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U.S. House of Representatives approves cannabis banking bill

U.S. House of Representatives approves cannabis banking bill

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed legislation that would allow banks to provide services to cannabis companies in states where it is legal, a step towards removing what analysts say is a barrier to development of a national industry.

Lawmakers voted 321-101 to approve the bill and send it to the Senate.

The bill clarifies that proceeds from legitimate cannabis businesses would not be considered illegal and directs federal regulators to craft rules for how they would supervise such banking activity.

Banks have generally been unwilling to do business with companies that sell marijuana or related products, fearing they could run afoul of federal laws.

That has left companies in the marijuana industry with few options, including relying on just a handful of small financial institutions or doing business in cash.

The American Bankers Association has lobbied aggressively for the “SAFE Banking Act” bill.

“Banks find themselves in a difficult situation due to the conflict between state and federal law, with local communities encouraging them to bank cannabis businesses and federal law prohibiting it,” the group wrote in a letter to lawmakers on Monday. “Congress must act to resolve this conflict.”

Thirty-six states have legalized medical cannabis while 17 states now allow adult use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in an early-April interview with Politico, said he would try to advance legislation legalizing marijuana use for adults. Asked about the SAFE Banking Act, he said he would like to see such a bill move forward as part of a more comprehensive measure – even if President Joe Biden was not supportive.

Playboy Celebrates National Cannabis Awareness Month

Playboy Celebrates National Cannabis Awareness Month

LOS ANGELESApril 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — In celebration of National Cannabis Awareness Month taking place throughout April, Playboy Enterprises today announced a month-long initiative supporting nationwide cannabis reform and advocacy. Building on the success of their legalization and expungement campaign in September, Playboy will continue its decades-long work championing the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis using a multifaceted approach focused on the three levers of people, policy and culture. In addition to making notable contributions to the Marijuana Policy Project and tapping into partners like Eaze Momentum, Playboy will also host a series of Twitter takeovers handing the mic over to notable members of the cannabis community throughout the month to discuss cannabis culture and important issues facing the industry today.

“Playboy has been fighting for cannabis rights for over six decades, and today we are closer than ever to achieving our goal of full federal legalization. Now is the time to make sure we do this right,” said Rachel Webber, Chief Brand Officer and President of Corporate Strategy at PLBY Group. “We are proud to support the amazing work our partners at Marijuana Policy Project are doing to ensure that the new laws enacted around legal cannabis are humane, combat injustices, and promote equality.”

“As we continue the fight to end cannabis prohibition nationwide, MPP is proud to partner with Playboy in celebration of National Cannabis Awareness Month,” said Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project. “Our shared vision for humane and equitable cannabis policies will help to ensure a diverse and inclusive future for legal cannabis that roots out injustices and empowers individuals and communities all across the country.”

Playboy has been engaged with cannabis reform since the 1960s and continues to use its platform to push the conversation forward today. As a proud founding donor of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) over 50 years ago, Playboy has been a pioneer in the cannabis space since the brand’s beginning. Today, once again, Playboy is doubling down on its efforts in support of cannabis reform and advocacy programs, and working to bring conversations surrounding cannabis mainstream.

  • People: Playboy will produce a collection of Instagram Stories and tweets to introduce and update their audience on Eaze’s Momentum program, a business development incubator for under-represented founders in the cannabis industry. Playboy supports Momentum and its 2021 class of entrepreneurs through monetary and in-kind donations. 
  • Policy: The Playboy Foundation will make a donation of $25,000 to the Marijuana Policy Project to support their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work and further their advocacy for fair and equitable cannabis policy in the fight for federal legalization and expungement. Marijuana Policy Project activates people and mobilizes resources to create lasting policy solutions that improve the quality of life for patients and their families, empower individuals with personal choice, combat injustices, and promote equity.
  • Culture: Throughout the month, Playboy will continue to use its media platforms to drive conversations around cannabis, as they have done for almost 70 years. In doing so, Playboy will pass the mic to notable members of the cannabis industry, partnering with Brian KaremAshlee Marie PrestonMatt Barnes and dream hampton to take over their Twitter channel the week of April 19th and engage with Playboy’s audience of 1.5 million followers around the newest information in the cannabis space. Playboy will also be hosting the class of Eaze Momentum startups, whom the company has sponsored and been mentoring, at their company happy hours, where these cannabis entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to the Playboy team for support and feedback.

In honor of its legalization and expungement campaign in September, Playboy made a charitable donation of $25k to Eaze Momentum, kicked off its mentorship program with both Eaze Momentum and the Last Prisoner Project, urged Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act via a Medium piece written by Playboy CEO Ben Kohn, commissioned eight artists to create work inspired by the inequities of federal cannabis prohibition, and more. 

Playboy remains committed to pushing boundaries through its lifestyle and consumer product business, and driving important conversations that bring topics like cannabis reform, social justice and free expression out from the shadows, doing the work to ensure Pleasure for All. The company has also rolled out a line of pleasure-forward CBD products and smoking accessories over the past year on its sexual wellness hub, www.pleasureforall.com.

Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol

Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol

Illinois cannabis tax revenue has surpassed alcohol for the first time

Illinois took in more tax dollars from marijuana than alcohol for the first time last quarter, according to the state Department of Revenue.

From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales.

Those following the cannabis market in Illinois might not be entirely surprised, as the state has consistently been reporting record-breaking sales, even amid the pandemic. In March alone, adults spent $109,149,355 on recreational cannabis products—the largest single month of sales since retailers opened shop.

It was in February that monthly cannabis revenues first overtook those from alcohol, a trend that continued into March.

If the trend keeps up, Illinois could see more than $1 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in 2021. Last year, the state sold about $670 million in cannabis and took in $205.4 million in tax revenue.

Officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from all of these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The funds are part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. It requires 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars to be put in that fund and used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support.

Awarding the new grant money is not all that Illinois is doing to promote social equity and repair the harms of cannabis criminalization. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced in December that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.

Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.

But promoting social equity in the state’s cannabis industry hasn’t been smooth sailing. The state has faced criticism from advocates and lawsuits from marijuana business applicants who feel officials haven’t done enough to ensure diversity among business owners in the industry.

PepsiCo debuts hemp beverage

PepsiCo debuts hemp beverage

rockstar hemp beverage revealed by PepsiCo

PepsiCo has announced its first foray into the hemp beverage sector, although U.S. consumers will have to wait before they can try the product.

According to a report in the trade Just Drinks, the Purchase-headquartered company is rolling out Rockstar Energy + Hemp exclusively in Germany. The new product contains caffeine, guarana, taurine and hemp seed extract. PepsiCo stated that the final ingredient creates an “intense hemp taste.”

PepsiCo acquired Rockstar in March 2020 for $3.85 billion and the brand commands a 35% share of Germany’s energy drink market.

“With outstanding category growth of 58% compared to the previous year, hemp products are the trend of the year 2021 in the (fast moving consumer goods) sector,” PepsiCo said in a press statement. “With Energy + Hemp, Rockstar is now expanding its energy portfolio to include three varieties with the ingredient hemp seed extract.”

Hemp comes from the cannabis family, but does not include the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) psychoactive compound that creates the high sensation.

Although the 2018 Farm Bill updated federal policy to consider hemp as an agricultural product, there is no consensus among state laws regarding the sale of hemp-based consumables, which is why PepsiCo is not offering its new product in the U.S.

A surprising oasis for medical marijuana: Oklahoma

A surprising oasis for medical marijuana: Oklahoma

When you think of Oklahoma, marijuana is probably not a thing you associate with the state.

OKLAHOMA (NewsNation Now) — Drive about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and you’ll land on Chip Baker’s hundred-acre farm.

At first glance, it looks like any plot in rural Oklahoma. Spacious fields studded with work sheds and tarped greenhouse tunnels. Roosters roam freely next door.

Throw open the barn door and the golden light doesn’t reveal amber waves of grain but a different kind of cash crop.

It’s a marijuana operation and it’s all “baker’s brand.”

“Tokelahoma, cushlahoma, weedlahoma [and] gongelahoma” Baker says are just a few of the brands he sells.

“I think Lester Grinspoon said it best when he said “I smoke marijuana every chance I get.” and it’s true! Every chance, I do! ” exclaimed Baker.

Baker has grown weed around the world since he was 13. From the woods of Georgia and the lakes of Switzerland to Colorado and California.

“I love California weed, I love California growers. But there’s a certain snobbiness and we’ve done it all,” said Baker. “But like Oklahoma it’s this newness, adventure, that’s partly why we’re here.”

The 48-year-old and his wife Jessica moved to Oklahoma a couple of years ago after 57 percent of statewide voters literally greenlit medicinal marijuana through state question 788.

David Lewis is a lifelong Oklahoman and coo of Stability Cannabis, one of the state’s largest indoor grow facilities.

“I think people underestimate how much of a culture shock this was. This was a state where you couldn’t buy wine in a grocery store, yet we passed medicinal marijuana,” explained Lewis. “Born and raised in Oklahoma, I never would have thought we’d have almost 400,000 patients consuming medical marijuana. It’s shocking.”

According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, there are more than 380,000 Oklahomans with active medical marijuana cards, about 10 percent of the population. That’s more than any other state in the country and double that of New Mexico, which comes in second.

In a state whose politics are as red as its dirt, the numbers almost seem wrong.

“Oklahoma and Texas are the home of outlaw country, right? Just because people are conservative or work on the land, or fish or hunt as relaxation, or even go to church, doesn’t disbar them from using cannabis and enjoying it,” said Baker.

“What I would say is look around the congregation at your church, and that’s our customer base,” added Lewis.

They’re consumers who get to come out of the shadows like Taly Frantz-Holly.

“I’ve been on the black market, as far as cannabis, as a smoker and everything from the time I was 19,” said Frantz-Holly.

She suffers from PTSD and says certain prescription pills left her suicidal. She found relief in cannabis.

“I went from taking 8 pharmaceuticals—8 medicinal pills every day. And now I’m down to 2. I only have panic attacks once ever few weeks and I was having panic attacks every single day,” stated Frantz-Holly.

Frantz-Holly says, without a doubt, the plant saved her life. So enamored by its medicinal powers, she now grows it herself.

“I literally got drug charges when I was 21 for a joint. And did 30 days in county jail. For a joint! And now I’m picking up 75 marijuana plants to go home to my commercial grow,” said Frantz-Holly.

She’s not alone. There are 7,000 other commercial growers across the state. Baker says it’s never been easier or cheaper to break into the business.

“Oklahoma just made it so easy to get involved that the average and normal person could,” said Baker. “There just no boundaries here.”

The application fee for growers, processors, dispensaries and transporters is $2,500. For patients, it’s $100. $20 for disabled veterans. Baker says it took him 15 minutes to apply in other states? He’s waited two years.

 

“Well if you look back at the political cycles, Oklahoma is the reddest of the red states. And I think what that translated to in medical marijuana was a free market approach,” said Baker. “The government wanted the free market to settle out who the winners and losers would be, and as a result you saw very limited restrictions on getting into the market and a lot of people participated.”

And many doctors, especially during a pandemic, have signed off on cards for patients suffering from anxiety, depression and insomnia.

“Oh COVID was a boom to the industry! Turns out if you’re trapped at home I guess with your kids and your in laws, you might have to medicate a little bit more every now and then,” said Lewis.

“The other thing is people aren’t sharing cannabis as much because of COVID. So people have been having their own bowls and their own joints,” stated Baker.

Baker says industry-wide, the business grew 50 percent last year.

If you’re surprised by Oklahoma’s booming numbers, Baker says you shouldn’t be. People just haven’t been able to talk about it but singing it.

“Oklahoma has a cannabis history. The cross Canadian ragweed, the famous song from 20 years ago. Oklahoma boys roll their joints all wrong. Its famous! It’s been famous for years!” said Baker.

 

Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Guarantee Cannabis Insurance Services

Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Guarantee Cannabis Insurance Services

A bipartisan cannabis insurance bill has been introduced in the Senate

A bipartisan bill to guarantee insurance services within the cannabis industry was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate. The legislation, aptly named the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act of 2021, is sponsored by Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Jeff Merkley (D).

According to a press release from Sen. Menendez’s office, the bill was introduced in response to the fact that only six states in the U.S. still lack some form of medical or adult-use cannabis law. However, due to cannabis’s designation as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, these otherwise legal businesses are not generally insurable.

Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives on Monday, her office announced in a press release.

The voters in New Jersey spoke loud and clear this November when they overwhelmingly approved of recreational marijuana use, the governor and state legislature have acted, and now it’s time for the federal government to take the shackles off of state-authorized cannabis businesses, allowing this burgeoning industry to thrive.” — Sen. Menendez, in a statement

The CLAIM Act would allow cannabis firms in states with adult or medical cannabis to obtain insurance products like workman’s compensation, property, casualty and title insurance, the press release says. The Act has both private and public stipulations designed to protect insurers as well as the insured.

“Current federal law prevents these small business owners from getting insurance coverage, and without it, they can’t protect their property, employees or customers,” said Sen. Menendez. “Our legislation simply levels the playing field for legal cannabis businesses, allowing them to fully operate just as any other legal small business would by permitting insurance companies to provide coverage to these enterprises without risk of federal prosecution or other unintended consequences.”

The proposal is particularly timely as the House and Senate are set to reconsider the widely popular SAFE Banking Act, which would legalize the cannabis industry’s access to traditional banking and other financial services.

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