'Nothing has changed': Frustration is growing like a marijuana joint

I know there are ways to move forward in the industry, but I am increasingly critical of the power or desire of Congress

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source: https://ibb.co/qpB7Wpz

In the cannabis industry, 2021 was supposed to be a year of change and opportunity.

Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, and lawmakers were busy squeezing debt to expand banking access to cannabis businesses and provide ways to clear criminal records and increase diversity in the industry.

But one year in the new administration and the cannabis revolution has come to a standstill, fueling the frustration and concern that legalizing or eliminating marijuana at the state level is just a dream.

Photo: A woman smoking a joint while celebrating Cannabis International Day in New York on April 20, 2021.

A woman smokes joint while celebrating International Cannabis Day in New York April 20, 2021. Anthony Behar / Sipa USA file AP

"Nothing has changed and it's really frustrating," said Narmin Jarrous, chief development officer for Michigan's company Exclusive Brands. “We can always make excuses why things don't work out but in the end that doesn't help people who are incarcerated and it doesn't help people who are constantly plagued by drug war. . "

Among those consequences is the lack of access to banks, which is often a major obstacle for many marijuana businesses who want to open checking accounts or apply for loans. Major financial institutions are shrinking in the industry for fear of violating corporate law, which views marijuana as a controlled substance.

In 2020, Catherin Jarrous, his sister and accountant for Exclusive Brands, was suddenly shut down from his bank account after filing a check. Her credit cards were also blocked without prior notice, which disrupted her credit score and sent her family into a quandary as she embarked on a newborn baby and financial crisis.

A handful of other Exclusive Brands employees received similar treatment when trying to pay off a bank account, Jarrous said.

Her sister and other staff members have never received an explanation - "just a letter and a check" to close their accounts, adding that she believes the banking act was designed to comply with state law.

Cannabis is still a Class 1 drug, like heroin and LSD, under corporate law, but 36 states have adopted medical marijuana programs, and its recreational use is legal in 18 states, including Michigan. Differences between state and federal laws create confusion in legal cannabis businesses that comply with local laws.

Two key laws - the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which would increase industry access to financial institutions, and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which would legalize marijuana at the state level - seek to incorporate smaller laws. regulate the cannabis industry.

Both bills failed to pass Congress last year.

"It is easy to become frustrated with the slow pace of change," said Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, a national organization representing marijuana. "But it is important to look at those symptoms of the cord while this is still going on."

Steven Hawkins, CEO of the US Cannabis Council, a trade union and law firm, said this was a "critical time" for Congress on cannabis licensing, and ongoing discussions at the national level to change the signal are inevitable.

"It 's not uncommon for anything to happen to Congress at the same time," he said. “I think the momentum is here. It is an impetus that we will see fulfilled, hopefully, in the next congressional hearing. "

Luis Merchan, CEO of Canadian marijuana manufacturer Flora Growth, said he had heard of these promises before as he continued to wait for the United States to establish a regulatory framework that would allow his international business to grow its portfolio.

Meanwhile, Flora Growth is forced to limit American businesses to electronic smoking, hemp-based and cannabinoid-based products. Globally, the company operates at a very different level, operating the largest foreign marijuana plantation center in Colombia.

"Last year was a year of optimism," Merchan said of the company's hopes for the U.S. "It's a difficult area with high entry points, but we continue to find ways to work."