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Cannabis Industry Dealt Setbacks In Congress As Year Draws To A Close

December 27, 2019

While the cannabis market in the U.S. continues to develop, federal efforts to regulate and reform that market are proceeding at a snail’s pace. In recent days, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), the chair of the Senate Banking Committee, dashed hopes for a prompt passage of the SAFE Banking Act through the upper chamber of Congress. The SAFE Act would allow cannabis businesses access to banking services, which they are generally denied due to the federal prohibition of the category, but Crapo’s statement goes beyond the act itself and lays out his concerns with cannabis more broadly.

“I remain firmly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana on the federal level,” Crapo said. “I also do not support the SAFE Banking Act that passed in the House of Representatives. Significant concerns remain that the SAFE Banking Act does not address the high level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash to launder money into the financial system.”

The statement proposes that only companies selling products that are less than 2% THC could qualify for banking, which if adopted would render the bill essentially pointless. Industry advocates had hoped the committee would vote on the issue before year-end, but momentum has now stalled.

Crapo’s comments weren’t the only setback for the emerging cannabis industry to come out of Washington in the past week. In a year-end spending package finalized over the weekend, several cannabis-oriented provisions were removed at the last minute, including one measure that would have barred the U.S. Justice Department from interfering in state-level adult-use markets and another that would have paved the way for the District of Columbia to set up a legal sales system.

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