Politics Goes to Pot: Flurry of Marijuana Bills Hits Congress
No fewer than 13 marijuana bills have hit Congress in recent months, and, if passed, the vast majority of them could have vastly positive impacts on the cannabis industry. We focused on the 10 bills that fall into potentially positive territory, and two others that could bring positive or negative effects.
"I'm just a Bill. Bill Bambu, to be exact."
Potentially Positive Impact
As the name suggests, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act would give businesses a huge boost by letting them do their business according to state laws without fear of federal agents crashing down the doors.
States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Act would be a boon, removing the threat of civil forfeiture actions against legal cannabis businesses. Civil forfeiture has been used in the past to result in the closing down of a number of California cannabis companies.
Another mini-boon for businesses could come from the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which takes cannabis off the federally controlled substances list. It would still be prohibited, however, to ship it to states where it’s still illegal. Less of a business benefit would be the continued reign of state regulations that could remain as varied and inconsistent as they are now.
The Veterans Equal Access Act could increase customer bases in legal states by OK-ing authorized medical personal to recommend medical marijuana for veterans.
The Senate and House both have similar bills that aim to put a national tax on marijuana products. The establishment of a national tax on cannabis would essentially make it legal at the federal level, possibly putting the U.S. in a prime position to emerge as a global marijuana industry leader.
Similar Senate and House bills also allow cannabis companies to take standard tax deductions according to state law. Both would enable companies to receive greater profits by removing the onerous IRS Section 280E that currently severely restricts the deduction of expenses.
Another set of bills that pops up in the House and Senate is two variations of the Responsibility Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act. These bills make it clear that anti-marijuana laws don’t apply to businesses or individuals complying with state marijuana laws, granting freedom to conduct business, receive banking and tax relief, and generate additional business opportunities.
The Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act, which would move marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 controlled substance, could be potentially beneficial to the industry by increasing legitimacy and availability to patients that want it. But it also opens the door for larger companies to get their claws into the industry, as they’ve done with tobacco, alcohol and big pharma.
Requiring marijuana companies to acquire a federal business permit is the gist of Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. While some level of regulation is definitely needed, the feds are often guilty of creating numerous hoops that can be incredibly expensive and tedious to jump through. The massive hit the vaping industry took when federal government got involved immediately comes to mind.
While the bills still have a long road ahead before any changes come along – or they're even passed – the changes in store could be overwhelmingly beneficial for marijuana businesses moving forward. And with popular support for legalizing marijuana at an all-time high (get it?), there has never been greater motivation for the Congress to act.
Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.