Cannabis News of Note for the Week:
Punchbowl News: Joyce, AOC talk cannabis reform under a GOP House (newsletter, full text below)
Politico Pro Cannabis: FDA Sends Cannabis Quality Guidance to White House (newsletter/paywalled, full text below)
Cannabis Reports of Note for the Week:
Think it’s too early in the year to talk about cannabis banking reform? We disagree!
Cannabis banking didn’t happen last year. That was a particularly tough blow for advocates who knew they were losing their long-time champion, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), who retired last Congress. Perlmutter had pushed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act for more than a decade before leaving office.
Even though a GOP-controlled House makes it a lot less likely cannabis reform will be a top priority, there’s a case for some optimism: SAFE Banking’s torch has been picked up by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio).
Joyce already has experience with cannabis bills. He introduced the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement Act, or HOPE Act, in 2021, which would allow states to tap federal funding for expunging non-violent cannabis offenders’ records.
We caught up with Joyce last week:
“It’s important that we continue to move [SAFE Banking] forward, because it’s in the best interests of these enterprises that are all legal in their states. They should be entitled to the same tax treatment and banking treatment that any other legitimate [business] can have.”
Another plus: Joyce’s partner on the HOPE Act is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which should bolster chances for bipartisan talks continuing this year. Ocasio-Cortez told us she is “encouraged” by Joyce’s support of the cannabis banking bill, given their experience working together so far.
“Towards the end of the last session, the main concern was that if SAFE Banking does somehow pass under a Republican majority, HOPE would be stripped from it,” the New York Democrat said.
Remember: A combination of SAFE and HOPE was the template for Senate negotiations between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) last year.
The real question now is what a final cannabis reform bill would look like. A bill that’s too ambitious will make it harder for Republicans to support. But there’s also a real risk that Democrats – particularly in the Senate – would abandon a bill that’s too conservative. SAFE Banking as a standalone bill has been criticized by progressives as a handout for the financial sector.
Joyce appears to be leaning towards a simpler bill, telling us: “What we found out in the past … is that big doesn’t bode well, and it has been my position that we continue to put bills out in which we can receive maximum pluralities.”
Ocasio-Cortez is also keeping expectations fairly low:
“I think there’s some small inkling of progress we might be able to make. Clearly, I don’t think it’ll be on the scale of what we would want. … Are we going to get the full action on expungements and true restorative measures? That, I think, is going to be more difficult.”
Then again, it’s important to remember that cannabis reform – banking and otherwise – is broadly popular. A lot of people like weed, which means members like it too.
We asked Joyce who his top allies would be on cannabis reform during the 118th Congress. His list covers a broad spectrum of the House: Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a subcommittee chair on the House Financial Services Committee; Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); Lou Correa (D-Calif.); and Jim Himes (D-Conn.).
It also includes Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who introduced a broad cannabis reform bill in 2021, and Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who has a focus on veteran’s issues.
Joyce said he’s keeping Republican House leadership “apprised” of any progress made around cannabis reform. But it’s “premature to say” whether Speaker Kevin McCarthy will support a cannabis reform bill, Joyce added, “because we don’t have a package to put in front of him yet.”
– Brendan Pedersen and John Bresnahan
Politico Pro Cannabis: FDA SENDS CANNABIS QUALITY GUIDANCE TO WHITE HOUSE — The FDA has finished work on cannabis quality guidance and sent the document to the White House, POLITICO’s Alexander Gaffney reports. The guidance focuses on statutory requirements restricting Delta-9 THC in hemp.
Many involved in the hemp industry have brought up the need for quality standards, given the potential for contaminants, use of solvents, and the lack of data on efficacy and safety of CBD products. The draft guidance was mostly focused on compliance rather than quality, Gaffney reports.
What’s next: The final guidance is expected to be published in the first quarter of this year. But the typical timeline for reviewcould be complicated by recent medical marijuana legislation and President Biden’s review of marijuana’s Schedule I status.