The cannabis industry has been in a tense state of anticipation since President Joseph Biden came into office. Although Biden has made it clear he supports medical cannabis and giving states the ability to do what they want, he doesn’t support federally legalizing recreational cannabis. Conversely, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he is currently working on cannabis legislation that he says he will advance with or without the president’s approval; however, reform advocates and industry stakeholders would like to see that legislation come sooner rather than later.
As such, cannabis reform proponents and industry stakeholders will be happy to hear that Congressional lawmakers have again included several cannabis-related provisions in spending legislation, including protections for states that have launched medical cannabis programs. The past couple of weeks have seen lawmakers pass spending legislation for fiscal year 2022 and attached reports that will have significant impact on the state legal cannabis sector moving forward. Last week the House Appropriations Committee approved two bills in subcommittee that contain language preventing the Justice Department from intervening in state-legal medical cannabis programs that use tax dollars and that protect state legal hemp programs from federal interference.
One measure that has been included in federal legislation since 2014 prevents the Justice Department from using tax dollars to interfere with state-legal medical cannabis programs. However, it is unclear whether lawmakers will include and champion an amendment that would offer the same protections to state-legal recreational markets. While the House approved such amendments in 2019 and 2020, those amendments weren’t attached to the final bills that were sent to Donald Trump’s desk, who was president at the time, because they had not been included in the Senate versions of the bills.
Another longstanding provision, which was included in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (“CJS”) spending bill, would prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from meddling in state-legal hemp programs. Specifically, the provision states that none of the funds provided by the spending bill it is attached to can be used to interfere with hemp programs legitimized by section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. Furthermore, another attached provision says that states and localities that insist on maintaining policies that allow no-knock warrants for drug-related cases will be ineligible for certain law enforcement grants from the federal government.
Additionally, members of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Subcommittees advanced a spending bill that contained language that would prevent the Department of Education from denying institutions that research or plan to research marijuana funding.
It would be even better for the entire cannabis industry with all its actors, including The Alkaline Water Company Inc. (NASDAQ: WTER) (CSE: WTER), if Congress moved a step higher and initiated the legalization of cannabis federally so that companies can transact without needless hurdles such as the challenges in securing banking services.
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