Senate Amendment Requires Feds To Study Marijuana Legalization’s Impact

Senate Amendment Requires Feds To Study Marijuana Legalization’s Impact

The U.S. Senate may consider an amendment next week that would require federal agencies to conduct a study on how marijuana legalization is impacting states that have adopted it.

The measure, filed on Thursday by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would direct the Departments of Justice, Labor and Health and Human Services to contract with the National Academy of Sciences for a 10-year examination of “monetary amounts generated” by legal cannabis tax revenue, as well as “rates of medicinal use” and “rates of overdoses with opioids and other painkillers” in states with some form of legalization, among other datapoints.

“The need for Congress to pull its head from the sand regarding the implications of functional regulated marijuana markets is dire,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “No senator can intellectually justify remaining willfully ignorant to the results of successful state-legal programs and the National Academy of Sciences can prove to be the neutral arbitrator in assessing the real world impact that is happening in 31 medical or adult-use states throughout the country.”

The Senate amendment’s text is similar to standalone House legislation that Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI, Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and others filed last month.

Watch Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard And Other Federal Reps File New Marijuana Bill

The senator is seeking to attach the language to a bill to fund parts of the federal government, including the Departments of Defense, Labor, Education and Health and Human Services, for Fiscal Year 2019. The legislation has been on the floor this week, with consideration expected to resume on Monday.

Menendez’s Senate proposal isn’t identical to Gabbard’s House bill, as it leaves out directives from the earlier legislation for federal agencies to study legalization’s impact on criminal justice and employment. Advocates said that those sections weren’t germane to the title of the appropriations bill the senator is seeking to amend, and therefore had to be excluded.

Separately from the amendment, the senator plans to file a standalone companion bill containing the full text of the Marijuana Data Collection Act, his communications director, Patricia Enright, told Marijuana Moment in an email.

“Senator Menendez believes that as more and more states, including New Jersey, legalize medical or recreational marijuana, it makes good sense that we provide for independent, science-based research and analysis of current legalization policies and their impacts on communities,” she said. “If federal policy-makers are going to be a productive part of the conversation moving forward, it’s important that they be informed by objective, evidence-based data.”

For now, it is not clear if the Menendez amendment will be debated or receive a vote on the Senate floor before the body finalizes the spending legislation.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Senate Amendment Requires Feds To Study Marijuana Legalization’s Impact

Senate Committee Says Yes to Marijuana Banking

Senate Committee Says Yes to Marijuana Banking

An amendment introduced to the U.S. Senate in early July that would allow marijuana-related businesses in states with legalized cannabis to utilize federally-regulated banking services passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 23.

In a near-tie vote of 16-14, members of the committee narrowly approved the amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Treasury Department from taking legal action against banks that provide services to cannabis-related businesses. Three of the approving votes were from Republicans, while Dianne Feinstein of California was the only Democrat to oppose it.

The positive progress of the bill, sponsored by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and Washington Democrat Patty Murray, is evidence that the federal government may be willing to give a nod to state’s rights and even do something positive for the burgeoning cannabis industry. To date, federal authorities have either openly opposed or, at best, been neutral with regard to the wave of cannabis legalization sweeping the nation.

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If passed, such a bill would make a tremendous difference to thousands of dispensaries and retail outlets in states like Oregon, Washington, and Colorado — not to mention dozens of other states that regulate medical marijuana production facilities and dispensary networks serving millions of patients.

This amendment isn’t the only effort pending in Congress that would recognize a state’s right to legalize marijuana by permitting banking services to the businesses that serve the industry. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 is a standalone bill that would accomplish the same basic goal. While it is pending in both the House and the Senate, it is unlikely to gain any movement during the current session of Congress.

Thus, in the near term, the amendment being sponsored by Merkley and Murray is the only viable solution to the banking and cashflow headaches that have plagued the marijuana industry since day one.

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Passage of such a law would create major opportunities for entrepreneurs and ancillary services in an industry that has been relegated to dealing in cash or cryptocurrency, severely limiting opportunities for investments and compliance with tax regulations. A lack of banking services has also prevented dispensary customers from sliding a debit card at checkout instead of relying only on cold hard cash.

Formal banking services will also decrease the security burden of dispensaries and retail outlets, which current face the threat of theft due to the large amount of cash they handle.

This amendment exemplifies the fact that more than state-level legalization is necessary to allow a robust and thriving network of production facilities, manufacturing companies, medical dispensaries, retail outlets, and third-party service organizations.

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