Federal Cannabis Policies

  • Cannabis remains illegal at the Federal level where it is still considered a schedule 1 drug, but the federal government has adopted a hands-off policy when it comes to state-legal marijuana
    • In early 2020, the IRS finally provided detailed guidance for legal cannabis companies to report taxes. Because cannabis remains federally illegal, industry members are deprived of traditional tax breaks and benefits other businesses are entitled to, yet are still required to pay taxes and report transactions.
    • The MORE Act which would decriminalize cannabis nationally and expunge non-violent cannabis convictions had House voting delayed in September 2020, but voting is expected to occur before the end of the year.
    • Because cannabis farmers and other businesses don't have the same insurance and protection as other businesses since they are federally illegal, legal cannabis businesses have been hit especially hard by the recent Covid shutdowns and west coast wildfire disasters. The Safe Banking Act was proposed to be included in a recent COVID stimulus package to provide legal cannabis businesses the opportunity to get relief loans, but it was quickly shot down.
    • The Cole Memorandum issued in 2013 stated that the federal government would not enforce federal marijuana laws in states with legal cannabis due to the Justice Department's limited resources
    • The Cole Memorandum requested that states with legal marijuana take steps to make sure marijuana isn't distributed to minors or other states that haven't legalized, and to prevent marijuana revenue from going to criminal enterprises and violence from occuring at any step in the production process of cannabis products
    • The Cole memorandum was rescinded in January 2018 by Jeff Sessions, the first Attorney General appointed by President Trump, but the President has promised that legal marijuana will not be targeted by the Justice Department. His new attorney general also agrees with this hands-off policy.
    • The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment (page H4982), which passed in 2014 (after being introduced to congress in 2001 and failing to pass 6 times), prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana industry
  • The proposed SAFE Banking Act that is currently in congress would prevent banks from being punished by federal agencies for doing business with legal cannabis companies which would help the legal cannabis industry grow
    • Due to cannabis being federally illegal, banks working with state-legal cannabis companies is considered money-laundering and can put banks at risk of losing their FDIC deposit insurance. Additionally credit unions put their NCUA insurance at risk when lending to cannabis companies
    • The SAFE Banking Act would protect banks and credit unions federal insurance with the FDIC and NCUA allowing them to do business with cannabis companies with much more confidence
    • "thousands of employees, businesses and communities across this country...have been put at risk because they have been forced to deal in piles of cash...the SAFE Banking Act is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our communities safer." –Ed Perlmutter (CO congressman in the House of Representatives)