It’s 4/20, and that means everyone is talking about marijuana — including members of Congress, celebrities and mainstream companies.
Here’s a roundup of some of the best and most interesting cannabis-related tweets from prominent people and businesses…
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) delivered a “Cannabis State of the Union” address:
This 4/20, my thoughts on the state of cannabis reform in America, and where this growing movement is going next: pic.twitter.com/UR8C4fmWH7
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) April 20, 2018
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) posted a thread about his new legislation to deschedule marijuana:
The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. My thinking – as well as the general population’s views – on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. pic.twitter.com/EIHgsI8j6C
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018
I have long believed that states should function as their own laboratories of democracy. My bill is a step in the right direction aimed at removing the barriers to state legalization efforts.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018
And under existing law, the federal government considers marijuana as dangerous as heroin and treats it less favorably than cocaine. That has to change.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018
That’s why this bill will inject real dollars into minority and women-owned businesses to ensure those disproportionately affected by marijuana criminalization can benefit from this new economy.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced she’s introducing legislation to allow medical cannabis in public housing. She also stopped by a marijuana festival in the nation’s capital:
I’m introducing legislation to permit medical marijuana use in public housing in states—and DC—where it’s legal. Tenants who are prescribed marijuana shouldn't fear eviction for simply treating their conditions. Thanks, @DCMJ2014 for the idea! https://t.co/8sVe7zCqS6
— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) April 20, 2018
cannabis festival bonanza – never ending car lines despite several entrances – got in quickly only because I was a speaker – #legaliz
— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) April 21, 2018
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) endorsed legalizing marijuana:
It's time to legalize marijuana.
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted about racial disparities in marijuana enforcement.
Black and Latino people in NYC are arrested at TEN times the rate of white people for virtually the same rate of marijuana usage. Along with @CoryBooker and @SenSanders, I’m cosponsoring a bill to legalize and decriminalize marijuana. Raise your voices and join us in this fight.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) touted legal marijuana’s role in reducing opioid issues:
On this 4/20, let’s talk marijuana policy. Where medical marijuana is legal more people use marijuana to alleviate pain, and opioid prescriptions decrease. People of color are punished at 4-5 times the rate of whites for marijuana, even though use rates are the same. It’s time.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2018
Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), a Colorado gubernatorial candidate, toured a marijuana business:
Colorado has proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana gives money to classrooms, not cartels; creates jobs, not addicts; and boosts our economy, not our prison population. pic.twitter.com/QKU2wKv9We
— Polis for Colorado (@PolisForCO) April 20, 2018
California Treasurer John Chiang (D), also a gubernatorial candidate, toured a local dispensary:
Today, I visited The Apothecarium in San Fran. Californians have spoken by passing Prop 64 & legalizing cannabis for recreational use, so it's time we help businesses, like The Apothecarium, move out of the shadows of the industry & into the light. #420Day pic.twitter.com/psAjxtUP08
— John Chiang (@JohnChiangCA) April 20, 2018
Cannabis businesses operating in the dark not only pose real dangers to those in the industry, but it doesn't allow CA to collect tax revenues from cannabis sales. That's why I'm exploring the idea of a public bank w/ a focus on cannabis #420Day https://t.co/f0CBE4eGs4
— John Chiang (@JohnChiangCA) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hartch (R-UT) has a way with words:
Tomorrow, purely coincidentally, we will be talking about marijuana.
We’ll get in the weeds to hash out some of the most potent arguments as to why it might be the budding answer doctors have long strained to find for countless chronic conditionshttps://t.co/6WpaBTyxDy #utpol
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) April 20, 2018
Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) tweeted a video of himself pressing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about whether good people smoke marijuana:
It's #420day&just like on 4/19, 4/21&every other day,#marijuana shouldn't be in same class as drugs like cocaine,heroine&meth.Too many lives are ruined by failed #WarOnDrugs. I've fought for #justice in drug crimes& #MedicalMarijuana for years,#legalmarijuana is overdue.#Happy420 pic.twitter.com/k8Dp6sSEBe
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) tweeted about his bill, the Marijuana Justice Act, and he welcomed Sen. Schumer to the cannabis reform movement:
We should legalize marijuana AND help those who have suffered due to its prohibition.
My bill the Marijuana Justice Act legalizes marijuana & aims to right some wrongs of our failed drug war which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on Americans of color & the poor. https://t.co/P8rQU6Idob
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) April 20, 2018
Welcome to the movement @SenSchumer!
The War on Drugs has devastated communities of color and we need to fix that. I applaud this important step in the right direction. https://t.co/q5OUrTJatT
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tweeted about his recent cosponsorship of Booker’s bill:
Now is the time to remove the ridiculous federal prohibition on marijuana. I'm proud to co-sponsor the Marijuana Justice Act. pic.twitter.com/iEAfmWdE3w
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 20, 2018
Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a U.S. Senate candidate, said she support marijuana legalization when it was on Nevada’s ballot:
I was proud to back Question 2 in 2016 and continue to support our marijuana industry as it creates thousands of jobs and raises millions in state revenue. #420Day
— Jacky Rosen (@RosenforNevada) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said state laws should be respected, and highlighted the important of banking access:
The people of every state should have the choice to make the same decision Oregonians have by legalizing cannabis, and they shouldn’t have to fear retribution or conflict with the federal government.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 20, 2018
That’s nonsensical and it’s dangerous for public safety, which is why I’ve joined with Democratic and Republican Senators alike – including @SenCoryGardner, @PattyMurray, @RonWyden, @LisaMurkowski & more – to push for the SAFE Banking Act.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said the feds should leave state laws alone:
The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana. States should make their own decisions about enforcing marijuana laws.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said it’s time to decriminalize marijuana under federal law…even though she hasn’t signed onto any of the bills her colleagues have introduced that would accomplish that:
It’s time to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It’s time to stop repeating the same mistakes of the past.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 20, 2018
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a gubernatorial candidate, is calling for federal politicians to step up:
Legalizing marijuana is about criminal justice reform. It's about putting an end to the failed war on drugs and fixing a broken system that has disproportionately affected low-income and minority communities.
It's time for our leaders in D.C. to step up.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 21, 2018
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) focused on the damage done by the war on drugs:
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 21, 2018
Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), a U.S. Senate candidate, had this to say:
We must end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 20, 2018
Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) tweeted about the need for marijuana businesses to be taxed fairly:
Thirty states currently have legalized marijuana in some capacity, but because it’s classified as a Schedule I substance, small businesses in the states that sell marijuana legally are not allowed to deduct business expenses like payroll, rent, utilities, etc…
— Mark Sanford (@RepSanfordSC) April 20, 2018
The Small Business Tax Equity Act enshrines the principle of federalism. If a state makes something legal, it ought to be treated on par and equally with other businesses in the state. https://t.co/PuGcAh5t20
— Mark Sanford (@RepSanfordSC) April 20, 2018
Congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) spoke about the need to increase women and minority ownership on the cannabis industry:
Thank you @SenSchumer, this is long overdue. Nevada’s recreational marijuana market is already in the hundreds of millions & has created thousands of jobs. Now we need to boost minority & women owned marijuana businesses, and allow banking services for these businesses. #420day https://t.co/VhGME5uhZU
— Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen (@RepKihuen) April 20, 2018
Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN), a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate, tweeted about the importance of allowing research on medical cannabis for veterans, and he called for broader marijuana legalization:
Our vets deserve access to every form of safe, effective relief there is — and I hear from vets more and more every day that they find relief in #cannabis.
— Rep. Tim Walz (@RepTimWalz) April 20, 2018
When a veteran tells me they’re finding relief, I believe them. That's why I introduced the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act. With VA researching #MedicalCannabis, #veterans suffering from PTSD & chronic pain would finally have the answers they deserve. https://t.co/Rv4gNi3tbR
— Rep. Tim Walz (@RepTimWalz) April 20, 2018
Today seems to be a good time to reinforce that I support creating a tax-and-regulate system for adult use marijuana in Minnesota.
— Tim Walz (@Tim_Walz) April 20, 2018
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said that marijuana criminalization distracts resources from more important things:
It’s time to stop criminalizing recreational use of marijuana in America, and focus on our real problems (like our crumbling infrastructure & impending constitutional crisis)
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) April 21, 2018
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is happy that more lawmakers are endorsing cannabis law reform:
BIG news in the push to legalize marijuana – @SenSchumer joining myself, @repblumenauer, @CoryBooker, @SenJeffMerkley & others to get the federal government to respect the will of voters in Oregon & other states who’ve chosen legalization. https://t.co/uiEzpTmnmL
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 20, 2018
San Francisco International Airport posted a 4/20 public service announcement:
#420 TSA screens for aviation threats, but also law violations. Federal law treats marijuana as illegal. Passengers with suspect items at checkpoints will be sent to law enforcement officer. #TravelSafe. More info: https://t.co/wi4h6meW97 pic.twitter.com/VaejMqHhOq
— flySFO (@flySFO) April 20, 2018
Chelsea Manning tweeted a message focused on personal autonomy and racial disparities in the drug war:
they can’t tell us what we shouldnt put in our own bodies ❌👮♀️time to end all criminalization of marijuana/cannabis 💨 time to close prisons and end all the racially motivated drug wars once and for all! 😎🌈💕 #WeGotThis
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) April 20, 2018
Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker is criticizing the incumbent governor for preventing medical cannabis expansion:
A majority of Illinoisans agree that this is the right thing to do, but @BruceRauner is firmly against it. He’s even made medical marijuana in Illinois nearly inaccessible. The verification process alone leaves patients waiting for relief.
— JB Pritzker (@JBPritzker) April 20, 2018
— JB for Governor Press (@JBforGovPress) April 20, 2018
Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) reminds us how popular legal marijuana is with voters:
61% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. It's time for Congress to move past 'reefer madness' and pass the Marijuana Justice Act which would both legalize the drug and end the racial discrimination from the War on Drugs.
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) April 20, 2018
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA) wants to protect local businesses and consumers from federal prosecution:
It's long past time for Congress to act to protect medical patients, recreational users and small businesses in states that have legalized and regulated #marijuana from being prosecuted now or in the future, which is exactly what my bill, the #SMARTEnforcementAct, would do.
— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) April 20, 2018
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) touts his support of cannabis legislation:
Current federal laws around marijuana are draconian and outdated. I am proud to cosponsor the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act to empower states to decide what is best for their own communities on this issue.
— Rep. Alan Lowenthal (@RepLowenthal) April 20, 2018
Indiana Democratic congressional candidate Dan Canon had a little fun:
Please be careful out there today. Marijuana overdoses increase by an average of eleventy percent every year on 4/20.
— Dan Canon (@dancanon) April 20, 2018
Congresswoman Colleen Hanbusa (D-HI) wants state laws respected:
— Colleen Hanabusa (@RepHanabusa) April 21, 2018
Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross released a video filled with marijuana puns:
The jokes are fun, but it really is high time we do away with antiquated drug laws & enforcement policies. I've rolled out my plan for the legalization & regulation of marijuana in MD. https://t.co/3PPCqGOAEj https://t.co/UsVr4tbc6P
— Alec Ross (@AlecJRoss) April 20, 2018
Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA) wants research on medical cannabis for veterans:
We need to allow the VA to research how marijuana can help our veterans. That’s why I cosponsored the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 earlier this week. Read more about the bill from @washingtonpost https://t.co/3b96tVHci2
— Denny Heck (@RepDennyHeck) April 21, 2018
Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist wants cannabis businesses to be taxed like any other sector:
Today at the National Cannabis Festival (4/20) I will speak at 11:00 am (CSPAN) on a policy panel about ending 420E–the federal tax that undermines federalism.
The feds should respect the decision of states on Cannabis–and several hundred other issues. https://t.co/nP1AuGYZea
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) April 20, 2018
Burger King understands the value of 4/20 as a marketing hook:
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) April 20, 2018
Denny’s makes you go 🤔:
while it’s trendy to implement new 420 menus, denny’s has stayed ahead of the game by simply having…our menu
— Denny's (@DennysDiner) April 20, 2018
Ben & Jerry’s chimed in a bit early:
Close enough… pic.twitter.com/lNlLDXtSet
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) April 19, 2018
Koch Industries wants people to know it supports letting states legalize marijuana:
— Koch Industries (@Koch_Industries) April 20, 2018
BMW tweeted that some of its car parts are made from hemp:
Fibers from sustainably grown kenaf, a form of hemp, are used to reinforce dashboard and door trims. https://t.co/hJHpf0D2r9
— BMW USA (@BMWUSA) April 19, 2018
Comedian Chelsea Handler suggested that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions give marijuana a try:
#Happy420, Jeff Sessions. I know you hate marijuana, but maybe give it a try… you might get so high you’ll forget how to be racist.
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) April 20, 2018
Actress Laverne Cox has never consumed marijuana but is all in favor of legalization:
Happy #420day. I have never smoked weed in my life but support decriminalization and think we need to get folks out of prison who are there on marijuana charges. We have to elect folks who will do that work.
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) April 20, 2018
The Body Shop is offering a 42% discount on products in celebration of 4/20:
Get your HYDRATION HIGH today with 42% OFF hundreds of products! PLUS get 50% OFF our best-selling Hemp Hand Protector! Soften hands with our dermatologically tested lotion for very dry skin. #420day https://t.co/0UUb0yYlB0 pic.twitter.com/9lRs0sEK9n
— The Body Shop (@thebodyshopusa) April 20, 2018
The Competitive Enterprise Institute says Jeff Sessions’s position on marijuana is very undudelike:
Despite Trump's campaign promises to the contrary, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being very uncool toward states that legalized recreational or medical marijuana. https://t.co/nqKKZGfkhO pic.twitter.com/9M1YLImW7O
— Competitive Enterprise Institute (@ceidotorg) April 20, 2018
And of course Snoop Dogg was celebrating:
— Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) April 20, 2018
Coronavirus Crisis Shows Marijuana Is ‘Essential’ And Mainstream
Never has it been more clear than during the current COVID-19 pandemic that marijuana has arrived at the forefront of mainstream American society.
In state after state, governors and public health officials are deeming cannabis businesses “essential” operations that can stay open amid coronavirus-related forced closures and stay-at-home mandates. People might not be able to go bowling or see a movie in theaters, but they can still stock up on marijuana.
It wasn’t long ago that anyone growing and selling marijuana faced the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and jailed. But now, in the era of expanding legalization, cannabis providers in many states are held up as vital members of the community who are providing a valuable service on par with picking up prescription drugs at a pharmacy or filling up your car at a gas station.
Advocacy groups have pushed governors and state officials to ensure that medical marijuana patients in particular can maintain access to the cannabis they need. But because many people who use marijuana for therapeutic purposes don’t necessarily jump through the hoops needed in order to become officially certified as patients, recreational businesses are also seen as crucial access points that need to stay open.
“Most of the American public and an increasing number of government leaders stopped buying into the demonization of cannabis years ago,” Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “Now, not only have two-thirds of states recognized that medical cannabis should be legal—with 11 legalizing adult-use—many are recognizing that safe access to cannabis is essential.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said it is “encouraging to see our nation’s public policy in practice is finally catching up to where the vast majority of Americans have been for years.”
“The recognition by our government officials that cannabis is indeed not just here to stay, but an essential part of life for millions of Americans—particularly in the patient community—is a welcome move in the right direction,” he said. “It is also a move that could not have come at a better moment for those who still require access to maintain quality of life during these trying and troubled times.”
In some states, officials have enacted new temporary policies such as expanded delivery services or curbside pickup that make it easier for consumers to get their hands on marijuana while respecting social distancing measures. Others are allowing doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations via telemedicine instead of requiring that they conduct in-person examinations.
Here’s a look at how states that are taking steps to maintain legal marijuana access during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Regulators deemed cannabis retail outlets to be essential businesses that can stay open amid a broader stay-at-home order. Localities, including Los Angeles County and San Francisco, have also said that certain cannabis businesses are essential providers that can continue operations.
Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued an executive order allowing marijuana businesses to provide curbside pickup services and letting doctors issue medical cannabis recommendations via telemedicine without in-person examinations. A subsequent order from the governor says that marijuana businesses are critical retail operations, but only for the sale of medical cannabis or curbside delivery. Regulators also issued emergency rules temporarily loosening requirements for fingerprinting of marijuana business owners, modification of premises and transfer of cannabis product samples for testing.
Regulators deemed medical cannabis businesses to be essential and thus exempt from a general mandate to suspend in-person operations.
The state surgeon general issued an order allowing physicians to issue medical cannabis recertifications to existing patients—but not new ones—via telemedicine.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) stay-at-home order declares marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities to be essential businesses that can stay open. Dispensaries are also being allowed to do curbside sales of medical cannabis—but not recreational marijuana—products.
Medical cannabis growers, processors and dispensaries. are exempt from an order Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued to close non-essential businesses. Regulators are also allowing dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to patients in parking lots.
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued a stay-at-home order deeming medical cannabis businesses—but not recreational marijuana ones—to be essential and exempt from a general shutdown. Regulators also encouraged medical cannabis delivery services to promote and expand their offerings, and are allowing doctors to remotely recommend marijuana to patients through the use of telehealth waivers.
Marijuana businesses will be able to continue curbside sales and home deliveries but cannot perform in-person transactions in stores under a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Regulators previously sent a bulletin allowing curbside pickup and encouraging delivery services, and another bulletin extending the period of prequalification status for marijuana business license applicants that may experience building delays.
Regulators are allowing medical cannabis patients to do curbside pickup at dispensaries and are letting doctors issue recommendations via telemedicine.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) exempted medical cannabis dispensaries from a stay-at-home order. Regulators moved to allow patients pick up medical marijuana at dispensaries’ curbsides and to reduce caregiver registration fees.
Regulators ruled that medical cannabis businesses are essential and can stay open. They also allowed curbside pickup services, extended expiring patient and caregiver cards for 90 days and suspended background checks for new industry employees.
The state Department of Health deemed that medical cannabis providers are essential businesses not subject to a general closure order. Those that are authorized to carry out home delivery are temporarily allowed to expand those services without written approval.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) stay-at-home order exempts medical cannabis businesses from a broader business shutdown. The State Medical Board also moved to allow doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations via telemedicine without meeting patients in person. Additionally, regulators are letting patients phone in orders ahead of their arrival at dispensaries to reduce time spent inside.
Regulators approved rules to allow curbside delivery of marijuana at licensed retail locations and to increase medical cannabis sales limits. They also moved to make it easier to obtain cannabis worker permits.
Regulators deemed medical cannabis providers as “life-sustaining” operations that are exempt from Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) order to close businesses in general. They also took other steps, including allowing patients to have marijuana brought to their cars outside of dispensaries and letting caregivers make deliveries to an unlimited number of patients.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) stay-at-home order exempts marijuana businesses as essential, allowing them to stay open. And regulators are allowing marijuana dispensaries to carry out curbside service for medical cannabis patients.
Despite the significant number of states deeming cannabis businesses to be essential and issuing rulings temporarily expanding their services, that is not the case in every legal marijuana market.
And despite the accommodations, many regulators are also directing businesses to implement social distancing measures such as limits on the number of customers who can enter a retail operation at a given time or guidance on physical space between those who are standing in line—changes that can slow down operations and reduce revenue.
Still, many industry leaders seems to understand the public health necessity of such moves, and cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, for example, issued a set of suggested voluntary guidelines for marijuana businesses to consider.
For now, industry trackers have indicated that sales are strong as consumers stock up in preparation to hunker down at home for several weeks.
Nonetheless, the industry has called on Congress to give it equal access to disaster relief funds—a request necessitated by the fact that ongoing federal prohibition means that their operations are still illegal and not generally eligible for such aid.
Legalization opponents, meanwhile, are not pleased with moves by a growing number of states to keep cannabis stores in business despite the steps intended to foster social distancing at such locations.
“We have seen numerous reports of marijuana stores with long lines of people stocking up on the drug and have additionally seen states move to keep these stores open,” Kevin Sabet, president of prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said. “Quite frankly, this presents a unique harm to public health and safety. Across the country, states are doing everything in their power to limit the gathering of people in one location. Long lines outside of establishments engaged in the distribution of marijuana should be a tremendous cause for concern.”
When it comes to consumers, while advocates have cautioned them to consider refraining from smoking or vaping for the time being due to the risk of agitating lungs amid the respiratory effects of the novel coronavirus, they have also pointed out that there are other ways to use cannabis, such as edibles.
For now, the coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the disconnect between federal and state policies: Under one set of laws cannabis is a banned drug, and under the other it’s a medicine deemed just as essential as any other.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia.
Marijuana Industry Pleads For Access To Federal Coronavirus Business Relief
As Congress scrambles to reach a consensus on how to help Americans caught in the financial fallout of COVID-19, a coalition of marijuana industry trade groups is urging federal lawmakers not to forget about the hundreds of thousands of workers in state-legal cannabis industries.
Legal marijuana now employs an estimated 240,000 people in the U.S. but, because cannabis remains federally illegal, marijuana businesses remain cut off from nearly all benefits at the federal level, including emergency relief funds.
In a letter sent Friday to leaders of the House and Senate, major cannabis industry associations called on lawmakers to remove those restriction and ensure that state-legal cannabis businesses can qualify for assistance.
“Our members follow strict regulations, create jobs, generate billions of dollars in tax revenue—including federal corporate tax revenue—and act as good corporate citizens,” the groups said. “Yet it appears as if these businesses will not be eligible for the same loans available to other businesses in this country at risk due to the global pandemic.”
The letter was sent jointly by the National Cannabis Industry Association, National Cannabis Roundtable, Minority Cannabis Business Association, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce and Cannabis Trade Federation.
“The ineligibility of cannabis businesses for disaster assistance loans is especially inequitable given that these same cannabis businesses are required to comply with other coronavirus-related measures, such as paid sick leave coverage,” the organizations wrote. “We are not seeking special treatment for state-legal cannabis businesses. We only seek to have them treated on an equal level as all other job-generating, tax-paying companies in this country.”
In a separate announcement on Friday, the nonprofit group NORML said in a blog post that the organization has been reaching out “to our numerous allies on Capitol Hill” to ensure that “discriminatory practices do not apply to those in the industry seeking unemployment benefits [for cannabis workers] during these uncertain times.”
“Given the tremendous amount of uncertainty in the broader economy,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a statement, “the hundreds of thousands of American workers who are employed by the state-legal marijuana industry must be respected and protected by the emergency actions being taken by elected officials.”
Cannabis Workers, Unemployment Insurance, and the Small Business Administration: What You Need to Know https://t.co/Tt2y2ovVHg
— NORML (@NORML) March 20, 2020
Programs already in place should extend at least some benefits to marijuana workers, NORML said in the post. In addition to workers qualifying for state-level unemployment benefits, the cannabis industry could see help from the congressional Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The act, signed into law this week, directs federal funds to state governments to help with COVID-19 efforts. NORML said that after conferring with experts, it believes the act “provides the individual states with the authority to decide for themselves which industries are legally eligible to receive benefits.”
But unless lawmakers amend current rules, state-legal cannabis companies won’t receive a dime of disaster relief aid provided by the federal government to other small businesses. The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is prohibited from providing financial assistance to industries that are illegal under federal law.
NORML said that it “will continue to work with our federal allies to call for an end for such discriminatory practices against the cannabis industry and those whose livelihoods depend upon it.”
One way to address the issue, NORML said, would be to pass pending legislation introduced last year by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), who chairs the House Small Business Committee. The bill, H.R. 3540, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and prohibit SBA from denying services to marijuana-related businesses.
That legislation was introduced just days after federal lawmakers heard about challenges facing small cannabis businesses at a hearing. Language from the bill was later included in the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last year.
“Now is not the time for Congress to think small,” Strekal, of NORML, urged as lawmakers continued debating how to best address the crisis. “Including Chairwoman Velazquez’s proposal to have the SBA support small cannabis businesses would protect both American jobs and the consumers that they serve.”
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic is also impacting drug policy reform efforts across the country. Lawmakers in New York have said in recent days that the effort to legalize marijuana for adults may be delayed due to coronavirus. Ballot initiative campaigns in California and Washington, D.C., have asked local officials for permission to gather signatures online. And in Nebraska, activists pushing to legalize medical marijuana in the state have announced they’ve temporarily suspended their signature gathering campaign.
“We look forward to the opportunity to get back out there to help Nebraskans create meaningful change for each other,” Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana posted to Facebook on Thursday, “and we wish you and your loved ones health and peace of mind.”
Read the cannabis industry letter to congressional leaders below:
Colorado Just Issued The First Marijuana Delivery License In The State
As more Americans across the country are sheltering at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, a major Colorado cannabis retailer announced that it has received the state’s first permit to deliver medical marijuana directly to patients’ doors.
Boulder-based medical cannabis dispensary The Dandelion, which is owned and operated by the retail chain Native Roots, obtained Colorado’s first state-issued delivery license last week, the company announced on Thursday in a press release.
Delivery services won’t be available immediately, however. Shannon Fender, director of public affairs for Native Roots, said The Dandelion is hoping to begin its first deliveries by the end of the month.
“We will be providing more information about the date we’re going live,” Fender told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview, “but we’re planning for the end of March.”
Patients will also have to register as members of The Dandelion in order to qualify for delivery. Signing up currently requires patients to visit the dispensary in person, but Fender said the company is “looking for a way that patients could do this remotely” given concerns about spreading the coronavirus through human-to-human contact.
— Native Roots (@NativeRoots303) March 13, 2020
Once deliveries do begin, The Dandelion will be able to drop off deliveries only within Boulder or the nearby town of Superior, another jurisdiction that also allows medical marijuana deliveries. Fender said Native Roots has been talking to other local governments “for months” about opting in to local delivery, but so far it’s been slow going.
“The Chamber is excited that Boulder is leading the way on regulation for cannabis delivery. Native Roots has been an upstanding member not only of the cannabis industry, but of the Boulder business community at large,” Boulder Chamber Director of Public Affairs Andrea Menegheal said in a press release. “We look forward to what this means for how our businesses strive to serve the patient community and as other jurisdictions begin policy conversations on cannabis delivery services.”
Under a law passed last year, deliveries of medical cannabis have been allowed under Colorado law since January 2. But, because local jurisdictions must first opt in to allowing delivery, the process of issuing state-level licenses has lagged.
Under the new law, deliveries of recreational marijuana won’t be allowed until January 2021 at the earliest.
Gov. Jared Polis (D) last year described marijuana delivery as a tactic to reduce impaired driving, but it’s become especially relevant in the new era of social distancing. As more and more dispensaries enact policies meant to limit the spread of coronavirus, delivery offers a way to protect vulnerable patients while still ensuring access to medicine.
“The timing is total coincidence, but it’s timely,” Fender at Native Roots said of the company’s delivery plans. “Medical delivery is really another option for patients to utilize social distancing.”
Across the country, state and local governments are grappling with whether to allow cannabis retailers to remain open. Most so far have allowed sales to continue, albeit with extra steps in place to avoid transmitting the virus. Fender said she wasn’t aware of any closures so far affecting Native Roots’s 21 locations in Colorado.
Patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access this week called on medical marijuana states to keep dispensaries open, urging officials to declare them “essential” services and adopt practices, such as curbside pickup or delivery, to limit transmission of the virus.
Beyond the issue of patient access, the coronavirus is also having a significant impact on drug policy reform efforts across the country. Campaigns to revise California’s adult-use cannabis law and legalize psilocybin mushrooms, as well as a Washington, D.C. campaign to decriminalize psychedelics, have all asked state lawmakers to allow them to collect signatures digitally to prevent viral transmission as they work to qualify for the November ballot.
In New York, hopes to include marijuana legalization in the final budget by an April deadline have largely been dashed due to the need to prioritize a coronavirus response.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images