The National Marijuana News was proud to participate as a media partner with the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) for its 8th annual Lobby Days event in Washington, D.C. this week. We were able to provide coverage of the event, interview many cannabis professionals and hear from some of the most influential legislators trying to push the marijuana legalization movement forward. We would like to thank both Bethany Moore and Lisa Dannen for their guidance before and during the event.
The event began Monday evening at the Phoenix Park Hotel on North Capitol Street where all attending lobbying members of the NCIA were invited for drinks and networking. We met with many business owners and vocationally specialized professionals related to the cannabis industry from all around the country seeking to affect change by speaking directly with lawmakers and spreading general awareness. Needless to say, the process to ultimately force the legalization of cannabis nationally and implement a regulated and well structured market is full of complexities seldom seen. It was clear after meeting with these professionals that everyone had tremendous experience in traditional sectors of the economy and came well equipped for the challenges of what has become an over 80 year long struggle.
Topics for our interviews the first night varied from the immense banking problems plaguing the cannabis industry, the IRS tax code section 280E, the insurance needs of cannabis companies, expanding medical marijuana patient access and of course the descheduling of cannabis entirely. Michelle Rutter, the NCIA Government Relations Manager, took time with us to provide our followers with a little background of the NCIA and its current mission. We even met with Mike James, the NFL player out of the University of Miami pushing the league to allow him access to medical cannabis without penalty. The most pronounced commonality among the attending NCIA members was the strong and confident front they presented on behalf of cannabis legalization proponents, which should be evident in the following videoed interviews. Monday evening’s events concluded with the existing board members and candidates expounding on why they should be elected to the board of the NCIA.
The following morning we all met at the National Press Club on 14th street, and members were able to enjoy refreshment and provided guidance on meeting with the staff of lawmakers in their respective congressional offices. Members were broken into groups and provided scheduled meeting times through the Advocacy Day Assistant app on their phones. Members would be meeting with the staff of elected officials like Representative Steven King of Iowa, Senator Kamala Harris of California and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Before leaving for their meetings, members were shuttled to the Capitol Reflecting Pool with the Capitol Building set as the backdrop for the 2018 group photo. We caught up with Colton Turner after the photo, a courageous young man battling Crohn’s Disease that has made his voice heard around the country about how medical marijuana has helped his condition.
The NCIA placed TNMNews with a group of professionals that included Greenspoon Marder partner and attorney, Heather Burke out of California, and a senior associate of 3C, Heather Sullivan out of Maine. Our first scheduled meeting was with the staff of Senator Bernie Sanders out of Vermont. We sat down with Laurie Kearns at his office in the Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill. Media was relatively restricted and we were permitted still photos only. Topics discussed included Senator Sanders cosponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act with Senator Cory Booker out of New Jersey, and the Safe Banking Act which would resolve the cannabis industry’s banking challenges if passed. Senator Sanders has been open to the public about not tolerating the social injustice of the federal prohibition of cannabis and the racial disparities in black men being arrested for nonviolent marijuana possession crimes relative to other races that exists within his own home state of Vermont as well.
From Senator Sanders office we walked to the Longworth building to meet with the staff of Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii. After a long battle, Hawaii implemented its long awaited medical marijuana program last year and Representative Gabbard has played an important part in moving the state legislation forward. She is also cosponsoring the Safe Banking Act and is focused on healthcare and how cannabis can potentially help the opioid epidemic plaguing the country. We had the opportunity to sit down with one of her legislative correspondents, Patrick Koetzle. Mr. Koetzle mentioned that the office is working on drafting a bill concerning data collection as it pertains to cannabis consumers.
Later that evening members attended the NCIA-PAC Fundraiser held at The Observatory at America’s Square, and the event concluded on Wednesday morning after a press conference held at the House Triangle. The National Marijuana News was proud to cover the NCIA Lobby Days and looks forward to seeing what further progress the organization will be able to make next year. Every year marijuana legalization takes another small step forward, and events such as Lobby Days may be one of the largest catalysts sparking the movement.
Legislators must stay informed on issues so that they can make intelligent decisions on where their precious time is best spent. Cannabis is one of the most difficult issues for lawmakers to understand especially considering the many decades they spent being fed misconceptions concerning the dangers of cannabis consumption and its lack of medicinal value. The social injustice associated with the Schedule 1 status of cannabis has derailed the lives of many men and women that struggle finding jobs and being admitted into schools due to low-level nonviolent marijuana possession convictions. Many people still sit in prisons in states that have legalized the adult-use of cannabis and where there may be no discussion concerning clemency. Cannabis companies struggle maintaining merchant service relationships and are forced to keep cash in vaults with no bank account to deposit their revenue, leaving them vulnerable to robbery. Legislators are being given every reason to fight for the descheduling of cannabis especially as the industry grows. It is through the efforts of the professional women and men of groups like NCIA that spreads the awareness necessary for positive change to happen.
Find out more about the National Cannabis Industry Association and membership please click here.