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Smoking Lounges, Exporting Weed and U.S. Legalization: Top 5 Predicted Changes in Cannabis Law

We are in a time of unprecedented growth and rapid change for the cannabis industry across the U.S—so here's what to expect.

Presented by Greenspoon Marder.

We are in a time of unprecedented growth and rapid change for the cannabis industry across the U.S. As we look ahead at issues in the law at both the Oregon state and federal levels, here are five changes we see on the horizon.

1. Access to Banking.

Limited access to financial institutions creates a sub-optimal business model for cannabis businesses and fuels public safety concerns. The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with cannabis related businesses that are obeying state laws. As of March 2019, the House Finance Committee voted to pass the bill to the House floor, with advocates predicting a floor vote in May. With strong bipartisan support and over 150 co-sponsors to date, the bill is expected to pass in the House and advocates are hopeful this support will put pressure on the Senate to pass the bill as well.

2. Social Consumption.

The Oregon Legislature is considering social consumption bills that would allow the consumption and sale of marijuana items at temporary events and licensed cannabis lounges and cafes. Social consumption bills have failed in the past due in part to necessary amendments to the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act, which legislators are hesitant to address. With public hearings already commenced, this issue may have enough legs for a modified version of one of the bills to pass this session.

3. Social Equity Issues.

The City of Portland introduced a Social Equity Program in 2018 to help small cannabis businesses and those directly impacted by cannabis prohibition. Additionally, a portion of the local tax revenue received from marijuana sales goes towards grants to minority- and women-owned local cannabis businesses. Oregon, though, has made no movement on expungement of prior cannabis convictions. Local jurisdictions in other states, like Oakland, are setting precedent on the issue of expungement and we're hopeful that Oregon will take this as a nudge in the right direction.

4. Interstate Commerce.

The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill that would allow for an interstate compact with states that have legalized marijuana and share borders (WA, OR, CA and NV). Creating an exchange of cannabis between these states would help combat overproduction issues and spillage into the unregulated market, and could position Oregon to be a leading exporter of cannabis in the future.

5. Federal Legislation.

Will 2019 be the year of weed? 10 states plus the District of Columbia have cannabis laws in place that allow the legal use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois are each expected to legalize in the coming year. Public support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time high, and bills like the STATES Act would exempt legal-cannabis states from federal law enforcement. While we don't have a crystal ball, the dominoes are lining up with a target of federal legalization on the horizon!

Greenspoon Marder works with cannabis businesses across the U.S. If you have regulatory, compliance, corporate or general legal questions, please visit us at www.gmlawcannabis.com.