The marijuana industry in the U.S. has been growing exponentially in recent years as medical marijuana is now legal in 24 states and recreational marijuana has become legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and D.C. with many more states voting on legalization this November. Yet the industry still faces many issues as marijuana continues to remain a Schedule I drug. This means on a federal level it is not only still illegal but considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs, holding no medicinal value. Of course, this has been proven to be untrue but federal law has not caught up with the rest of the country and this has created a variety of problems for the marijuana industry.
The Marijuana Industry at Lobby Days
Leaders in the cannabis industry met with members of Congress last Thursday for the National Cannabis Industry Association’s (NCIA) sixth annual Lobby Days. The intensive two days of lobbying was kicked off by a press conference held at the House Triangle, where Reps. Earl Blumenaur and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Denny Heck of Washington stood with the NCIA to support their efforts to create fair treatment for those in the legal marijuana industry. The NCIA’s formal code of conduct for the participants states that, “Lobby Days provide the best opportunity to show our nation’s decision-makers what a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry looks like.”
Marijuana Scheduling Questioned
The group of over 100 cannabis industry entrepreneurs and industry professionals met with members of Congress to discuss a number of issues currently facing the industry; the most prominent being the legal issues presented due to marijuana’s Schedule I classification. With 24 states having legalized medical marijuana, the scheduling is very clearly out of date. Descheduling would allow states to decide on their own marijuana laws, without federal interference in the same way alcohol laws are created and enforced.
The State of Banking in the Cannabis Industry
Due to the severe nature of the scheduling, it becomes dangerous for banks to work with those in the cannabis industry. Federal law considers it illegal to be involved in any way with money acquired from the sale of drugs. This means marijuana businesses must be paid in cash which increases the risk of violence and robbery to store owners. It also means that taxes must be paid in cash which often requires a truck with guards to physically deliver cash to tax offices, increasing the danger for those working in offices with so much stored cash. Another financial point of discussion is Section 280E of the federal tax code, which makes those in marijuana businesses pay 2 or 3 times the taxes other industries pay.
According to a national poll conducted by CBS News last month, 56 percent of Americans are in favor of the full recreational legalization of marijuana and 90 percent are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. These numbers show that it’s times for federal law to catch up with the country. Part of that progress involves treating those within the industry with respect and fairness. Lobby Days provides the push towards getting Congress working the newly booming cannabis industry.