning given the term in section 10111. (6) Hemp product.--The term ``hemp product'' means any article which contains hemp, including an article which is a concentrate, an edible, a tincture, a hemp-infused product, or a topical. (7) Hemp-related legitimate business.--The term ``hemp- related legitimate business'' means a manufacturer, producer, or any person or company that-- (A) engages in any activity described in subparagraph (B) pursuant to a law established by a State or a political subdivision of a State; and (B)(i) participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling hemp or hemp products, including cultivating, producing, manufacturing, selling, transporting, displaying, dispensing, distributing, or purchasing hemp or hemp products; or (ii) provides-- (I) any financial service, including retirement plans or exchange traded funds, relating to hemp; or (II) any business services, including the sale or lease of real or any other property, legal or other licensed services, or any other ancillary service, relating to hemp. (8) Indian country.--The term ``Indian country'' has the meaning given the term in section 1151 of title 18, United States Code. (9) Indian tribe.--The term ``Indian tribe'' has the meaning given the term in section 102 of the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 479a). (10) Manufacturer.--The term ``manufacturer'' means a person or company who manufactures, compounds, converts, processes, prepares, or packages hemp or hemp products. (11) Producer.--The term ``producer'' means a person or company who plants, cultivates, harvests, or in any way facilitates the natural growth of hemp. (12) State.--The term ``State'' means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the United States. ______
Colorado Sold Twice As Much Recreational Marijuana As Medical Cannabis Last Year
The share of legal marijuana sales in Colorado that came from the recreational market in 2018 significantly outpaced those from the medical market, according to an annual government report released on Monday.
In fact, there were about two times as many adult-use sales of flower compared to medical cannabis purchases—a new milestone for the state.
Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) said that 288,292 pounds of bud were sold last year for recreational purposes, while 147,863 pounds were sold to medical marijuana patients. For comparison, in 2017, recreational consumers purchased 238,149 pounds and 172,994 pounds were sold to patients.
That means the recreational-medical gap increased 73 percent in one year.
In part, the trend can be attributed to the ongoing expansion of Colorado’s adult-use cannabis market since the state’s first recreational shops opened in 2014. Medical cannabis sales were notably higher than recreational sales in that first year of implementation, with just 38,660 pounds coming from the adult-use market and 109,578 pounds being sold to medical patients.
Medical and adult-use sales were roughly even in 2016. But by 2017, recreational sales accounted for 58 percent of the market. And last year, they represented 66 percent of the market.
MED also found that licenses for recreational marijuana facilities increased by three percent (47 licenses) while medical business licenses declined by eight percent (77 licenses).
“Data collection continues to be a priority at the MED,” Jim Burack, director of the program, said in a press release. “This ongoing analysis and compilation of industry information helps inform the public and contributes to our outreach efforts to stakeholders.”
The report also showed that the adult-use market is the primary destination for individuals purchasing edibles. Eighty-six percent of edible sales came from recreational consumers. And from July-December 2018, 75 percent of cannabis plants were cultivated for adult use.
The market shift isn’t unique to Colorado. An Associated Press analysis from June detailed how states across the country that have established recreational marijuana programs are seeing the number of medical patients decline as more consumers transition to the adult-use market.
That may be partially explained by individuals who sought out medical cannabis recommendations choosing not to renew their registration after recreational marijuana shops became available. To that point, a recent study found that many customers at recreational dispensaries are consuming cannabis for the same reasons that registered patients do, such as to alleviate pain and sleep issues.
The concern for some advocates, however, is that adult-use legalization could drive up prices for patients, or leave them with fewer product options tailored to therapeutic use as demand for high-THC products increases.
“When states pass adult-use legalization we are seeing many patients leave the strict controls of the medical programs,” David Mangone, director of government affairs at Americans for Safe Access, told Marijuana Moment. “Patients must already pay out of pocket for cannabis, and any added cost like a registration fee for a medical card or renewal can make the process of obtaining medicine extremely burdensome and costly.”
“States like Colorado must continue to provide adequate benefits to patients to ensure the medical program remains robust,” he said.
Mangone added that “as states pass adult-use programs it is important that they continue to understand and appreciate the needs of patients.”
“A common frustration for many is not what happens in terms of access to cannabis, but rather what happens in terms of access to specific products. Products and flower with a high-THC content have a wider market appeal, but may not necessarily benefit the existing medical market.”
That said, one interesting finding from this latest MED report is that medical and recreational consumers alike seem increasingly interested in concentrates, with the units of such products sold to both nearly doubling from 2017 to 2018. Concentrates are sold at a much higher rate in the adult-use market, but the potent products evidently have growing appeal across the board.
Gov. Jared Polis (D) recently celebrated tax earnings from marijuana sales, touting the fact that the state has amassed more than $1 billion in cannabis revenue that has been allocated to various social programs.
And the marijuana market is continuing to evolve in state. Polis signed legislation in May allowing for home deliveries of cannabis products as well as social consumption sites.
The governor said last month at a conference with governors from around the country that the new delivery law could help mitigate impaired driving.
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.
Credit Unions Won’t Be Punished For Working With Marijuana Businesses, Federal Regulator Says
Regulators won’t punish credit unions simply for working with marijuana businesses that are operating in compliance with state laws, the head of the federal agency that oversees the financial services providers said in a new interview.
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chairman Rodney Hood also suggested that Congress could entirely resolve banking issues in the cannabis industry by federally descheduling marijuana.
“It’s a business decision for the credit unions if they want to take the deposits,” Hood told Credit Union Times, adding that the financial institutions must follow existing federal guidance and ensure that the businesses they choose to service are not violating anti-money laundering laws or other rules.
“We don’t get involved with micro-managing credit unions,” he said.
While the comments don’t signify a new shift in policy, and don’t take into account the fact that the Justice Department still maintains authority to potentially prosecute credit unions that allegedly violate the law by banking marijuana proceeds, they are the latest indication of a growing consensus that federal action is needed to clarify the situation.
Uncertainty around banking in the state-legal marijuana market has been a hot topic in the 116th Congress.
Legislation that would shield banks and credit unions that take on cannabis clients from being penalized by federal regulators was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in March, and the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the bill last month. That panel’s chair, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), said last week that he agrees a solution for the industry is necessary.
Though the NCUA head didn’t endorse specific legislation to give credit unions peace of mind when dealing with cannabis businesses, he did float the idea of descheduling marijuana as one way to provide unambiguous clarity for financial institutions.
“Hood said that Congress could remove all ambiguity if it enacted legislation to declassify marijuana,” the trade publication reported after its interview with the official.
Separately, the independent federal agency recently took one proactive step toward reforming policy partly in response to state-level legalization efforts. In a notice published in the Federal Register last week, NCUA proposed changing its rules so that individuals with prior low-level drug convictions would be allowed to work at credit unions.
Though bank and credit union representatives are calling for enhanced clarity when it comes to cannabis banking, more financial institutions do seem willing to take the risk anyway, with federal data showing a notable uptick in the number of marijuana-servicing banks in the last quarter.
More Than 100 Marijuana Businesses Urge Congress To Include Social Equity In Legalization
A coalition of more than 100 marijuana businesses and industry associations sent a letter to congressional leadership on Thursday, pressing them to ensure that any cannabis reform legislation include provisions promoting social equity in the industry.
The letter describes the evolution in public opinion around marijuana policy, the mass incarceration implications of prohibition and the economic potential of legalizing and regulating cannabis. It makes the case that as Congress considers various proposals to change federal marijuana laws, the work won’t be complete with the mere end of prohibition.
Specifically, the signees say they are concerned that individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs are being “left behind because a previous [cannabis] conviction often is a disqualifying factor to become an owner or employee in the new legal ‘green-rush'” and also because “they are unable to come up with the capital necessary to break into the industry.”
“In 2018, combined sales of regulated medical and adult-use cannabis topped $10.4 billion, and the 7 states with active adult-use markets generated nearly $1.2 billion in tax revenue. The industry is now employing well over 200,000 people,” the letter reads. “And yet, with this rapidly growing new industry and broad popular support for legalization, many of the communities who were devastated by the decades-long War on Drugs are now being left behind.”
The coalition made a series of policy recommendations that aim to level the playing field and repair the social and racial harms of the drug war.
For example, the businesses said that, beyond federally descheduling marijuana, lawmakers should allow banks to service state-legal cannabis businesses, fund social equity programs to encourage those targeted in the drug war to participate in the legal market, clear the records of individuals with prior marijuana convictions and invest in efforts that lift up impacted communities.
Signees include the Minority Cannabis Business Association, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, Harborside, Berkeley Patients Group, Arcview Group, MJ Freeway, Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, SPARC and 4Front Ventures, which led the letter.
“I feel the cannabis industry has a moral obligation to ensure that communities and individuals who were harmed the most by prohibition do not lose out yet again as we forge these new economic opportunities,” said Mike Liszewski, 4Front’s senior regulatory affairs counsel and the chief organizer behind the letter, said in a press release.
“There are many who would argue that Congress should not get into the business of picking winners and losers,” the businesses wrote.
“We would argue that if Congress chooses to end federal cannabis prohibition but chooses not to address these glaring racial and economic disparities in the process, it will in fact pick those who are already the most well-financed, the least likely to have suffered an arrest and conviction, and almost certainly do not come from the communities that were severely harmed by decades of prohibition to be the winners of the new economy.”
The letter comes one week after the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee convened for a historic meeting on ending federal marijuana prohibition, where witnesses and members discussed how to chart the best path forward toward legalization.
“As representatives of the legal cannabis industry, we have a responsibility to help undo the harms caused by prohibition and ensure that people most impacted by failed federal policies have access to the opportunities being created every day in this market,” Aaron Smith, executive director of NCIA, said in a statement. “We are pleased to join this distinguished group of business leaders and advocates in calling on Congress to incorporate these ideas into legislation.”
“Past Congresses have played a major role in marginalizing people of color through the war on cannabis, and it is the duty of current and future lawmakers to make up for this,” Smith said.
On a related note, a separate coalition of civil rights and drug reform groups, including the ACLU, was formed last week and released a letter making similar social justice recommendations for federal cannabis legislation.
“Some in Congress may feel it is too soon to end federal cannabis prohibition or that Congress does not have a responsibility to address the harms created by how this policy has targeted certain communities,” the new letter from the businesses and industry groups states. “But if Congress declines to harmonize state and federal cannabis laws or fails to take responsibility for the consequences of disproportionate enforcement, the problems caused by prohibition will continue to persist.”
“The time to wait and see is over,” they wrote. “Now is the time for Congress to take the bold but ultimately pragmatic step to deschedule cannabis along with approving the necessary funding and programming to support the communities that incurred the most harm because of federal prohibition.”
Read the full letter from cannabis industry groups below:
This piece was updated to include comment from Liszewski.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.