Home Industry The Latest Cannabis Legislation News From Capitol Hill

The Latest Cannabis Legislation News From Capitol Hill

by Andrew Ward

Cannabis has been a hot topic in early 2020. Picking up the momentum of the past few years, the plant continues to see action and discussions ramp up as the United States heads into the 2020 election. Several candidates have laid out plans for cannabis reform, with some delving into specifics. Meanwhile, other candidates called for broader reform, ranging from legalization to record expungement.

Typically, it is believed that election years fail to see substantial legislation passed. While this tendency may hold in 2020, cannabis reform continues to make its way through the process on the local and national levels. On Capitol Hill, legalization has been on the tips of legislative tongues for some time. In the opening days of the new year, the nation saw progress for hemp businesses, concerns over global marijuana policy, and what might happen if several states vote for adult use at the ballots this fall. 

Those and more topics highlight just some of the federal cannabis activity we’re here to catch you up on:

MORE Act Gets New Cosponsor

Reform efforts received a quick shot in the arm in early 2020 when Rep. Joe Kennedy III became a cosponsor on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. Under the MORE Act, cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, the Act would call for the creation of social equity programs along with the expungement of low-level marijuana offenses.

The Massachusetts lawmaker’s signature brings the measure’s support to 67 cosponsors. Additionally, Kennedy’s name marks a significant moral victory for legalization advocates, as the politician had opposed reform until November 2018. In a 2018 op-ed, Kennedy wrote how he now believed marijuana served the best chance to promote consumer safety and curb abuse. The lawmaker wrote, “It is our best chance to ensure that addiction is treated as a public health issue — not a criminal justice one.”

Congress Holds Hearings for Several Bills

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held hearings concerning six bills concerning cannabis legislation aiming to either legalize or research the plant. In all, two legalization bills were heard with the other four centering on research in some capacity. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included DEA policy advisor Matthew J. Strait and National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, among others. 

Longtime cannabis supporter and Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment he’d rather have had parents or a child with a seizure disorder as witnesses. When asked his opinion on the fact that only federal officials were called as witnesses, Blumenauer told reporters of the witness list, “They are not my witness list. I’ve had some interaction, but there would have been, I think, better witnesses.”

Lawmakers, Advocates Champion SAFE Banking Act

While Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo mulls a more restrictive version of the SAFE Banking Act, supporters continue to urge the Chair to advance their measure. Under the SAFE Act, states with legal cannabis regulations would be protected from federal law enforcement. More so, if passed, financial institutions could legally do business with the cannabis industry. Currently, most of the cannabis industry operates as an all-cash marketplace. As such, retailers have been frequent targets of thieves.

Such efforts to gain Crapo’s support include a letter signed by over 30 industry organizations. The plea brings up the Chair’s proposed changes, like a 2% THC threshold, that could significantly limit the industry. 

Lawmakers, like longtime Rep. Ed Perlmutter, also kept the Act in the discussion in the media, and by signing a letter along with other cosponsors also delivered to Crapo. Congress members Steve Stivers, Denny Heck and Warren Davidson signed the letter as well. Though the bill is moving slowly, Perlmutter believes it is moving along.

American Lawmakers Concerned By Global Cannabis Policy Recommendations

An early February memo obtained by Marijuana Moment revealed that 2019 policy recommendations by the United Nations’ (UN) World Health Organization (WHO) has caused a stir in the U.S. 

In addition to removing cannabis from a list of controlled substances, several cannabinoids could soon be rescheduled as well. The document goes on to detail strong feelings concerning research barriers while exploring the risks and benefits of additional recommended drug scheduling changes. 

The measure still must be taken up by the 53 member-nations that make up the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs before any change can occur. A recent planned vote was delayed at the request of several member nations.

American lawmakers seem more concerned with the view of deleting cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, which may lead the public to assume legalization is on the way. That said, U.S. officials did recognize the merit in the UN WHO recommendations.

Hemp Farmers Receive Key Insurance Coverage

Hemp cultivators received the latest vote of confidence in a newly legalized market when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced insurance programs for crops in case of a natural disaster. 

Two programs were rolled out in the announcement. A pilot insurance program offered by Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) will provide businesses with coverage for losses of crop yields due to damages for hemp produced for CBD oil as well as fiber or grain. The other program, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), aims to protect companies for losses incurred from low yields as well as crops destroyed. Coverage extends to businesses that could not plant where permanent federal crop insurance was not available.  

While the regulations improve prospects for hemp businesses, federal law prohibits the USDA from making any changes to laws concerning critical points such as THC levels.

Eyes Turn to the Election

With numerous states possibly voting on adult-use or medical legislation, the U.S. could see over 80% of the nation passing some form of cannabis law. If so, policy experts explain that further confusion may come about. With efforts underway across the country, progressive and conservative states alike considering reform, Congress may need to act before the complexity creates further issues for a billion-dollar industry. 

Stay up to date on the latest political happenings here at Green Flower Media and the other excellent sources cited in this article.

Typically, it is believed that election years fail to see substantial legislation passed. While this tendency may hold in 2020, cannabis reform continues to make its way through the process on the local and national levels. On Capitol Hill, legalization has been on the tips of legislative tongues for some time. In the opening days of the new year, the nation saw progress for hemp businesses, concerns over global marijuana policy, and what might happen if several states vote for adult use at the ballots this fall. 

Those and more topics highlight just some of the federal cannabis activity we’re here to catch you up on:

MORE Act Gets New Cosponsor

Reform efforts received a quick shot in the arm in early 2020 when Rep. Joe Kennedy III became a cosponsor on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. Under the MORE Act, cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, the Act would call for the creation of social equity programs along with the expungement of low-level marijuana offenses.

The Massachusetts lawmaker’s signature brings the measure’s support to 67 cosponsors. Additionally, Kennedy’s name marks a significant moral victory for legalization advocates, as the politician had opposed reform until November 2018. In a 2018 op-ed, Kennedy wrote how he now believed marijuana served the best chance to promote consumer safety and curb abuse. The lawmaker wrote, “It is our best chance to ensure that addiction is treated as a public health issue — not a criminal justice one.”

Congress Holds Hearings for Several Bills

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held hearings concerning six bills concerning cannabis legislation aiming to either legalize or research the plant. In all, two legalization bills were heard with the other four centering on research in some capacity. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included DEA policy advisor Matthew J. Strait and National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, among others. 

Longtime cannabis supporter and Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment he’d rather have had parents or a child with a seizure disorder as witnesses. When asked his opinion on the fact that only federal officials were called as witnesses, Blumenauer told reporters of the witness list, “They are not my witness list. I’ve had some interaction, but there would have been, I think, better witnesses.”

Lawmakers, Advocates Champion SAFE Banking Act

While Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo mulls a more restrictive version of the SAFE Banking Act, supporters continue to urge the Chair to advance their measure. Under the SAFE Act, states with legal cannabis regulations would be protected from federal law enforcement. More so, if passed, financial institutions could legally do business with the cannabis industry. Currently, most of the cannabis industry operates as an all-cash marketplace. As such, retailers have been frequent targets of thieves.

Such efforts to gain Crapo’s support include a letter signed by over 30 industry organizations. The plea brings up the Chair’s proposed changes, like a 2% THC threshold, that could significantly limit the industry. 

Lawmakers, like longtime Rep. Ed Perlmutter, also kept the Act in the discussion in the media, and by signing a letter along with other cosponsors also delivered to Crapo. Congress members Steve Stivers, Denny Heck and Warren Davidson signed the letter as well. Though the bill is moving slowly, Perlmutter believes it is moving along.

American Lawmakers Concerned By Global Cannabis Policy Recommendations

An early February memo obtained by Marijuana Moment revealed that 2019 policy recommendations by the United Nations’ (UN) World Health Organization (WHO) has caused a stir in the U.S. 

In addition to removing cannabis from a list of controlled substances, several cannabinoids could soon be rescheduled as well. The document goes on to detail strong feelings concerning research barriers while exploring the risks and benefits of additional recommended drug scheduling changes. 

The measure still must be taken up by the 53 member-nations that make up the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs before any change can occur. A recent planned vote was delayed at the request of several member nations.

American lawmakers seem more concerned with the view of deleting cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, which may lead the public to assume legalization is on the way. That said, U.S. officials did recognize the merit in the UN WHO recommendations.

Hemp Farmers Receive Key Insurance Coverage

Hemp cultivators received the latest vote of confidence in a newly legalized market when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced insurance programs for crops in case of a natural disaster. 

Two programs were rolled out in the announcement. A pilot insurance program offered by Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) will provide businesses with coverage for losses of crop yields due to damages for hemp produced for CBD oil as well as fiber or grain. The other program, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), aims to protect companies for losses incurred from low yields as well as crops destroyed. Coverage extends to businesses that could not plant where permanent federal crop insurance was not available.  

While the regulations improve prospects for hemp businesses, federal law prohibits the USDA from making any changes to laws concerning critical points such as THC levels.

Eyes Turn to the Election

With numerous states possibly voting on adult-use or medical legislation, the U.S. could see over 80% of the nation passing some form of cannabis law. If so, policy experts explain that further confusion may come about. With efforts underway across the country, progressive and conservative states alike considering reform, Congress may need to act before the complexity creates further issues for a billion-dollar industry. 

Stay up to date on the latest political happenings here at Green Flower Media and the other excellent sources cited in this article.

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