There are other significant pieces of U.S. Senate legislation that are attracting a lot of Canadian attention in addition to the surprise climate spending bill.
The legal cannabis industry north of the border would love to see a comprehensive effort to legalize marijuana in the United States passed into law.
The Cannabis Authorization and Opportunity Act, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced last week, is unlikely to advance that far, according to observers.
The bill is a significant milestone for other reasons, according to David Culver, vice-president of global government relations for Canopy Growth Corp., a company based in Ontario.
As long as American legislators are willing to keep pushing for legalization, according to Culver, the cause will eventually advance, even if only a little at a time.
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He asserts that a number of smaller, more manageable bipartisan bills that approach legalization piecemeal have a much better chance of passing before the November midterm elections.
In an interview, Culver said, “This is a historic piece of legislation in that it is the first of its kind in the U.S. Senate.”
Now that this legislation is available, the Senate can focus on passing bipartisan legislation, which I believe is possible before the midterm elections.
The SAFE Banking Act, which would remove the biggest financial and regulatory barriers preventing businesses operating in states where cannabis is legal from entering the national market, is the most important piece of legislation.
The SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2019, would permit banks, credit unions, and other institutions to offer financial services to cannabis operations without infringing on federal regulations.
The Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses Act, also known as CLIMB, would cover a wider range of service providers, such as management consultants, insurers, advertising agencies, and IT firms. It would also permit cannabis companies to participate in U.S. securities exchanges, making it another bill aimed at reducing financial penalties and red tape.
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Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Republican Dave Joyce of Ohio are cosponsoring the bipartisan HOPE (Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement) Act, which would allocate federal funds to facilitate state efforts to expunge cannabis offenses.
Congress is also considering new legislation that would permit military veterans to use cannabis to treat their PTSD symptoms without risking the loss of their federal benefits, as well as ways to permit the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer equity loans and other federal assistance to businesses operating in states where marijuana is legal.
The PREPARE (Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment) Act is the last piece of legislation. Joyce, fellow Republican Rep. Brian Mast, and New York Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries introduced a bill in April that would establish a federal commission to better prepare the United States for a federally legal environment.
If they did it correctly, Culver said, “I could see them taking the commission’s findings and using those going into 2024 to act on more comprehensive reform.”
Schumer, along with Democratic colleagues Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), developed more comprehensive legislation that would check off many of these boxes while also removing marijuana from the Schedule 1 list of prohibited substances, which also includes heroin, LSD, and magic mushrooms.