DECEMBER 2020 - Capitol Corner
House passes bill aimed at removing marijuana from federal ban list
The House passed a bill Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and set up a process to expunge past convictions.
The MORE Act would also make it easier for ownership opportunities to develop in the growing industry, allow veterans to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from Veterans Affairs doctors and establish funding sources to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by the “war on drugs.”
Friday’s vote was the first time the House has taken up whether to federally decriminalize marijuana, CNBC reported.
It is unclear now whether the GOP-held Senate will have any appetite for taking up the bill.
“It is the right thing to do,” said a co-sponsor of the MORE Act, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “For too long, the war on drugs has targeted young people, especially Black people, and rejected the advice of experts.”
Former president Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in the early 1970s, calling drug abuse “public enemy number one” after the rise of recreational drugs in the 1960s.
Blumenauer said that unlike heroin and cocaine, both of which are also Schedule 1 drugs, cannabis is not addictive, and it has been found to have therapeutic properties for managing pain. (Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations indicates that marijuana can, indeed, be addictive.)
Cannabis won big on Election Day last month. Now, 15 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational cannabis, while 34 states and two territories allow medical marijuana. If cannabis is descheduled through the MORE Act, large banks and institutions would be more likely to enter the marijuana industry once a legal framework is established, said Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
Although advocates expect the MORES Act to pass in the Democratic-controlled house, the Senate is a new ball game. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has slammed Democratic efforts to include diversity studies as part of cannabis reform, saying this year that lawmakers should instead focus on providing relief from the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, McConnell, who supports the hemp industry, met with cannabis industry insiders last year in California, signaling to some experts that perhaps cannabis reform is much closer to becoming reality.
The UN Reclassifies Cannabis
The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has removed cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, heeding a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Schedule IV is the strictest control schedule and includes drugs like heroin. Cannabis’ 59-year status as a Schedule IV drug had discouraged its use even for therapeutic purposes.
Though largely symbolic, the move may encourage more countries to legalize medical cannabis.
“And for those countries that basically mirror the U.N. scheduling in their domestic legislation, it may lead to national descheduling and remove obstacles to use cannabis for medical and research purposes,” Martin Jelsma, drugs and democracy program director at the Transnational Institute, told Marijuana Business Daily.
Wednesday’s vote saw 27 member states in favor and 25 opposed with one abstention.
California Takes $306.7 million from cannabis revenue in the 3rd quarter
California’s cannabis tax revenue hit $306.7 million during the third quarter of 2020, bringing total revenue to $772.6 million for the year so far. That’s according to new data from the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
The new numbers represent an 80% year-over-year increase. They do not include city and county revenues.
There was $205.9 million raised in the first quarter and $260.2 million in the second. Since commercial cannabis was legalized, the state has taken in $1.8 billion. $906.4 million came from the cannabis excise tax. The cultivation tax accounted for $223.3 million and the sales tax yielded $682.9 million.
Cannabis has proved especially resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks in large part to its designation as an essential service. The black market continues to undercut the legal industry, however. Cannabis industry officials are hoping to further blunt illegal sales in 2021.
Pacific Grove Passes Cannabis Ordinance
By a 4-3 margin, Pacific Grove leaders have agreed to allow one recreational cannabis dispensary within city limits. The vote took place Sept. 2 — nearly four years after California voters legalized adult use cannabis.
The ordinance originally called for two dispensaries. That was paired down in order to get enough council members on board. A committee of five, including the city manager and the chief of police, will evaluate the applications.
A vocal opposition to the ordinance had emerged before the vote. It included Pacific Grove Unified School District Superintendent Ralph Porras and Safety Director Barbara Martinez.
In the end, three members voted against the ordinance: Mayor Bill Peake, Councilmember Jenny McAdams, and Councilmember Joe Amelio.
California Department of Food and Agriculture launches cannabis industry education and outreach campaign
California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) today launched a statewide public education and outreach campaign, “This is California Cannabis,” designed to promote the state’s legal cannabis cultivation market and highlight the support and guidance CDFA provides to help cannabis growers secure and maintain their legal cultivation license.
“CDFA is committed to the success of our state’s commercial cannabis cultivators,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “’This is California Cannabis’ celebrates the passion and hard work of licensed cannabis growers and highlights how we’re all working together to protect and promote the health, safety and quality of the industry.”
CDFA’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division is managing the campaign, which profiles the wide range of licensed California cannabis farmers, from legacy outdoor farms in rural Humboldt to high-tech, vertically-integrated operations in urban locations. “This is California Cannabis” will feature comprehensive outreach and education efforts, including community events and workshops to highlight the technical assistance and support that is available year-round to licensed growers and new applicants seeking commercial cannabis cultivation licensure.
“We’re proud of California’s vibrant cannabis cultivator community,” said Richard Parrott, director of CDFA’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division. “California is known for growing the best cannabis in the world and our licensed cultivators are leading the way with innovative practices and environmental sustainability.”
California cultivators who are interested in seeking a license can begin the application process online at calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov or by contacting a licensing specialist by calling toll-free 1-833-CALGROW (1-833-225-4769) or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. CDFA provides year-round support and technical assistance, including updated services for commercial cultivators during the pandemic. For more information about the campaign, please visit growwithCA.com to view the videos, farmer profiles and other outreach materials.