While Attorney General Jeff Sessions lobbies Congress to reduce protections for medical marijuana, President Donald Trump is considering supporting a congressional effort to end the federal ban on marijuana.
Last Thursday a bipartisan group of lawmakers lead by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the measure that would completely reform federal marijuana policy in America. The following morning, Trump was getting ready to board a helicopter headed to the G-7 summit in Canada when he commented on the bill to a crowd of reporters, stating “I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
Although twenty-nine states have enacted laws permitting the use of medical marijuana, and nine states have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults, the clash with federal policy on cannabis has been a nightmare for marijuana businesses. With the fear of federal asset forfeiture in conjunction with the current banking laws, lenders and investors have been severely hindered in their ability to work with marijuana businesses. Marijuana industry operators are unable to get bank loans and set up bank accounts for their businesses, and if their marijuana business proves unsuccessful, filing for bankruptcy is not an option under current federal policy.
Senator Gardner called the federal government’s double-standard of requiring these businesses to pay taxes while also barring their participation in the financial system “public hypocrisy”.
So what exactly would a congressional effort to lift the federal ban on marijuana do? The answer: for marijuana in America, everything.
The Gardner-Warren bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act, exempting from its marijuana provisions any person or business that is in compliance with state laws. The bill even specifically addresses banking for marijuana businesses with its provision that marijuana sales conducted in compliance with state laws would not be considered trafficking, and therefore would not be deemed illegal financial transactions.
While it is true the area in which the bill could most help pot companies is banking, if the Gardner-Warren bill makes it all the way through Congress and into federal law, uniform testing and regulatory standards for marijuana would also be possible. This would ultimately grant scientists the freedom to conduct the much-needed research regarding the medical benefits marijuana could reap for a variety of different illnesses and diseases.
At the forefront of medical marijuana research are the benefits of cannabis in cancer patients. A 2017 research review report indicated evidence of certain oral cannabinoids’ effectiveness in both cancer prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Research of this sort takes time and resources, and with the current federal regulations and ban on marijuana, large-scale trials have been difficult to achieve. But if the Gardner-Warren bill passes, these necessary trials can finally be launched.
With 116 people dying from opioid-related drug overdoses each day in America, doctors are also looking into medical marijuana as an alternative for opioids in cancer patients. JAMA Internal Medicine recently reported a 14% percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in the states that provide relaxed access to medical marijuana. The bill could result in the production of data that would allow scientists to reach a clear understanding of whether medical marijuana is as effective as opiates in treating cancer-related pain, as well as any other kind of pain.
Although President Trump’s apparent support of legal marijuana in America is certainly a win for marijuana businesses, the federal law as it currently stands is still at odds with states that have legalized, whether it is for medical or recreational use. It is important that marijuana industry operators know the laws of their state, and achieve and maintain strict-compliance. Marijuana Business Attorney Charles Feldmann helps his clients establish strict regulatory compliance protocols. Mr. Feldmann uses his background in law enforcement to provide assistance to his clients in achieving and maintaining compliance at both the state and federal level. If you are a marijuana industry operator, or are interested in getting involved, contact our team at Cantafio & Song PLLC today, and we will provide you with the assistance you need.