The path to full cannabis legalization in the US continues to be fraught with challenges, despite the recent congressional win for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), one cannabis lobbyist says.
Saphira Galoob, CEO of federal advocacy firm The Liaison Group, said the clash between the Democrat-backed MORE Act and the Republican-run Senate could leave cannabis legalization in limbo.
“The Senate doesn’t care about the MORE Act because the MORE Act, very practically speaking, is an approach for legalization that is led by progressives and criminal justice reform advocates. It is not led by moderate Democrats or Republicans,” she said.
On Wednesday (November 20), the MORE Act was pushed toward Congress after getting approval from the House Judiciary Committee in a 24 to 10 vote. The Act seeks to strip marijuana of its listing as a Schedule 1 drug, which currently puts it alongside substances like heroin and ecstasy, effectively ending prohibition at the federal level.
It would also give states the power to expunge the criminal records of people with low-level cannabis offenses.
Galoob spoke on Wednesday at an investor event in Toronto dedicated to evaluating the status of the US cannabis policy sector. The legal expert told investors that the win for the Act doesn’t mean the US market is fully open just yet.
“As long as the House is Democrat, and as long as the Senate is Republican, you’re going to have an impasse in Congress on what the approach for legalization is supposed to be,” she added.
Cannabis’ status as a scheduled drug has been one of the biggest barriers to the growth of the American cannabis industry.
Galoob said she expects to see legislative movement in the US across three sectors: veteran access, research and banking.
With the recent House of Representatives approval of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), getting financial institutions on board is the best chance for legitimization for the sector, in Galoob’s view.
The SAFE Banking Act, first introduced by Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) in March this year, would bar federal banking regulators from meddling in the affairs between financial institutions and legal cannabis companies.
In Galoob's view, 2020 will bring in protections for banking. Whether or not it will be through the SAFE Banking Act is to be seen. She said protections won't be put into place because of the cannabis industry — it'll be because the financial institutions want in. #cannabisnews
— Cannabis News | INN (@INN_Cannabis) November 20, 2019
Despite the bill being celebrated as an advancement for the industry, Galoob noted the SAFE Banking Act should thank interested parties outside of the cannabis industry for its introduction to the next level of government.
“The reason that the SAFE Banking Act … is advancing is not because of cannabis industry advocates,” said Galoob. “It is because of non-cannabis industries.”
The expert explained the American Bankers Association, realtors and insurance providers, to name a few, all have an interest in the passing of the Act as well, as their industries have a stake in the development of the cannabis sector.
She went on to predict that the US will see protections for banks sometime in 2020, but with the chance of the Act being surpassed or interrupted by competing legislation, it might not be the SAFE Banking Act that does it.
Cannabis legalization could be hail mary tactic for Trump
Cannabis legalization in the US could prove to be an important point on the political agenda in the upcoming election, some experts say.
“We think that the administration could very well (do it) … it really just comes down to timing,” Azer said.
It would be in line with Trump’s previous support of marijuana, including the signing of the 2018 farm bill that removed hemp and its derivatives, particularly cannabidiol, from the federal scheduling associated with cannabis, but Azer said he may hold off with an overarching cannabis legalization policy unless his numbers don’t compare with the opposition.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Danielle Edwards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.