From bias to banking, Biden’s pot promises have impact

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Welcome to the latest issue of the Dose, which looks at the cannabis industry.

I was in the middle of a phone interview for a psychedelics-related piece late Thursday when the words BIDEN and MARIJUANA flashed across my terminal in a headline from our DC office. Pivot time! Here’s a look at what top executives predict to come from the big news.  

Jury’s still out

President Joe Biden’s call for a review of marijuana’s classification as one of the most dangerous narcotics was the biggest news the industry has had. Ever.

The research-before-regulation approach looks especially smart given what’s going on in some states. California’s Department of Cannabis Control announced last week it will fund $20 million in cannabis-related academic research by the state’s public universities to help look at issues including cannabis potency and health impacts, and a similar review is underway in Colorado.

For cannabis companies, the overarching refrain was that it’s too soon to tell what the actual outcome will be or what impact it will have on their businesses, given the review may take years. 

However, many saw the potential for knock-on effects from Biden’s launch of the review, as well as his decision to pardon marijuana offenses. Indeed, pardoning those convicted of cannabis offenses could lead to new support for legalization. 

“There are some voters who might ask: `Why would we vote for legalization when our brothers or sisters are locked up for the same thing?’” said Kadijah Tribble, chief executive officer of the US Cannabis Council — a lobbying group that represents the industry. “Bring them home, then we can have a conversation.”

There’s also a complex legislative chess that will go on while the review is pending. Meanwhile, here’s a curated list of what the industry’s top executives expect. 

Removing Bias

  • “We would expect that as cannabis becomes a normalized industry in the US that the ridiculous barriers to business such as inflated taxation, inability to have normal banking relationships and being shut out from US exchanges as a US company will cease to exist.” —  Kim Rivers, CEO of  Trulieve Cannabis Corp. 

Prospects for Cross-Border Deals 

  • “There's nothing we can do today in the US. The only thing that literally helps Tilray and other Canadian LPs is full legalization of cannabis in the US.”  —  Irwin Simon, CEO of Tilray Brands Inc.

Finance

  • “Many minority cannabis operators do not have access to the capital they need to effectively operate in this space, and financial and insurance institutions are hesitant to engage with them without federal protection.” —  Bryan Murray, executive vice president of government relations at Acreage Holdings Inc.

SAFE Banking

  • “We strongly support SAFE Banking, and we feel this will support the safety of employees, the customers and the patients. Cannabis is the fastest growing industry in terms of job creation, and a large number of employees would be positively impacted by the change.” — Ben Kovler, CEO of Green Thumb Industries Inc.

Lobbying Momentum

  • “This is a great first step, but we still have a lot of work to do. We congratulate the Biden administration on a long overdue promise to the individuals impacted.”  — Boris Jordan, executive chairman of Curaleaf Holdings Inc.

State-Level Impact

  • “It provides an opportunity for Congress to lean in now to remove the cloud of uncertainty over the state programs that have been providing safe, regulated access to millions of Americans while ensuring a robust and inclusive framework for legalization comes to fruition.” — Rivers of Trulieve

Accelerating Research

  • “The re-scheduling of cannabis would unleash the real potential of the US cannabis industry, in terms of jobs, tax revenue, and scientific research.” — Jonathan Sandelman, CEO of Ayr Wellness

Righting Wrongs

  • “We still have to address the collateral damage. Those people are going to come home, and when they get home we should make sure they are able to rejoin society in a way that’s humanizing.” — Tribble of the the US Cannabis Council 

Region: United States

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