Over the past nine years, NCIA has advocated for the fair and equal treatment of the legal cannabis industry by pushing for federal policy reforms around critical issues that threaten our industry’s growth. While we have had steady success over the years, this March was monumental for a variety of reasons.
Most notably, we celebrated the historic passage of the SAFE Banking Act out of the House Financial Services Committee, a landmark step closer to resolving our industry’s ongoing banking crisis. On a micro-level, we also saw record-breaking attendance at our March Cannabis Caucus events.
Here’s a recap of what went down and why we think these are critical indicators of a tipping point for our industry.
The passage of the SAFE Banking Act out of Committee
On March 27, H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, received a markup by the House Financial Services Committee and passed in a vote of 45-15, including 11 Republicans who voted in favor.
This is the first time in history that a cannabis banking bill has reached this point in the legislative process. As a reminder, a markup is the process by which a congressional committee debates, amends, and rewrites proposed legislation.
Now that the bill has passed out of the House Financial Services Committee, it will continue in the legislative process and be sent to the House Judiciary Committee. It is unclear whether or not the Judiciary Committee will waive its rights to the legislation. But, since Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter in favor of a hearing for the STATES Act, it seems like the prospect is positive. If the Committee does waive its rights, the SAFE Banking Act will then be referred to the powerful House Rules Committee before receiving a floor vote from the full House.
As a reminder, Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Warren Davidson (R-OH) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) less than three weeks ago. In a stunning, historic showing, the legislation was introduced with a whopping 108 original cosponsors, and that number has already risen to 158 – more than a third of the entire House.
Record-breaking attendance at Cannabis Caucus events
Over the past six years, we have hosted nearly 120 Cannabis Caucus events nationwide. What sets Cannabis Caucuses apart from our other regional events is their focus on federal policy news and ways that attendees can take action.
While these events are always well-attended, with a noteworthy lineup of speakers, our recent March Cannabis Caucuses were extraordinary.
For one, the events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Lansing and Philadelphia saw a whopping 1,200 total attendees – more than any other Cannabis Caucus event series in our history.
Equally as notable was the turnout in what is expected to be the largest cannabis market in the world – Michigan. In Lansing, we partnered with the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association and hosted more than 400 industry professionals and advocates with an impressive lineup of guest speakers.
Not only were the guest speakers in Michigan tremendous, but across all events, we had noteworthy guest speakers discussing the importance of citizen lobbying. In Northern California: Jose Herndandez, Deputy Director, Rep. Barbara Lee’s Office; in Southern California: Nicolas Rodridguez, District Director, Rep. Ted Lieu’s Office; in Colorado: Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1st District); in Michigan: Dana Nessel, Attorney General, Michigan and lastly in the Northeast: Shanita Penny, Executive Director of Minority Cannabis Business Association.
Despite the fact that visible progress on the Hill has been slow over the years, it is obvious that the passage of the SAFE Banking Act has transpired into a feeling of unity and strength for industry professionals and advocates alike. The outstanding attendance at our most policy-focused regional events aptly demonstrates this and continues to be a positive indicator of our industry’s momentum.
STATES Act reintroduced in Congress
While this didn’t happen in March, it deserves a note anyway. On April 4, the STATES Act to end cannabis prohibition was reintroduced by Sens. Cory Gardnery (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Joyce (R-OH) in the House. This would allow states to determine their own cannabis policies without fear of federal interference.
The timing of the reintroduction of the STATES Act is crucial because bipartisan support for cannabis policy reform is at historic levels in Congress and the general public. This legislation would allow the growing number of state licensed cannabis businesses to simply exist in peace, without fear of federal interference.
Overall, the course of events in the past month has proven that we are living through historic times for our industry. With that, we have every reason to believe that we’re getting close to a tipping point for our industry’s continued expansion at the federal level. As we continue this journey to achieve the fair and equal treatment our industry deserves, it is important to stop and celebrate our macro and microcosmic victories that denote extraordinary progress.
If you want to take the next step in supporting the legal cannabis industry, consider joining the nearly 2,000 business-members that make up NCIA’s membership base. By joining NCIA, you also get exclusive access to the industry’s most impactful advocacy event of the year – NCIA’s 9th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days on May 21-23 in Washington, D.C.
For nine years, Lobby Days has been our industry’s opportunity to form a unified front on the Hill in advocating for the fair and equal treatment of our industry. This year – more than ever – we believe that telling our representatives why the SAFE Banking Act and the STATES Act need to be passed might be the final push our industry needs.
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