It’s amazing the influence that the cannabis industry is having on the people of the United States and its elected officials. We saw the former governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld, and former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, become board members at Acreage Holdings. There are many bills being introduced on both the state and national level level for marijuana reform. The former Representative out of Florida, Carlos Curbelo, is now lobbying for the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) after losing his seat in the November midterm elections.
The current agenda of the CTF and Carlos Curbelo seems to be pushing through The STATES Act. This particular piece of legislation seemed ground breaking when it was first introduced last year because it appeased both sides of the political aisle and had bipartisan sponsorship with both R-Sen. Cory Gardner and D-Sen. Elizabeth Warren sponsoring it. However, since its introduction we have seem many more bill introduced to Congress like the 420 Bill that is much more permissive and opens many more doors for the cannabis industry than The STATES Act. We also saw Canada legalize cannabis nationally last year which makes a lot of the cannabis industry now feel like The STATES Act may just not cut it.
While professing to represent nationwide marijuana and other cannabis business interests, CTF’s board and partners reveal close ties to the Colorado cannabis industry. (Colorado legalized the recreational consumption of marijuana under state law in a 2012 ballot measure, becoming the first state to do so.) Six of the businesses that make up the founding board members of the Federation are Colorado-based companies. The other members have businesses operating in multiple states, but many have strong presences in Colorado. And the state marijuana industry most likely to benefit from keeping interstate trade illegal is . . . Colorado.
CTF is led by CEO Neal Levine who worked as an executive for LivWell Enlightened Health, one of the Colorado-based companies that funds CTF. He is CEO and chairman of the attached New Federalism Fund. He campaigned for third-party professional wrestler Jesse Ventura’s successful bid for governor of Minnesota and has bounced around different cannabis-related associations and lobbying groups, including serving as president of the National Cannabis Industry Association in 2016.
By failing to open up interstate commerce, CTF’s STATES Act creates state-level legal marijuana cartels. The existing vertically integrated businesses in Colorado won’t have to worry about growers from California or Oregon competing with them, because importing from those states would stay illegal. Even if the federal government chose to de-schedule marijuana (making it no longer a controlled substance), STATES’s burdensome regulatory barriers for entrepreneurs who may wish to start businesses would remain.
With some of the other bills that have been introduced in Congress, The STATES Act feels like old cannabis news. Beggars can’t be choosers though, right? Marijuana advocates have been basically begging the federal government to do something, anything to reform marijuana laws since the ’70s. However, with green wave of marijuana legalization hitting the country, perhaps we should be setting our sites even higher.