Marijuana Business Magazine January 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | January 2019 34 I t’s not news to anyone that the U.S. Congress is slow to act. That’s been especially true for marijuana reform, which has been a stigmatized issue for decades.  As a result, cannabis companies have been waiting and hoping for years that Congress will take action to guarantee law-abiding marijuana busi- nesses access to banks and alleviate the excessive tax burden from 280E. Those hopes may actually be real- ized in 2019. Not only has there been a growing chorus of DC Beltway insiders sug- gesting that 2019 may be the turning point for federal marijuana reform, but several went even further and identi- fied a specific bill that could end up on President Trump’s desk: the States Act, which would formally leave mari- juana regulation to the states instead of the federal government.  That single piece of legislation— while far short of what many MJ activ- ists want—would be a “quantum leap” forward, in the words of Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine. “It’s the first real policy game-changing piece of legislation since Prohibition began that we have a chance to pass at the federal level,” Levine told attendees at the recent MJBizCon in Las Vegas. “It will fix 280E, it will fix banking, and it will fix the threat of the Department of Justice coming in and kicking in all of our doors and seizing all of our assets.”  Levine isn’t the only one to suggest that the States Act has a solid chance of becoming law. U.S. Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, expressed a similar sentiment while on stage with Levine during a panel devoted to what the industry might expect in the near future in terms of federal reform. “I think we certainly have the oppor- tunity to get it done in this next year,” Joyce said. “I’d certainly bet a fair amount of money on it.”  Perhaps the biggest factor that could prove the dealmaker in 2019 is the change in congressional makeup.  “A lot of the things that were stop- ping us in the past were chairmen in positions of power that just refused to engage at all,” Joyce said. A lot of those former House committee chairs—such as Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican and former head of the House Rules Committee—are now gone and being replaced by Democrats, many of whom are likely to prove much more amenable to MJ reform.  Another major figure with an ear in DC is Kevin Murphy, the CEO of New York-based Acreage Holdings, a multistate, vertically integrated MJ company that also happens to have former House Speaker John Boehner on its board of directors.  Murphy predicted at November’s MJBizCon that the States Act would pass Congress in 2019. That same month, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that it’s inevitable Congress will act—either to legalize cannabis federally or perhaps pass some other reforms. On top of that, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci last fall predicted Presi- dent Donald Trump would shock the nation by legalizing marijuana himself via executive order after the 2018 midterm elections (although that hadn’t happened at press time). The political reality of Congress is one reason that 2019 may wind up being the year of the cannabis leaf in DC: When the incoming Congress is seated this month, an overwhelming 296 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives will hail from the 33 states that have legalized some form of medical cannabis, and 66 of the nation’s 100 U.S. senators come from those same states.  Those members are more than likely to side with the Joyce Amend- ment, a new name for the Rohrabach- er-Farr Amendment, which prohibits the DOJ from persecuting state-legal medical marijuana companies. And many could even be persuaded that legislation such as the States Act is the best way to go. “We have a bipartisan bill in both chambers, and the sponsor list is pretty impressive,” Levine noted. Will 2019 Be the Year Congress Passes Marijuana Reform? Trends & Hot Topics | John Schroyer