There are right now more legitimately viable pro-marijuana bills pending in Congress than at any other time in our country’s history.
The tenor of the legalization debate is decidedly shifting on Capitol Hill. What makes this shift even more remarkable is its bipartisanship, a refreshing change of pace considering the obstructionism that typically plagues the federal legislative process. Dozens of legislators are joining forces across the aisle to push the following legislative vehicles that offer hope for meaningful reforms:
- CARERS Act (S. 683/H.R. 1538; Sen. Rand Paul(R-KY)/Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN))
- Small Business Tax Equity Act (S. 987/H.R. 1855; Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)/Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR))
- Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act (H.R. 2076; Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR)/Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) & Denny Heck))
- States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 262; Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA))
- Respect State Marijuana Laws Act (H.R. 1940; Rep. Dana Rorahbacher (R-CA))
- Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act (H.R. 1013; Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO))
- Marijuana Tax Revenue Act (H.R. 1014; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR))
I had the privilege of joining over a hundred industry leaders who descended on the hill last week to advocate for fixing tax and banking laws that thwart the marijuana industry and state regulatory efforts. Though these bills cover a wide range of issues, we focused specifically reforming 280E and expanding access to banking services for marijuana businesses.
The most interesting part about our meetings was how effectively we were able to frame the issues. It is easy for tax and banking issues to come across as wonkish and technical, but there is something in these bills that can appeal to almost anybody’s political sensibilities.
Support small business growth? Reforming 280E will reduce effective tax rates and allow marijuana businesses to reinvest the savings back into their business, creating jobs and fueling economic growth. Public safety proponent? Eliminating cash will reduce the likelihood of businesses being targeted by criminals. Favor small government? Regulating and taxing all cash businesses is more administratively difficult and resource intensive. Concerned about inequality? All these marijuana companies want is to be treated just the same as any other business. We were easily able to offer personal and relatable anecdotes about how these laws have affected various marijuana businesses in one way or another.
Everyone we met with seemed at least receptive to these bills. But, as Grover Norquist pointed out during his fireside chat with Rep. Earl Blumenauer at the NCIA Policy Symposium, otherwise unobjectionable reforms are often hamstrung by broader legislative agendas. This causes Congress to hold perfectly reasonable legislative fixes hostage for leverage in negotiating more contentious issues.
Obviously not all of these bills will pass, and it is a little frightening to think of what political compromises might have to be struck to ultimately achieve these reforms. Nonetheless, it is remarkable how quickly the tone has started to shift in favor of cannabis at the federal level. As the famous saying goes—politics makes for interesting bedfellows. That is especially true in the politics of pot.
Changes are coming….