As we approach the Chinese New Year ordering deadline for our vape products, we might look back at the Chinese Zodiac Calendar that proclaimed 2020 the Year of the Rat, which generally symbolizes new beginnings. After a long hard year dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic, I’m sure most would roll their eyes at that superstition, but I would make the argument that it was a year of new beginnings for our industry and 2020 should really be looked upon as – the Year of the Cannabis.
“Cannabis is Essential”
For the past 83 years, cannabis has been outlawed by the U.S. federal government. Cannabis growers and enthusiasts have hunkered down in the shadows growing their crops and selling on the black market until 2014, when states began to bring the plant out of the darkness and into the light of the legal market. And even now entering this year with 33 states allowing legal medical cannabis and 11 more selling adult use products, skeptics still kept their eyes on the sky to see if it was falling. Until businesses across the country were forced to close due to COVID-19 and patients clamored to their governors, “do not take away my medicine.” And many who were naysayers were now calling “cannabis essential” and several others, like the governors of New Mexico and Pennsylvania proclaiming they wish they had legalized cannabis to help with budget shortfalls worsened by the pandemic.
The SAFE Banking Act
Yes, the SAFE Banking Act passed the House of Representatives and made its way to the Senate in 2019, where it has languished in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, but it has been given new life by the House, not once, but twice. In an effort to give cannabis businesses the relief they desire like any other small business struck by the pandemic, the House has included the SAFE Banking Act provisions twice in the HEROES Act COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House in May and again in October. Twice this year, the federal government has stood up for cannabis businesses and pushed to further legitimize the industry. If it can manage to remain a part of the HEROES Act and makes its way to the president’s desk, 280E will be a thing of the past and financially this industry will flourish.
The MORE Act
House leadership has promised that the MORE Act will come up for a House floor vote after the election. This bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, erase some criminal records and create grant programs for people affected by the War on Drugs. A bill of this magnitude has never come through a committee, let alone come to a vote before the full chamber. It is believed that it will likely pass the House and if it does, removing cannabis from the CSA will essentially be the backdoor legalization that everyone has been waiting to take place. Now, of course, it still faces an uphill battle in the Senate, but the sheer fact alone that cannabis is going to get this vote of confidence on the House floor opens the door for a flood gate of new legalization measures. And if the Senate flips in the upcoming election, there is good chance that legalization is not far away.
Ballot Measures in Five more States
We are looking at ballot measures in five states in the middle of a pandemic. While some states had failed in getting the necessary signatures needed due to the Coronavirus lockdown, five others have prevailed and will be looking at various measures for adult use and for medical. My two favorites are South Dakota and Mississippi – two very highly conservative states. Who would have thought that South Dakota and Mississippi would be leading the way anywhere when it came to cannabis? South Dakota has two measures on the ballot that would legalize adult use and medical, if they pass, they will be the first state to pass both at the same time. And through the years of legalization, the South has continually been the holdout across the country, adverse to legalization, but Mississippi is changing that with two measures for the legalization of medical cannabis. If legalization occurs in these states, the winds of change are fiercely blowing in the direction of full cannabis legalization.
To sum up, yes, 2020, has been an awful year for many across this country, losing jobs, homes, and loved ones to a deadly pandemic and those losses cannot be minimized. However, if you are in the cannabis industry and looking for a gleam of hope, it has been a dogged and proves that the industry is not going anywhere. Over the years there has been some twist and turn that has kept the industry down, but 2020 shows that the tides are shifting. Cannabis will not be held back by naysayers, slow legislatures, or even by a crippling pandemic. This plant’s day in the sun is coming and 2020 is the dawn of that day.