For the first time in history, some Senate Democrats introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances – laws that have led to more than 1, 5 million arrests in 2019 alone, 32% of which were for lower-level non-violent marijuana possession offenses, according to nonprofit Drugpolicyfacts.org.
Federal laws have also created a legal gray area for businesses operating in states where marijuana is legal.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is backed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., who called the legislation “monumental.”
But some cannabis industry insiders told ABC News that while the bill does include many things that would greatly benefit dispensaries and producers – such as allowing them to get bank financing, accepting health cards, etc. credit and go public on the New York Stock Exchange – they would rather see the federal government leave the matter in the hands of the states.
“I hope I am completely wrong, but the cynic in me says why would a Democrat-controlled Congress want to present a legalization bill to a president of his party who has already said he does not want to sign a legalization bill? ” Kyle Kazan, CEO of U.S. cannabis production and distribution company Glass House Brands Inc., told ABC News. Kazan is also concerned about federal involvement due to the damage caused by the war on drugs.
Despite Schumer’s backing for the bill, President Joe Biden still opposes federal legalization of marijuana, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday and the measure would need several Republicans to support it.
“Excited” but remain “realistic”
The legislation, co-sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., And Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, would seek to clear criminal records of most non-violent offenses related to the marijuana and to create banking systems to help cannabis companies, especially the hundreds of small minority-owned businesses who want to participate in the so-called green marijuana rush.
Headset, a data and analytics provider for the cannabis industry, predicted this week that the U.S. legal cannabis market will exceed $ 30 billion in sales by 2022.
The legislation, now in its infancy, would also allow states to develop their own cannabis laws, much like states do with alcohol. A new federal excise tax would also be created, similar to alcohol and tobacco.
The proposal would also allow U.S. marijuana companies to use banking services, including maintaining bank accounts and taking out loans, and allowing companies to list on U.S. exchanges. Currently, cannabis companies do not have access to the banking system because their product is illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
Despite his doubts, Kazan, a former California police officer, said he would like to see the legislation passed, but that the federal government largely leaves the details to the states.
“As much as I encourage Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer and (Senatorial Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell to come together on something, I think it would be better if they just said, ‘Let’s leave the mess and leave it to them. States are doing it, “said Kazan, whose company is listed on the NEO Stock Exchange in Canada.” The federal government has done nothing but bad here with the war on drugs and the war on cannabis. You have tens of thousands of people serving sentences for non-violent cannabis and other drug-related crimes. Just stop hurting. “
Steve DeAngelo, co-founder of Harborside Health Inc., a California-listed cannabis company on the Canadian Stock Exchange, told ABC News the legislation is long overdue.
“I’m excited. But I also want to be realistic about this,” said DeAngelo, who has been dubbed the father of the legal cannabis industry. “But it’s a big day when the Senate Majority Leader supports full legalization of cannabis at the federal level. It’s a big day for our movement.”
To date, 18 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and 37 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, now allow the drug for medical use.
A Pew Research Center poll released in April showed that 91% of American adults say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational purposes.
DeAngelo co-founded a medical marijuana business in Northern California as a nonprofit over ten years ago and has said that since then it has been on the rise. due to conflicts with federal regulations listing marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with narcotics as heroin.
“Most successful businesses in the United States have the ability to go to a bank and obtain financing for various uses at a reasonable rate of interest. Cannabis businesses cannot go to banks and get any kind of funding, ”DeAngelo said. ABC News.
“When we’re trying to… just operate efficiently and do things like pay our taxes, those same banking laws can force us to do crazy things like going to tax offices with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for pay our back taxes, ”he added. “Things are neither safe nor efficient.”
A growing target for thieves
With large amounts of cash on hand to conduct business and shelves filled with high-quality cannabis, dispensaries and grow operations have increasingly become attractive targets for thieves.
In San Francisco last week, a group of thieves stormed a cannabis dispensary in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, overwhelmed a security guard and took his gun before ransacking the business and fleeing into several getaway vehicles with cans of marijuana, police said. On June 17, an attempted robbery at a pot dispensary in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood led to a shootout in front of the company that seriously injured a security guard and killed one of the suspects, police said. .
“It’s a huge problem. People have died because of it,” DeAngelo said.
He said allowing cannabis companies to accept credit cards would help eliminate the need for large amounts of cash on hand.
“That’s one of the good things it will do,” he said of the legislation.
McConnell, the powerful Kentucky Republican, said he opposed the Senate bill, with will need 60 votes to pass, including 10 Republican votes.
DeAngelo said if he had the opportunity to speak with McConnell, he would say that “cannabis is not harmful, but the cannabis ban is”. He noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities in states where recreational cannabis is legal designated essential pot dispensaries as well as pharmacies.
“They have to let go of the old ways of thinking about cannabis,” DeAngelo said.