The United States Judiciary Committee held its first hearing September 10th on and appropriately titled, “Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” The hearing comes on the heels of the Department of Justice memo providing guidance to federal prosecutors on the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) regarding the use of marijuana. Sponsored by committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the hearing was largely a rehash of much of the rhetoric that has come out since the guidance memo was issued. However, it did serve to bolster confidence that the DOJ would follow through with the guidance memo’s intentions.
Sen. Leahy supported the DOJ’s efforts, but that was in definite contrast to the opinions of Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa who seemed to be reading from an old playbook. In his opening remarks, Sen. Grassley suggested that the DOJ was “ignoring laws that are inconvenient or it doesn’t like.” (Citation 1) He spoke as if the matter of using marijuana for recreational or medicinal use was a done deal that had already been vetted and proven detrimental to society – end of story.
Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island spoke in favor of the DOJ initiatives. He chided the previous murky guidance of the DOJ and then voiced his approval of the clarification of the latest memo. While the pros and cons were jostled about, it became clear that that DOJ would not be turning back, and that the most important issue that needed to be resolved was access to the banking industry.
The importance of the banking industry’s engagement extends beyond those businesses that produce THC-based products. For those unfamiliar, THC is substance in marijuana that produces the “high.” But companies like Medical Marijuana, Inc. (MJNA.PK) – whose subsidiary companies produce many hemp products that contain the non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound cannabidiol (CBD) which is legal to consume in all 50 states – are also affected. These types of legitimate companies, as well as their merchant partners and wholesalers, can easily be deprived of the vital banking services that fuel growth.
Most businesses use long- and short-term funding in the form of bank loans to support the need for facilities and equipment and to support daily operations. Without the support of banking services, those in the supplier network – regardless of whether they are on the “accounts receivable” or “accounts payable” side of a transaction – suffer. Then there is the issue of some smaller businesses not being able to open bank accounts at all and then, in some cases, being unable to transport cash using armored car services.
As pointed out during the committee hearing, all cash businesses increase the probability of violent crime. Additionally, dealing only in cash makes auditing such businesses difficult. This notion is somewhat ironic in that many marijuana based businesses want to pay more taxes to add credibility to their businesses operations and would likely see an audit as a move in the right direction. This type of transparency is what’s needed to allow medical cannabis-based businesses to show that their operations are legitimate and that their products have a place in the consumer economy.
During the hearing, Kevin Sabet, PhD., founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) strongly voiced his opinion against “big marijuana,” comparing it to “big alcohol” and “big tobacco.” He emphasized his points by tying them to protecting children from the effects of the large-scale commercialization and marketing of marijuana. I found him to be a very passionate speaker, but he totally ignored the importance of non-psychoactive cannabis compounds and the growing evidence of their medicinal value which, recently, has been focused on helping kids. (As a side note, his recent reddit Q&A was an unmitigated disaster.)
In his CNN documentary, WEED, Dr. Sanjay Gupta highlighted the almost immediate ability of CBD to stop epileptic seizures in children. To be fair, each doctor has his differing points of interest. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Sabet “received his Doctorate in social policy” (Citation 2) and Dr. Gupta is a neurosurgeon and CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent. (Citations 3)
So while Dr. Sabet’s views offer one point that I think all reasonable people can agree on – protecting children – it lacks the acknowledgement of the health benefits or, in a more unforgivable scenario, ignore them. There are many cannabis-related products on the market now that are completely focused on the health and wellness of their consumers, not on recreation.
The MJNA portfolio company and contracted marketing company for CannaVest Corp (CANV) HempMedsPX will be representing both MJNA and US Hemp Oil as Gold Sponsor of Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. This is just one of many trade shows on an extensive schedule, placing them in numerous venues across the US to showcase hemp CBD products. The partnership between these companies is a great example of businesses that are focused on providing products that promote the wellness of consumers. For those interested in investing, MJNA and CANV are both publically traded companies.
The Judiciary Committee hearing was an important step for congress to recognize the states’ acceptance of the will of the people and heath freedom. Those who continue to oppose the advancements that have been made should no longer ignore the inevitable.
Dr. Sabet asked the question, “why would we open the floodgates, hope for the best, and try with limited resources to patch everything up when things go wrong?" (Web Cast Link - Citation 1)
The Answer: Because without trying, progress cannot be achieved. To not try is to give up. Giving up when the reward is so great and the risk so little, is cowardly. And we learn more from mistakes than we do from shallow victories.
Citation 1 - Website link: Click on WEBCAST
Citation 2 - Website link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Sabet
Citation 3 - Website link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjay_Gupta