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. ______
MedMen Temporarily Closes All Locations And Condemns Looting In Internal Memo
The national marijuana dispensary chain MedMen has temporarily closed down all of its stores after several of its Los Angeles-based locations were looted over the weekend. While the company strongly condemned the looting, it said it recognizes the tragedies that led up to the incidents and is offering to support its black employees during this time.
Businesses in cities across the country have been impacted by outrage over recent police killings of black Americans. That includes George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer ignited mass protests, some of which have been followed by looting.
In an internal memo to MedMen employees that was obtained by Marijuana Moment, the company said that its locations in downtown Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills “were heavily damaged, as were a number of other businesses, including those in the cannabis community.”
— inVerse, inc (@junbangu) May 31, 2020
“Effective immediately, we are temporarily closing all stores and the corporate office to protect the safety of our employees,” the memo states. “The safety of everyone in the MedMen family is the most important thing right now, and we are grateful to report that while our stores were damaged, our employees and security guards were unharmed.”
“Our assumption is that all of you know this, but we want to take the time to make it very clear there is a bright line between the peaceful protests yesterday and the criminal activity that followed,” it continues. “We do not know what goes through the mind of those that would promote violence or destruction immediately on the heels of a peaceful protest designed to bring us all closer together.”
But while that language largely contrasts with that of some other impacted marijuana businesses that have more clearly sympathized with people expressing outrage in the face of police killings, MedMen also extended a hand to its black workers and said it appreciates the circumstances that contributed to the situation.
“Regarding the events of the last week, we are heartbroken, outraged and horrified by the tragic events in our country and the continued violence and injustice perpetrated against the Black community. To our Black colleagues, if there is any way we can show up for you during this time, we would encourage you to email [the CEO’s office],” the company said. “In the meantime, we offer our deepest empathy, we are here to listen, we are here to help and we are here to stand with you as a MedMen family in any way we can.”
“To those fighting for social justice, MedMen stands with you. The horrifying treatment of our black colleagues and community must end,” MedMen added in a statement to Marijuana Moment. “Systematic oppression and inequality must end. We are committed to using our platform to help. We will rebuild and come back stronger in a way that makes our communities proud and advances justice and equality.”
A spokesperson said that the company is actively assessing its plan moving forward. While the representative initially suggested to Marijuana Moment that employees would continue to be paid during the temporary shutdown, he later said that the company “will take care of our employees as demonstrated by our response to COVID-19” but could not get into specifics about ongoing financial decisions.
All nationwide MedMen locations are currently closed. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please continue to check our website for updates.
— MedMen (@medmen) June 1, 2020
Meanwhile, the rapper Berner, who owns the popular Los Angeles dispensary Cookies, said after his shop was looted that ensuring justice and addressing the problems underlying the protests is more important than the loss of merchandise.
“It’s extremely unfortunate what happened to our store tonight on Melrose. But as a human living in the world we’re living in today, I cannot expect anything less until justice is served,” he said. “We can rebuild our store, but you cannot bring someone back to life.”
Debby Goldsberry, the executive director of the dispensary Magnolia Wellness Oakland, struck a similar tone in a Facebook post about their experience being looted. She said that while the property loss was extensive and will hit the small retailer hard financially, this “story is not about Magnolia Wellness. It’s about this nation, blistering in pain. It’s bubbled up, and can’t be stopped, no matter how much salve we put on it.”
“Our shop can be rebuilt, but the black lives taken by the police, again and again, are gone forever. Simply put, the police are murdering people right before our eyes, and the anger has boiled over. We saw it on camera, watching these men rampage through our space,” she wrote.
“Anger like this is based in injustice. Anger like this is based in facts. Anger like this is based in hundreds of years of oppression, and in never, ever getting a fair shot, no matter what, because the system is set up in a systematic manner that assures you never will,” the post continues. “George Floyd’s horrible death is just one of so many by now that it’s become impossible to track.”
Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, said one of the company’s Mission dispensaries in Chicago was also raided over the weekend.
“Despite the sadness and destruction, my support for the protests and the underlying goal of ending police brutality, systemic law enforcement reform, and societal recognition of the fundamental humanity of people of color in this country remains undeterred,” he said. “I stand with those protesting for human rights and justice, and understand why some feel so disempowered that they have no recourse but rage and violence.”
Cannabis shops from California to Oregon have impacted by looting in recent days.
This story has been updated to include additional commentary on future plans from a MedMen spokesperson
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
Rapper Who Owns Looted Marijuana Dispensary Says Justice Is More Important Than Business
One marijuana dispensary owner whose business was caught in the chaos stemming from the reaction to rampant police violence over the weekend says he values life and justice over his stolen cannabis merchandise.
Cookies, a well-known dispensary in Los Angeles, was looted during Saturday’s massive protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. But the brand’s creator and store’s part-owner, the famous rapper-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur Berner, says he is more concerned about the underlying injustices being highlighted by protestors than the damage to his storefront.
A video on Instagram shows the Cookies location on Melrose being broken into, with people jumping the fence, entering the store and stealing products. Police are seen driving by in the clip, but no one appears to have been arrested.
Berner, whose real name is Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr., released a statement shortly after the incident.
The rapper doesn’t condemn the people who broke into the store. Instead, he argues that human life is more valuable than any building.
“It’s extremely unfortunate what happened to our store tonight on Melrose. But as a human living in the world we’re living in today, I cannot expect anything less until justice is served,” Berner said in the video posted to his 1.3 million Instagram followers. “We can rebuild our store, but you cannot bring someone back to life.”
“With that being said, we stand with what is going right now in the world. A statement needed to be made. All I say is, I pray everyone stays safe and protects their family in a time like this,” the rapper said. “How can I worry about a store when there is so much more going on in the world right now? So much hate, so much anger, so much pain, and a lack of justice. Please take care of your families and stay safe.”
There were six armed security guards at the storefront, Berner said, but he told them not to be violent towards protesters. “I don’t want to see anyone die!! I told everyone to stand down,” he posted. “I’m not allowing anyone to die on my watch… all life matters. And money comes and goes…”
Instagram commenters were quick to suggest that insurance money stemming from the theft would be advantageous to Berner. One commenter, Elijah71p, wrote: “Plus that insurance money won’t hurt.”
But Berner said he wasn’t counting on it, replying: “We sell weed. I’m not sure that insurance will honor our business, I haven’t even thought about it. I was focused on preserving life and instructing the armed guards to stand down and not to shoot.”
Another commenter wrote on the post: “Someone had good insurance, lol other wise I’m sure this would sound different.”
“Nah man, the world is a fucked up place,” replied Berner. “This is from the heart homie.”
Cannabis companies have historically had a hard time accessing coverage for things like lost employee wages, property damage and more due to marijuana’s federal classification as a schedule I substance.
Berner started Cookies as a clothing and cannabis brand in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2016. The company has held itself up as an equity success story, opening the Cookies Haight Street location with CEO Shawn Richard under San Francisco’s first social equity license. While some have raised questions about the involvement of white investors and people with political pull helping to win the dispensary’s approval, Berner has maintained that the company is holding true to authentic cannabis culture—one that represents and speaks up for black, indigenous and people of color.
The Cookies brand, well-known for its bright blue packaging, is on sale in eight medical and adult-use markets across the country, including in Its dispensary storefronts in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Francisco and Denver.
Cookies isn’t the only dispensary to have been impacted by looting over the weekend. Photos of a ransacked MedMen location in downtown Los Angeles have surfaced, for example.
medmen got cleaned out of cannabis last night in downtown los angeles pic.twitter.com/zlw9RjDOtS
— Zeus Tipado (@tipado) May 31, 2020
The company has not issued a statement at the time of publication.
Oregon Marijuana Sales Spike During Pandemic, But Officials Expect Market To ‘Mellow’
Amid one of the sharpest economic downturns in state history, Oregon marijuana sales continue to roll along at a healthier-than-normal pace. State budget officials say that shelter-in-place policies and economic stimulus programs have kept marijuana sales “quite strong” during the pandemic so far.
Since March 1, the sales of adult-use marijuana products are up 60 percent compared to a year ago, the state Office of Economic Analysis said in its latest quarterly budget forecast published last week.
“These increases are not only related to the stockpiling consumers did after the sheltering in place policies were enacted,” the report says, “but have continued through April and early May.”
In April alone, consumers bought $89 million worth of legal cannabis products—a record amount—thanks in part to what officials described as a “4/20 bump.” While the boost in sales figures are due in part to rising prices, state budget analysts said that “underlying demand is up as well.”
“The increase in sales for other marijuana products, like concentrates, edibles and the like, are due to significant gains in consumer demand as prices are flat or down,” analysts reasoned.
The June 2020 budget forecast estimates that the current increase in marijuana sales will yield an extra $9 million in state tax revenue during the 2019-2021 budget period. It’s a rare bright spot in the overall budget report, which state analysts described as “the largest downward revision to the quarterly forecast that our office has ever had to make.”
But even the marijuana sector’s boost may be time limited.
“Expectations are that some of these increases are due to temporary factors like the one-time household recovery rebates, expanded unemployment insurance benefits, and the shelter in place style policies,” the report says. “As the impact of these programs fade in the months ahead, and bars and restaurants reopen to a larger degree, marijuana sales are expected to mellow.”
Demand for marijuana is also expected to fall in coming years due to a lower overall economic outlook, which is projected to reduce Oregon’s population and cut average incomes. “A relatively smaller population indicates fewer potential customers,” the report notes, “and lower total personal income than previously assumed indicates less consumer demand.”
The projected slowdown in sales isn’t expected to make an impact until the next budget period, beginning in 2021. At that point, the forecast says, sales will begin trending down by 5 percent relative to the current period “due to the lower economic outlook” associated with COVID-19.
The pandemic has also changed how Oregonians are making marijuana purchases, the report found, though perhaps not as much as one might expect. The share of sales completed by delivery services more than doubled in recent months, but it remained relatively small, making up just 1.4 percent of total sales. As the Office of Economic Analysis observed, “Consumers still prefer to shop in store.”
Oregon is one of a handful of states looking to legal cannabis sales to help buoy tax revenues. A report published last month by cannabis regulators in Michigan, where legal sales to adults began this past December, forecasts annual marijuana sales in that state to top $3 billion as the market matures. That would mean another 13,500 jobs and roughly $500 million per year in taxes to state coffers. Factoring in the effects on peripheral businesses, the state found, the “total economic impact is estimated to be $7.85 billion with a total impact on employment of 23,700.”
Although tax revenue from cannabis sales will help pad budgets in many legal states, the Oregon report doesn’t mince words: The pandemic’s hit to the state’s economy will be drastic. Oregon’s current recession is “the deepest on record with data going back to 1939,” according to state analysts, and it hit with virtually no warning. “The path looks more like what happens to economic activity during a labor strike or in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
For its part, Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis predicts a relatively swift recovery. “While this recession is extremely severe, it is expected to be shorter in duration than the Great Recession,” analysts wrote. “The economy should return to health by mid-decade.”