By Dalton Rosario
Today our 116th Congress met at the first cannabis hearing of the year to discuss the SAFE Banking Act, which aims to draft legislation that provides banks and credit unions with precautionary provisions for handling legitimate cannabis proceeds from licensed businesses without fear of being flagged by the federal government and IRS for money laundering and dealings with illicit criminal activity. This is a major step in ending federal prohibition, as all legal industries require the services of financial institutions, particularly for cash-heavy sectors like the cannabis industry. Not only does this increase the public safety and wellbeing of these businesses, their employees and our communities, but also it creates the necessary transparency for cannabis markets to be taxed, regulated and held accountable for the proceeds of their daily dealings at the state and federal level. Furthermore, by banks investing in local cannabis companies and providing financial resources and services, the cannabis industry will wholly embrace a previously unattainable level of standardization that has been lacking; making cannabis seem less like a favorable market commodity and more like a potential hazard and financial liability for those congressman, governors and state lawmakers who seek to pass pro-cannabis legislation but lack the infrastructure and support from our federal government to do so.
Local banks require protection in their dealings with cannabis companies, which have been by and large outright denied in their undertakings of standardized services that all other commercial industries have access to across the country. Whether that be in the form of unfavorable cash deposit rates, the inability to request a line of credit or restrictions on filing for annual tax exemptions based on U.S. Code Section 280E. Ending cannabis prohibition is not just administered through statewide legalization, but through policy reformation and legislative provisions impacting all satellite sectors and services surrounding the cash cow commodity that this bustling industry relies on. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, nearly 500 financial institutions across the country support cannabis businesses. And although this shows a rising support from Corporate America favoring the legitimacy of this estimated $50 Billion cannabis industry in just a few short years, as it stands only one-third of all licensed retailers, distributors and cultivators have reliable dealings with banks and credit unions. - An unheard of statistic with no parallels in our country's commercial marketplace.
By Dalton Rosario
America’s former number one cash crop has been aggregating spectacular developments in allocation of lands cultivated and state pilot programs sprouting throughout the nation. After having been legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, the hemp crop and its derivates of industrial production have been removed from the Controlled Substances Act and has been administered into the hands of the Department of Agriculture rather than penal enforcement and scrutiny under the restrictions of the Justice Department.
Investments in industrial hemp manufacturing have increased exponentially in the past two years. 78,000 acres of hemp spanning across 17 states have been cultivated; particularly for increased demand of CBD products booming in markets across America due to its legal status, non-psychoactive properties and medicinal value as a healthy alternative to opioid prescriptions and rehabilitative treatments for opioid dependence and addition. This year alone hemp is expected to ramp up its production to an estimated 125,000 acres being planted across the country. That is more acres of hemp lands cultivated than the past two years combined. As of 2017 the U.S. industrial hemp market was already valued at $820 million, and based on how licensed cultivation and sponsored state programs have exponentially increased years since, it is not far fetched to classify the current valuation of hemp within our nation to have the capacity to build into a billion dollar industry. America’s cash cow is back in business. - And business is booming.
By Dalton Rosario
Mexico has been leading the world stage in terms of embracing cannabis reformation fine-tuned to the insights established from the trial-and-error legislations that have been sanctioned in progressive states throughout the U.S., and from the examples set forth by global cannabis market leaders like Canada and Germany. Mexico’s Senate released a formal report establishing processes and provisions for ending cannabis prohibition, thereby developing the legal commodity as a viable commercial product with sound market infrastructure. Global cannabis platforms welcomed news of this momentum following the Mexican Supreme Court determining the unconstitutional nature of criminalizing adult cannabis consumption just months prior. The Mexican Senate has expressed clear consideration for wanting to avoid common pitfalls surrounding legalization which consists of countries, provinces or states rushing into policy reformations that favor consumerism and financial incentives which prioritize tax surplus revenues injected into local economies over well-thought out public health and safety regulations which benefit the people and their respective communities.
This is reflected in the Senate necessitating market structures that undercut any incentives for the continuance of a black market post-legalization due to inconsistencies with product quality standards, pricing and availability. Doing so first requires agreeable sales tax proposals for licensed cultivators and distributors, as well as consistency in regulated retail pricing, determined by dispensaries and their access to growers so they can successfully meet market demands. Once established, there will need to be transparency between licensed cultivators and quality assurance testing centers that have standardized reliable and accountable THC and CBD consistencies per strain, and potency levels of extracts and concentrates to be sold on the market or recommended by doctors and physicians for medical prescription use.
The Mexican Senate is reverse engineering cannabis reformation with a keen understanding for the meticulous implementation of practical policies that parallel a 2018 report by the Global Drug Policy Commission - which found that the best way to combat the mishaps of cannabis prohibition and its residual effects of violent crimes, racially motivated arrests rates, and continued marginalization of poverty stricken communities - is to authorize a highly regulated market infrastructure that prioritizes public health over commercial proceeds allowing for a robust industry of commerce.
By Dalton Rosario
Capital Hill welcomed a series of pro-cannabis bills filed consecutively this week by Oregon Democratic State Senator Ron Wyden. These legislations titled S.420, S.421 and S.422 seek to implement realistic milestones for granting federally legal cannabis provisions along with all of the benefits fitting for legitimately licensed businesses that facilitate state-level market demand and nationwide distribution. Wyden like many state lawmakers have taken ownership of the budding opinions from voters supported by popular demand. As detailed in a written statement to the press, “Federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple. Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed.” For this reason S.420 has been scripted with the intent of de-scheduling cannabis; calling for its immediate removal from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which alleviates legality disputes between federal and state law by establishing uniform federal taxes on all cannabis sales as well as sponsoring business permit registration programs for companies entering or already established within the industry.
The two follow-up bills S.421 and S.422 aim to bridge the gap between nationwide versus state-side cannabis policies by proposing means for federal banks to safely provide financial services for cannabis companies as well as sanctioning the removal of constraints against cannabis companies being able to advertise their products and services on traditional platforms such as social media marketing and aired ads on television. Likewise, S.421 demands the immediate expungement of non-violent cannabis convictions, as well as allowing doctors and licensed physicians to prescribe medical grade cannabis for our Department of Veterans Affairs and making sure that immigrants cannot be deported for non-violent cannabis-related arrests. Bill S.422 follows suit by allowing cannabis companies to file for tax deductions that are currently unavailable for business owners despite being common practice across all other industries within the U.S. There is much anticipation for what 2019 has in store for reformation policies unapologetically targeting cannabis probation and ending the decades of abuse by the enforcement of the war on drugs and its residual effects on our communities.
By Dalton Rosario
The Colombian government has authorized for the first time ever an exported shipment of medical grade cannabis for research testing and analysis to be conducted in Canada. This has been deemed by the government as a testament of the quality conditions and cultivation capable in South America, launching Colombia as a pioneer on the global market. Six Canadian Import permits were authorized by Health Canada, from which Colombia’s government expedited approval of shipment. This proves advantageous for both countries as the capital investments required to accommodate Canada’s greenhouse infrastructure can be significantly reduced by Canadian companies instead investing their external laboratory overhead costs into Colombia-grown cannabis.
This is not the first time Canada has accepted cannabis shipments from abroad for medical testing. Two other instances have occurred in 2018: the first from Africa in March and the second from Jamaica in September; placing Canada as the premier destination for cannabis testing and scientific experimentation worldwide. Later in 2019, Canadian company Ecomedics S.A.S. aka Clever Leaves will also begin accepting shipments of Colombian cannabis extracts for testing purposes. Likewise Colombia’s government has expressed interest in allowing medical cannabis cultivation from their country to be exported for research testing in countries that are willing to register for permits, such as Germany in the near future.
By Dalton Rosario
Following Baltimore city’s top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby pledging that her office will end prosecuting possession-related cannabis arrests last week, Maryland is now the latest state to officially have passed cannabis legalization in the forms of possession, purchasing, consuming and cultivating. Individuals can legally carry up to an ounce of dry herb or five concentrate cartridges and home-grow up to four plants per household. Cannabis sales from licensed retailers will be taxed at a modest six percent, with state tax revenues being implemented in programs ranging from substance abuse and DWI prevention to K-12 and reparations for communities disproportionally targeted by law enforcement during cannabis prohibition; including expungements of current and prior possession and cultivation convictions.
As stated by Olivia Naugle, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Legislative Coordinator, in regards to pro-cannabis legislation passing in Maryland, “[cannabis] can be conducted by licensed, taxpaying businesses rather than criminal enterprises. This legislation would improve public health and safety [and] also have the bonus of generating significant new tax revenue for the state.” Maryland is a prime example of the green pendulum sweeping our nation. 2019 has proven to be a year of state lawmakers lining up to file recreational adult use cannabis bills for the benefits of surplus from immediate tax revenues to be allocated and reinvested directly into state programs, while also providing a means of reparations for communities impacted most dearly from cannabis abuses during prohibition.
By Dalton Rosario
On February 13th the first congressional cannabis hearing will be held before the House Financial Services subcommittee and the Consumer Protection subcommittee to address the problems and solutions related to statewide cannabis businesses working with federal banking services. This is a contentious topic due to cannabis’ current status of federal prohibition even though states across the nation are moving forward with cannabis legalization. The clear problem is that despite legislation outlining policies for banks to follow when dealing with strictly cash-based cannabis proceeds, many banks opt out of the risk associated with handling accounts for cannabis businesses due to the complicated restrictions and gray-area legalities it falls within; and the corresponding penalties if there is a breach of policy that could close the down the bank entirely.
As it stands for most banks the risk is not worth the reward. But can it be? That is what the 116th Congress seeks to prove next week. It is clear that criminalizing cannabis has failed the people as a federal policy. Reformations and restitutions are at the top of legislators’ list of amendments to pass into law by the end of 2019. These policy shifts require an infrastructure in place that provides transparency between banking institutions and home-grown businesses that benefit public safety by nullifying illicit drug markets. The most immediate method for doing so is by granting depository regulations for cash circulating large-scale cannabis operations, which will only intensify as more states open avenues for cannabis markets to lawfully partake in their state economy as a legitimate industry with all of the necessary licensing, taxation and regulations set in place. Even though the only permanent method is to address cannabis legalization on a national scale, ending federal prohibition and its residual counter-effects once and for all.
By Dalton Rosario
Today Pennsylvania Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) filed Bill HB50 to rectify years of abuses from the war on drugs, by granting residents aged 21 and over legal access to cannabis via licensed retailers, permitting its possession and consumption, and its home cultivation of up to 6 plants per household. As stated by Wheatley in a press release, “It’s about making sure that we are righting some of the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.” What this entails is immediate release of offenders serving jail time for cannabis-related arrests made prior to this legislation being passed, criminal record expungement for prior convictions and instilling policies of equity to make sure there is equality in the communities that stand to profit from regulating cannabis trade across the 57 counties that comprise of Pennsylvania.
Most notable are Wheatley’s proposed initiatives for the incurred tax revenues from the regulated industry. As outlined he would allocate 50% to be invested in student loan forgiveness programs for in-state tuition, 40% would be reserved for funding affordable housing programs and 10% would be invested in after school care programs for children. His enthusiasm for reformation has been shared by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) who agrees that legislation must be passed immediately or else nearby states that are further along swinging the pendulum of legalization will take advantage of the influx of market demand from customers commuting across state lines for cannabis tourism and adult recreational use. The Northeast Corridor has been booming with pro-cannabis legislation lately and the time to end state prohibition is now, or risk falling behind and losing a lot of tax revenues that can be used for the good of the people.
By Dalton Rosario
Based upon recommendations from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, a series of cannabis-related rescheduling initiatives will be set into motion concluding beneficial collaborative research with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Most impacted by these status changes will be the marijuana plant itself, cannabis-derived resin, and THC which will be removed from its current Schedule IV status - the most dangerous and controlled classification - and will be added to the Schedule I status of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961). Unlike in the U.S., Schedule I internationally is the least restricted of listings. As well, CBD containing 0.2% of THC or less will no longer fall under international control; and extracts are to be removed from Schedule I status.
In effect the WHO is officially shifting its stance on nearly 50 years of denouncing cannabis’ medical health benefits. This is symbolic of a greater global push for embracing cannabis’ holistic properties and creating meaningful legislative frameworks for ending prohibition. Even though moving forward with rescheduling procedures is its own cause for celebration, current WHO classifications will still place countries in a compromising position when lawmakers legalize the plant recreationally, because doing so places their governments in contempt of international treaties through violations of global conventions. The WHO's recommendations for rescheduling cannabis and its derivatives will be officially released at the United Nation’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March, when 53 of the world’s governing bodies will meet to vote on accepting or declining the international policy proposal.
By Dalton Rosario
Next week on February 7th, Hawaii’s Committee on the Judiciary will vote on cannabis legalization. This is a widely discussed topic throughout the state lately as the Democratic Party presidential nominee Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) openly advocates for cannabis reformation ranging from years of supporting bills that exempt CBD from the Controlled Substances Act, to legalizing industrial hemp and providing assurance for banks that service registered cannabis businesses. This legislation, if passed in Hawaii's Committee on the Judiciary, would allow for adults aged 21+ to cultivate, consume and possess cannabis. Also, manufacturing licenses would be issued for dispensaries and retail locations throughout the islands.
As outlined in the bill, “the legalization of marijuana for personal or recreational use is a natural, logical, and reasonable outgrowth of the current science of marijuana and attitude toward marijuana,” deducing a commercial interest in regulating and taxing the statewide cannabis market and a fundamental understanding that investing in healthy industries such as these reduce black market incentive for violent crimes related to the cultivation and distribution of cannabis. The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii (DPFH) believes that regulatory frameworks of commerce are not enough to address the iniquities disproportionately targeted against communities of poverty thus far perpetrated by the war on drugs. They say that more needs to be done; which would likely include expungement services against prior non-violent convictions and/or on-going possession charges being dropped based on similar examples of restitution programs implemented across the country.