On Monday, the Republican-controlled Senate rolled out new Coronavirus relief legislation—a counteroffer to the $3.4 trillion package unveiled by House democrats back in May. The Senate’s relief bill comes with a much smaller price tag of only $1 trillion dollars, which it achieves by slashing much of the benefits proposed by the House.
In addition to the dramatic cuts to the weekly enhancements of state unemployment benefits and safety net programs proposed in the House’s version (The HEROES Act), the Senate’s package does not include language that would protect banks who service the legal cannabis industry.
SAFE Banking Act
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which was originally proposed as a standalone bill sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), would allow legitimate legal cannabis businesses access to financial services regardless of federal prohibition. Despite being initially approved by the house months ago, the Senate Banking Committee has continued to take no action on the bill. In order to circumvent the Senate Banking Committee, House Democrats included a version of the SAFE Banking Act in their Coronavirus relief bill.
According to the summary provided in the HEROES Act, the SAFE Banking section would “allow cannabis-related legitimate businesses, that in many states have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic as essential services, along with their service providers, to access banking services and products, as well as insurance.”
The executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, Aaron Smith, tweeted out his approval of SAFEs inclusion in the House’s relief bill, stating: “On behalf of the legal cannabis industry, we commend the congressional leadership for prioritizing public health and safety by including sensible cannabis banking policy in this legislation.”
Criticism From Senate Republicans
Despite the fact that forcing essential businesses to continue operating as cash-only during a global pandemic seems counterintuitive to stopping the spread of the virus, Senate Republicans have leveled criticism at the addition of marijuana banking protections to the Coronavirus relief bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been particularly vocal about his opposition to including protections for cannabis businesses in any relief package, stating: “I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it’s funding for the FBI building…or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants…”
McConnell’s disapproval is not only aimed at the germaneness of the SAFE Act being included in the House’s relief legislation, but also at the diversity report provisions that it contains. Back in May, McConnell gave a speech on the Senate floor where he responded to the passing of the House’s HEROES Act. During it, McConnell sardonically referred to the section on marijuana banking protections as “the cherry on top.”
He continued in a similar tone: “Let me say that again, Democrats’ proposed coronavirus bill includes taxpayer-funded studies to measure diversity and inclusion among the people who profit off of marijuana.”
The Future of the SAFE Banking Act
As of now, it is unclear whether or not House Democrats will push for a section on cannabis banking protections to remain during the upcoming bicameral negotiations that will take place to merge the two chambers bills into one.
As for the Standalone bill, there is no reason to think the Senate Banking Committee will take further action any time soon.
Active around the globe, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is celebrating 19 years of advocacy as a grassroots network of students and alumni whose mission is to educate, reform, and update communities about the impact of drug abuse. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., SSDP is an active member of the cannabis legalization movement and is a regular at industry expos and events and is hosting a soiree during the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Oakland conference this coming week.
According to SSDP, the War on Drugs is failing our society, that’s why they focus on young up-and-coming students to carry the torch into the new era of cannabis legalization. The organization carries out efforts on many drug-related fronts, but cannabis law reform is a huge part of their objective. For instance, just last month the two founding members of the SSDP Austria chapter marched along other supporters who were handing over a petition with 10,000 signatures to Parliamentary Director Dr. Harald Dossi in defense of sensible drug policies. The petition is regarding the Narcotic Drugs Act (SMG), which would put Austria in conflict with the worldwide trend towards cannabis regulation and outlaw CBD by “styling it as a chemical”.
It’s interesting to note that SSDP neither condones nor condemns drug use. They support the rights of everyone to make their own decisions as to what’s right for their health and use civic engagement amongst the youth to fuel communities around the world to change outdated drug policies and put an end to propagandized anti-drug rhetoric.
Oakland NCIA Conference Evening Soiree
The fourth annual NCIA Cannabis Business Summit will take place from June 12th through June 14th in Oakland, California. June 13th will be a busy day for those in attendance as Vicente Fox, Former President of Mexico & President of Coca-Cola Latin America, is slated to speak in support of legalization followed by SSDP’s evening soiree for ticket holders.
As keynote speaker, the Former President of Mexico is going to talk about his support of cannabis legalization in both America and Mexico. Back in 2013, Fox advocated for legalization, saying it’s t he only way to end the violence of Mexican drug cartels. “The cost of the war is becoming unbearable – too high for Mexico, for Latin America and for the rest of the world,” Fox once said in a press conference. Fox will also discuss the social injustices created by the war on drugs and the positive effects of global governments adopting cannabis legalization.
The ‘Sensible Celebration’ kicks off at 7:30pm with a screening of Mary Janes: The Women of Weed, featuring SSDP students and staff alongside some of the most hard-working women in cannabis. In celebration of so much sensibility when it comes to cannabis, SSDP promises a dance party in the venue’s outdoor beer garden. Tickets are available and include drink tickets and dessert. The proceeds also go to supporting SSDP’s ongoing efforts to end the harms of drug prohibition.
Denver Charity Golf Tournament Benefitting SSDP
SSDP holds a dear place in many ganjapreneurs’ hearts. Their work has affected hundreds of thousands of patients, businesses, and consumers, and the Denver cannabis community wants to give back to the organization with the third annual Cannabis Charity Open.
Hosted by High Rollers dispensary and The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, the July golf tournament’s mission is two-fold. First, they are happy to donate the proceeds to SSDP. Secondly, the annual charity tradition serves to normalize cannabis by linking it to a mainstream sport – golf! All of the proceeds from the tournament will go to charity. Tickets for the Cannabis Charity Open are on sale now and food, drink, and a gift bag are included with a ticket purchase. Teams tee-off on July 27th from 1:00 until 7:30 pm at the Denver Park Hill Golf Club.
This year’s sponsors are rooted in providing education of the health benefits of hemp-derived CBD and medical marijuana. THC Magazine is one of the go-to publications in Denver for the latest on industrial hemp and cannabis, and High Rollers dispensary is a high-end medical cannabis boutique shop in the heart of South Pearl Street in Denver.
High Rollers is all about benefitting the larger community, and in order to help foster a healthy community (instead of just turning a profit), they regularly engage in community-based services like fund-raisers and charity events. For instance, last year’s Cannabis Charity Open brought in more than $2,000 to benefit the Denver Colorado AIDS project. Managing dispensary partner Luke Ramirez explained that the dispensary is a great way to encourage connection within the Denver communities.
“Communities thrive when individuals thrive, and we seek to help our neighbors find balance in their lives however we can – one way we do this is through the healing power of cannabis,” he said. Another way is putting on charitable events like the 2017 Cannabis Charity Open. Ramirez is no stranger to cannabis. Since 2009 he has been actively involved in multiple cannabis trade organizations, lobbying efforts, and advocacy groups. Active in cannabis ventures nationwide, Ramirez also served as a former board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Giving back to SSDP supports their outreach to students who are going to change the way the world thinks about and polices drugs. “Students are at the forefront of the movement to legalize cannabis and end the War on Drugs, and SSDP has been organizing, guiding, and raising the voices of young activists for 19 years,” according to their mission statement. A donation to SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future.
Originally published: The Marijuana Times