Pot Reform Collides with Pandemic Panic
The coronavirus pandemic has clobbered financial markets and all sectors of the economy, consequently shifting legislative priorities across the country. The marijuana industry is no exception.
As many legislatures temporarily recess due to coronavirus fears, there’s been a slowdown in cannabis policy developments.
In the U.S. from coast to coast, campaigns to legalize marijuana are getting affected by this pandemic. As quarantines take hold, a wide variety of businesses are shutting down, raising the specter of massive unemployment and economic recession.
The broader stock market has tanked, creating a downdraft that drags down marijuana stocks as well. Even high-quality cannabis investments are taking temporary hits.
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The State of the States
Let’s see what’s happening legislatively and politically in the cannabis sector, as it pertains to the coronavirus crisis.
Advocacy group Americans for Safe Access is pressuring governors to ensure that medical marijuana patients maintain access to the cannabis they need as jurisdictions enact differing approaches to exempting certain businesses from coronavirus-induced shutdowns.
Colorado allows for the commercial delivery of marijuana, under a new law that went into effect January 1. The state began with medical marijuana for 2020, with recreational pot following a year later. This new statute is helping the state’s marijuana sales (and related tax revenue) weather the coronavirus-caused economic slowdown.
Connecticut’s Senate president and House speaker suggested that the temporary closure of the state Capitol due to coronavirus concerns could impact efforts to pass marijuana legalization legislation this year.
Marijuana reform advocates are closely watching Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), who chairs the Senate Banking Committee. The Idaho lawmaker had been backing away from his efforts to block the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
However, optimism that Crapo will advance the SAFE Act out of his committee is now waning, due to the exigencies of the coronavirus pandemic.
SAFE is a House-passed banking measure that would ensure that financial institutions are not punished for providing banking services to state-regulated cannabis companies. The coronavirus crisis has changed the political equation and put SAFE on the back-burner again.
Idaho currently prohibits all types of cannabis, making it an outlier in a region that has taken a libertarian stance on pot. Idaho shares borders with Washington, Oregon and Nevada, all states that boast thriving legal marijuana markets. To the north is Canada, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2018. Legalization proponents are accumulating signatures in an effort to put medical marijuana to voters in November.
Illinois regulators recently allowed dispensaries to perform curbside sales of medical cannabis. Curbside service is buoying cannabis sales and offsetting the “social distancing” that’s practiced to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In a move similar to that in Illinois, Maryland regulators are allowing dispensaries to deliver medical cannabis to patients in parking lots.
Massachusetts regulators issued a bulletin urging marijuana businesses to take steps to protect health and allowing the expansion of medical cannabis delivery services amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Missouri regulators said the coronavirus won’t delay the rollout of the state’s medical cannabis program.
New York lawmakers filed a revised marijuana legalization bill that they hope to work into the budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he still wants issues like cannabis to be addressed in the spending legislation that could pass this week on an expedited basis due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Cuomo said that recent regional marijuana legalization talks with other states created relationships that are helping to formulate a coordinated response to the coronavirus.
Cuomo stated: “Luckily we have set a template where our regional states work together. Many of you came to our regional meeting on marijuana laws. I have a good relationship that I’ve developed with the surrounding governors. We have actually deployed that here.”
New York regulators said that medical cannabis dispensaries are essential and can stay open amid coronavirus-caused business closures.
Pennsylvania regulators also deemed medical cannabis dispensaries essential and thus exempt from forced business closures due to coronavirus concerns.
Washington State regulators are allowing marijuana businesses to carry out curbside service for medical cannabis in light of coronavirus concerns. The state’s regulators postponed planned meetings on marijuana draft conceptual rules due to the coronavirus.
Editor’s Note: The coronavirus crisis will eventually fade and when it does, marijuana legalization will regain its momentum.
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John Persinos is the editor-in-chief of Marijuana Investing Daily. You can reach him at: email@example.com