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Rand Paul Pushes Hemp Banking Amendment

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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.

‚ÄúAmerican 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.‚ÄĚ

Watch Mitch McConnell Push Hemp Legalization On The Senate Floor

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.
                                 ______
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 15-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.)

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FDA Sends Warnings To Three Companies Selling CBD Products

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At the same time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to create a regulatory framework for hemp-derived CBD, it’s also cracking down on companies that are in its view irresponsibly marketing CBD products and making unsanctioned claims about their medical benefits.

FDA announced on Tuesday that it and the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to three such companies last month: PotNetwork Holdings in Florida, Nutra Pure in Washington state and Advanced Spine and Pain in New Jersey. The letters were sent “in response to their making unsubstantiated claims related to more than a dozen different products and spanning multiple product webpages, online stores and social media websites,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release.

In a Twitter thread, the commissioner added that he was “concerned to hear recently that several national pharmacy chains and other major retailers have begun to sell or will soon begin to sell” CBD products and that the agency will “be contacting them to remind them of #FDA obligations and our commitment to protect consumers against products that can put them at risk.”

CVS and Walgreens both recently announced they will begin selling CBD-infused products.

In the press release about the warning letters his agency has already sent to CBD companies, Gottlieb asserted that they used their websites to “make unfounded, egregious claims about their products’ ability to limit, treat or cure cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, autoimmune diseases, opioid use disorder, and other serious diseases, without sufficient evidence and the legally required FDA approval.”

FDA is hustling to provide manufacturers guidelines on marketing cannabidiol following the federal legalization of hemp last last year, but the process is complicated by the fact that CBD is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug, Epidiolex, and remains the subject of intensive clinical testing. Gottlieb has indicated that it will take years to develop a regulatory plan for CBD without further congressional action.

In the meantime, companies that continue to choose to engage in CBD commerce should be wary about making health claims about their products. The commissioner said FDA has “limited resources” for enforcement operations, but it would take action against companies that make “over-the-line” statements.

In the press announcement, FDA listed some of the unauthorized claims that the three companies made. For example, the products were touted as being able to treat cervical cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and substance use disorder.

“I believe these are egregious, over-the-line claims and we won‚Äôt tolerate this kind of deceptive marketing to vulnerable patients,” Gottlieb said. “The FDA continues to be concerned about the proliferation of egregious medical claims being made about products asserting to contain CBD that haven‚Äôt been approved by the FDA, such as the products and companies receiving warning letters today.”

“Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims can put patients and consumers at risk,” he said. “These products have not been shown to be safe or effective, and deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.”

Questions about what constitutes an unauthorized claim that would put a company at risk of enforcement action will likely come up at the agency’s just-announced public hearing CBD issues on May 31. Stakeholders are invited to submit information about the public safety impacts of CBD and how to manufacture and market products that contain the cannabis compound.

FDA Announces Details On CBD Public Hearing

This piece was updated to include Gottlieb’s tweets about national pharmacy chains.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

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.
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Marijuana Banking Bill Approved By Congressional Committee

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A congressional committee voted on Thursday to approve legislation aimed at increasing marijuana businesses’ access to banks.

Following multiple days of lengthy debate and consideration of several amendments, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 to 15 to advance the legislation to the full body.

Floor action has not yet been scheduled, but cannabis reform advocates are hopeful that the committee approval of the banking bill is a sign Democrats are ready to move broad marijuana reforms this year.

Indeed, House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he expects the chamber to¬†vote on legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition¬†within a matter of “weeks.”

‚ÄúWe will guide it to the House floor for a vote, which I think it will pass with an overwhelming vote‚ÄĒDemocrats and I think a lot of Republicans as well,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIf we have a strong bipartisan vote that will increase the pressure on the Senate to do something.‚ÄĚ

All of the party’s major 2020 presidential candidates now support outright legalization, as do¬†a majority of its voters, according to polls.

The banking bill “addresses an urgent public safety concern for legitimate businesses that currently have no recourse but to¬†operate with just cash,”¬†Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said at the start of the committee’s proceedings, which began on Tuesday and carried over through a second Wednesday meeting to votes on Thursday morning.

“However, I also consider this bill as part of a holistic¬†approach toward¬†providing¬†criminal justice¬†reform to those who have been harmed by criminalization of marijuana, and¬†should not by any¬†means be the only bill the House takes up on the important issue of cannabis reform,” she said.

While some surveys also show that a smaller majority of GOP voters back ending cannabis prohibition, Republican lawmakers in Congress had blocked marijuana amendments from even being considered over the course of the past several years during their House majority.

Last week, top Republicans on the Financial Services Committee requested that Waters¬†delay the vote on the banking legislation, writing in a¬†letter¬†that they had several¬†“unanswered questions” about the measure.

“Some on my side support the measure as written. Many oppose it,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the panel’s top Republican, said in his opening remarks at the committee meeting.¬†“Most important for this committee, we need to ensure that we‚Äôre doing our due diligence before proceeding. One committee hearing is not enough to fully understand the consequences of this bill. It is a massive change in federal policy.”

That the vote went ahead over GOP objections is a sign that¬†the effective marijuana roadblock on Capitol Hill has been¬†lifted¬†by the chamber’s new Democratic majority.

Under the approved bill, federal banking regulators would not be able to punish financial institutions just because they work with marijuana businesses that are legal under state or local laws, or those of an Indian tribe.

Currently, while a growing number of banks are opening accounts for cannabis businesses as more state policies change, many remain reluctant to do so out of fear of violating federal money laundering or drug laws. As a result, many marijuana growers, processors and sellers are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, which can make them targets for robberies.

The legislation approved by the committee, the¬†Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, currently has¬†152 cosponsors‚ÄĒmore than a third of the entire House,¬†which is far more support than any previous standalone cannabis bill has earned. Twelve Republicans have cosponsored the legislation.

The SAFE Banking Act’s approval by the financial services panel is only the third time in history that a standalone marijuana reform bill has cleared a congressional committee. Last year, other committees voted to advance legislation¬†encouraging the Department of Veterans Affairs to study medical cannabis¬†and to¬†require the Department of Justice to license additional growers of marijuana for research, but those proposals never made it to the House floor for action.

“It is our job to address this and no longer ignore it. I have brought this legislation up for six years,”¬†Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the SAFE Banking Act’s lead sponsor, said prior to the vote. “The people of this country sort of took it into their own hands, state by state, to pass initiative for medical marijuana or for cannabis oil or fully legal.”

Committee Acts On Amendments

Prior to voting to advance the bill to the House floor, the committee took action on a number of proposed changes to the legislation.

Perlmutter¬†put forth an amendment to¬†his own bill, which was adopted via a voice vote. In addition to clarifying the definition of the financial services that are covered by the bill and specifying that its provisions would protect Federal Reserve banks, new additions¬†would¬†require the federal government to study diversity and inclusion in the marijuana industry‚ÄĒa key concern of legalization advocates seeking to undo the damage of the war on drugs, which has been waged in a racially disproportionate manner.

The new language would require federal financial regulators to¬†publish annual reports tracking “information and data on the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses” and to¬†issue ‚Äúregulatory or legislative recommendations for expanding access to financial services‚ÄĚ for those¬†populations.

In addition, the¬†amended bill¬†directs that the Government Accountability Office to conduct 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.”

Also during the committee markup, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) moved a separate amendment that would extend protections to so-called “de novo” banking institutions that are seeking charters or master accounts from a Federal Reserve bank. It was adopted via a voice vote.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), one of the bill’s lead Republican cosponsors,¬†filed an amendment expanding the legislation’s protections to insurance companies. It too was passed in a voice vote.

An amendment from Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO)¬†directs¬†the Government Accountability Office¬†to study previous reports that banks are required to file on their marijuana business customers to understand how effective they are in identifying bad actors. It was supported by the bill’s sponsors and approved on a voice vote.

Tipton¬†filed an another amendment aimed at making sure drug cartels and organized crime networks aren’t able to benefit from the bill’s provisions, but he withdrew it instead of forcing a vote.

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) moved to delay the bill’s effective date until marijuana¬†is federally descheduled, but withdrew the amendment rather than force a vote.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) sought to attach an amendment that would¬†add “legal entities operating in accordance with¬†federal law” to those covered by the bill. In introducing the measure, he made reference to prior federal¬†investigations of banks working with¬†firearms dealers and payday lenders. It was ruled non-germane, however.

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) filed an amendment that would have delayed the bill’s enactment until¬†the Treasury secretary certifies it wouldn’t leave any financial institution more¬†susceptible to¬†illicit¬†financial activity and money¬†laundering, and that it doesn’t¬†inhibit their ability to comply with federal regulations. It was defeated in a voice vote¬†and then again in roll call vote by a margin of 33 to 27.

Another Barr amendment would have restricted the bill’s reach to only protect hemp businesses instead of those that deal with marijuana. It also lost on both a voice vote and a recorded vote.¬†The latter went down¬†42 to 18.

An amendment from Rep. John Rose (R-TN) would have required banks to attest that they have internal controls ensuring that no funds have been deposited in their institutions that are associated with illegal organizations. It too was rejected in voice and roll call votes, with the latter tallying 33 to 27.

A second Huizenga amendment would have postponed enactment until federal financial regulators are able to issue guidance to banks. It was rejected with a voice vote, and a roll call was requested, which came out 35 against to 25 for.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) offered an amendment to withdraw the bill’s protections from banks that serve marijuana businesses¬†located¬†within 1,000 feet of schools, youth centers, public parks, child care facilities, public housing, civic centers or designated drug-free zones. It was rejected via a voice vote, and then in a roll call vote by a margin of¬†34¬†to 26.

During the broader debate on the bill, Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), who along with Perlmutter is a leading sponsor of the proposal, spoke about a Colorado marijuana dispensary security guard who was killed during an attempted robbery as an example of the public safety harms of blocking banking access. He¬†added that allowing¬†cannabis industry operators to store their profits in regulated financial institutions would “enhance supervision and audibility of marijuana businesses.”

Banking Is Just The First Step For Federal Marijuana Reform

The banking legislation, which was the subject of a separate¬†lengthy committee hearing last month, is seen by advocates as just the first step in an ambitious cannabis reform agenda they want the Democratic House to pass this year. Several more far-reaching¬†bills to change marijuana’s legal status so that states can implement their own policies without the looming threat of federal interference have not yet been scheduled for hearings. Other pending¬†proposals seek to address medical cannabis access by military veterans, the removal of roadblocks to research and¬†tax rates for marijuana firms.

“Congress must take the long view that all these efforts‚ÄĒand I will work to ensure that when it comes to passing¬†[the banking bill] that the House does not take a ‚Äėone and done‚Äô approach but that we will also comprehensively work, especially with our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, on a series of marijuana related reforms,” Waters, the Financial Services Committee chair, said prior to the vote.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) said at the Wednesday meeting that she will be exploring ways to expand credit opportunities for marijuana businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities, in her role as chair of the House Small Business Committee.

Late last¬†year, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) authored a “blueprint” memo that lays out a¬†step-by-step process Democratic leaders could take to federally legalize marijuana¬†by the end of 2019. Passing a banking bill is a key part of his plan.

‚ÄúThis is a historic and critical step forward for the nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Lawmakers seem to recognize the urgency and public safety implications of ensuring cannabis businesses can access banking services,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Regardless of where members stand on legalization, they can agree that it is in the public interest to make banking available to cannabis businesses in states where it is legal.”

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal also praised the committee’s action.

‚ÄúThis is a positive step forward to address an untenable tension between state-legal cannabis marketplaces and federal marijuana prohibition,” he said. ‚ÄúUltimately, the banking issue is just one symptom of the toxic and cruel policy of federal marijuana criminalization. In order to truly bring the vibrant marijuana economy out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to end federal prohibition and the discrimination¬†that comes with this failed policy.”

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) are expected to file companion legislation on access to financial services for marijuana businesses in the Senate soon. A prior bill during the last Congress garnered 20 cosponsors in the chamber but did not receive a hearing or vote.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

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.
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Legalization Activists Push Marijuana Industry To Uphold Social Responsibilities

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A new memo from pro-legalization advocates offers some insight for marijuana businesses, investors and consumers on how they can better support social responsibility in the increasingly legal industry.

The four-page document unveiled by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) on Friday proposes guidelines to help assess whether a business is operating in a manner that recognizes the historic harms and injustices caused by prohibition. Specifically, the memo asks industry players to take a harder look at their policy positions, internal operations and practices, whether their company supports up-and-coming marijuana businesses and how invested they are in the local communities in which they operate.

As the document notes:

Repairing the harms of prohibition entails:

1) ensuring that the harm is not continuing;
2) supporting the development of an accurate historical record of the harms caused by marijuana prohibition, including how it has oppressed black and brown communities; and
3) supporting initiatives that create a remedy for past harms.

DPA, along with the Marijuana Policy Project, has been a driving force in funding moves pass marijuana legalization ballot measures and shepherd cannabis bills through state legislatures. Without its work, the market for legal cannabis in the U.S. would be much smaller, if it existed at all.

“Marijuana policy reform was not done to get people rich,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, which maintains a cross-country grassroots advocacy network that has helped push legalization, told Marijuana Moment. “It was done to end the oppression of those who choose to consume it. While reform has led to a growing marketplace, tragically the oppression continues and is even perpetuated by some in the industry itself.”

Other measures that address the costly effects of the drug war, according to the DPA guidelines, include opposing any rules or laws that would intentionally shut out people who have been arrested or convicted on marijuana-related charges from working in the industry, investing in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement and creating opportunities to help people from marginalized communities participate in the industry.

‚ÄúThe harms of marijuana prohibition have been devastating, particularly for Black and Brown people who have suffered dramatic rates of arrest, mass criminalization, heavy-handed policing, seizure of property with little or no process, and large-scale deportations,‚ÄĚ DPA Executive Director Maria McFarland S√°nchez-Moreno said in a statement. ‚ÄúGiven this history, those investing and operating in the cannabis sector have some responsibility to support repairing the harms of prohibition.‚ÄĚ

The organization suggested a list of questions for companies to consider concerning a range of topics: Among them, whether they support¬†home grow‚ÄĒwhich ensures access for those who can’t afford retail marijuana or live too far away from a dispensary‚ÄĒhow inclusive they are in who they hire and if they support scaled license tiers.

Marijuana Companies Urged Governor To Ban Cannabis Home Cultivation, Document Shows

Other questions include:

‚ÄĘ Does the company support a free and fair marijuana market that does not give it disproportionate advantages?

‚ÄĘ To which causes or candidates is the company donating money?

‚Äʬ†Does the company have a policy against drug testing employees?

‚Äʬ†Is the business a social benefit corporation? B-Corp? Non-profit? Cooperative? Or collective? If not, what percentage of its profits is donated to nonprofits?

Jag Davies, DPA’s director of communications strategy, said the new guidelines are part of a broader shift in the organization’s work over the past few years toward emphasizing racial and restorative justice provisions in any legalization bill they’re involved with.

“It started with Prop 64 in California in 2016, which we played a leading role in making sure that it had a number of criminal justice and restorative justice provisions that other previous legalization bills didn‚Äôt have,” Davies told Marijuana Moment¬†in a phone interview. That work continues with their campaigns for legalization in New York, New Jersey and New Mexico, he said.

“The debate is really not about whether legalization is going to happen. It‚Äôs how it‚Äôs going to happen and to what degree it‚Äôs going to repair the harms of criminalization and to what degree it‚Äôs going to repair harm among the people who were worst harmed by marijuana criminalization,” Davies said.

The¬†National Cannabis Industry Association, which works to represent the interests of legal cannabis businesses, said in a statement shared with Marijuana Moment that the organization “fully supports social responsibility and equity in the industry, as well as repairing the harms caused by prohibition, and we will continue promoting those values to our members.”

In addition to supporting limited home cultivation and federal legislation like the Marijuana Justice Act, the association also helped the Minority Cannabis Business Association draft a model social equity ordinance for cities that was published this month.

But there’s still a long way to go before all of the cannabis industry’s major players start walking the walk, advocates say.

“The Drug Policy Alliance correctly identified one of the biggest problems emerging in the reform movement: the ‘I got mine and you’re on your own’ mentality,” Strekal, of NORML, said. “It’s a travesty to see business leaders making millions of dollars and bragging about how great they are while they do nothing to stop the practice of arrests in a nearby state or bring wholeness to their neighbors who have had their lives disrupted or destroyed by criminalization just a few years earlier for essentially the same activity.”

Model Legislation Aims To Help Cities Bring People Of Color Into Marijuana Industry

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

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.
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