Cannabis Regulatory Update: New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, SAFE Banking Act, COVID Stimulus Package

Cuomo Examines Cannabis Home Growing, Social Equity Funding

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may have agreed upon two provisions of submitted legislation in regards to home growing and social equity funding, reports Marijuana Moment.

Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Liz Krueger said she is satisfied with the recent negotiations in connection to enabling cannabis cultivation at home, and allocation of cannabis tax revenue to support social equity initiatives.

While Krueger’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) proposes enabling home cultivation of a limited number of cannabis plants, Cuomo’s reform plan prohibits it.

However, Kruger told WCNY that “700 issues have been resolved, and there’s one or two left, mostly relating to the issues of penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana and how to identify them.”

Cuomo recently confirmed that parties are “very close” to reaching an agreement, saying "we have to get it done this year.”

The news comes on the heels of a Consensus Strategies' study, which reveals that in spite of 61% of New York residents supporting recreational cannabis legalization, 52% of NYC residents are against cannabis sales in their neighborhoods.

"The fight to find viable sites will be intense," Consensus Strategies CEO Patrick Fox said Wednesday.

"We often hear from cannabis entrepreneurs who think that the level of support for legalization will translate into support for siting a retail or cultivation facility," Fox added. "It often does not."

Schumer’s Bill Addresses Alcohol And Tobacco Concerns

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to create a cannabis legalization bill that will prevent alcohol and tobacco giants from dominating the industry writes Marijuana Moment.

According to Schumer, the bill will focus on protecting small companies, mostly those in the ownership of people from communities that were mostly affected by prohibition.

He's also promoting “justice, justice, justice – as well as freedom.”

According to the outlet, Schumer held a short conference with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to share their effort in the creation of extensive reform legislation. They discussed the negative consequences of cannabis prohibition and the potential economic benefits of a regulated industry.

“We don’t want the big tobacco companies and the big liquor companies to swoop in and take over,” Schumer said. “The legislation we have will make sure that smaller businesses, businesses in communities of color, get the advantage because communities of color have paid the price for decades. They should at least get something back.”

The reform is supposed to be submitted “shortly”, according to Schumer.

Senator Booker explained that the war on drugs is now a war on certain people.

“Veterans are disproportionately arrested for possession of marijuana; low-income people disproportionately arrested; people with mental health challenges disproportionately arrested; and of course, as you said, Chuck, black and brown communities are targeted,” he said.

The US House Reintroduces SAFE Banking Act  

House representatives have reintroduced the SAFE Banking Act on Thursday (h/t High Times).

If the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was to pass, it would enable cannabis companies to reach much-needed banking services. The act is supported by Ed Perlmutter and Nydia Velázquez, Democrats, as well as Steve Stivers and Warren Davidson, Republicans, and also has around 100 cosponsors.

With cannabis being illegal on the federal level, cannabis companies are having struggles to obtain banking-related services, most of them working with huge and therefore risky amounts of cash. This Act aims to change that.

“In many states, the industry was deemed essential yet forced to continue to operate in all cash, adding a significant public health risk for businesses and their workers,Congressman Perlmutter said. “As we begin our economic recovery, allowing cannabis businesses to access the banking system would also mean an influx of cash into the economy and the opportunity to create good-paying jobs. Thank you to Reps. Velázquez, Stivers and Davidson for their continued support and input on the bill, and I look forward to working with Senators Merkley and Daines to get the SAFE Banking Act passed in the Senate and signed into law.”

Back in 2019, the bill passed the House with 321 to 103 votes, but was rejected at the Senate.

More Than 20K Arrests For Cannabis Possession Happened Last Year In Pennsylvania

More than 20,000 Pennsylvania residents were arrested for cannabis possession last year, writes High Times.

According to data from the Pennsylvania State Police, an average of 55 adults were arrested for marijuana possession every day in 2020, amid pandemic when cannabis was designated an essential service in many jurisdictions.

What’s more, it turns out more people were arrested for cannabis possession than for all other illegal substances combined.

Chris Goldstein, regional coordinator with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) obtained the arrest data.

Cannabis consumers were targeted even during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Goldstein said in a statement from NORML. “This shows just how aggressively prohibition is enforced, despite the unprecedented public health risks in our communities. It’s time to stop marijuana arrests, right now.”

There was also a notable racial disparity in the cannabis possession arrests from last year in the Keystone state.

According to the analysis reported by the outlet, 461 black people were arrested for cannabis possession for every 100,000 Pennsylvania residents, compared to only 131 white people arrested for cannabis possession per 100,000 residents. This means, that black people are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people in Pennsylvania.

“Marijuana should not be used as an excuse for law enforcement to interact with otherwise law-abiding members of the public, especially during a global pandemic,” said NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf. “The ongoing prohibition of marijuana in Pennsylvania encroaches upon civil liberties and disproportionately impacts communities of color. It’s time for lawmakers to take action so that marijuana consumers are no longer treated as second-class citizens.”

Senate Judiciary Committee In New Mexico Favors Social-Justice Focused Bill

Legislation to legalize cannabis in New Mexico was voted in favor by the Senate Judiciary Committee reports The Drug Policy Alliance.

“As the clock begins to run out on an attempt to pass cannabis legalization this year, yesterday’s passage of House Bill 12 by the Senate Judiciary Committee made it clear that legislators have heard the call of their constituents and chosen to put politics aside to prioritize New Mexico families over big business, Emily Kaltenbach, Senior Director for Resident States and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance stated. “With HB 12 overcoming this major hurdle, it now moves to a Senate floor vote and could end up on the Governor’s desk by Saturday. 

Kaltenbach added that while New Mexico residents are prepared for cannabis legalization, they “have made it clear that repairing the damage done by the drug war is non-negotiable. HB 12 is the best vehicle to do this, as it reinvests back into communities most harmed by drug prohibition, particularly Hispanic/Latino, Black and Native populations in New Mexico.”

  • $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package May Help Small Cannabis Businesses

Cannabis business usually don’t qualify for financial relief packages, but the new $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package may change that, writes Marijuana Business Daily.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) contains three programs, out of which one catches the attention of cannabis enterprises:

“State Small Business Credit Initiative: More than $10 billion is being funneled to states to support small businesses, economically disadvantaged businesses and micro-businesses. Some experts believe state rather than federal rules should apply, potentially opening up funds for marijuana businesses operating in state-legal markets.”

 Josh Kappel, a founding partner of Denver-based law firm Vicente Sederberg doesn’t see an opening for cannabis-related business here, saying, “Once again, the cannabis industry has (largely) been left out of coronavirus relief, and likely that will only change once marijuana is legal federally.”

On the other hand, Steve Schain, a senior attorney in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the Hoban Law Group, reads the case differently.

According to Schain, the State Small Business Credit Initiative creates an opportunity for both ancillary and plant-touching businesses. He claims that Colorado funds should follow the Colorado regulations, not federal prohibitions on cannabis.

If this was true, a plant-touching operation could also qualify for financial relief in a state where cannabis is legalized.

“Experts advised marijuana businesses to check with the state financing programs about eligibility,” writes Marijuana Business Daily.

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