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Cannabis industry-friendly legislation such as the SAFE Banking Act and the MORE Act continue to wind their way toward approval in the U.S. government but have been partly sidelined by more pressing political issues, speakers said Wednesday at the Business Insurance Cannabis Conference held online.
Michael Correia, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said that with frenzied negotiations now focused on the immediate crises of raising the debt ceiling, legislators’ ability to address cannabis reform is diminished, simply due to time constraints. Congress is also heavily focused on the multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure legislation, he said.
Still, he notes that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, or the MORE Act of 2019, decriminalizing marijuana, has again passed the House of Representatives.
Specifically, the MORE Act removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana. The bill also makes other changes, including things like replacing statutory references to marijuana and cannabis.
Michelle Rutter Friberg, deputy director of government relations for the NCIA, said the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana Act, the CLAIM Act, has been reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., but has most recently seen little activity or movement.
The CLAIM act “generally provides a safe harbor from penalties or other adverse agency action for insurance companies that provide services to cannabis-related businesses in jurisdictions where such activity is legal,” according to text of the legislation on Congress.gov.
Mr. Correia also noted the progress of cannabis reform has been slowed by the near shuttering of lobbying activities generally in Washington D.C. due to pandemic lockdowns.
While connectivity allowed the continuation of such efforts, Mr. Correia said not being able to be in the congressional offices to pitch one’s case was a detriment, especially as the change in administration brought with it myriad changes among congressional staffers, who most often receive lobbyists such as the NCIA.
Next year, panelists agreed, the 2022 mid-term elections will take center stage on the U.S. political scene, potentially continuing some of the challenges of pushing cannabis higher on the legislative agenda.
Hub International Ltd. has launched an employee benefits group captive for cannabis organizations.