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January 7, 2021

New Administration and Majority in Congress Forecast Changes for Cannabis Legalization

With the Biden presidency confirmed by the Electoral College and the Georgia Senate runoff results flipping control of the Senate to a slim Democratic majority, legislation currently languishing in Congress may see renewed life, bringing sweeping changes to the cannabis industry.

Key legislation includes the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed by the House on December 4, 2020, which contains comprehensive cannabis reforms, including removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, expungement of past criminal convictions, taxation of cannabis products to fund criminal and social reforms, and prohibition of denial of certain public benefits on the basis of cannabis use.

Other key legislation is the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act, also known as the SAFE Banking Act, which was passed by the House in 2019. The act contains multiple provisions protecting banks and businesses that work with cannabis-related industries. The act contains additional provisions that eliminate civil and criminal prosecution for the insurance industry serving legalized cannabis businesses.

Although a Democratic majority does not guarantee speedy reforms, and key cabinet positions and, more importantly, Department of Justice posts have yet to be filled, expect significant federal reforms in the cannabis industry.

On a related front, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his renewed efforts to finally pass legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis in New York State. Last year’s attempts at adult-use legislation were unsuccessful. Although significant revenue for the state may not be realized for years, budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic and legalization in adjoining states may finally spur a successful drive for reform. The governor will call for legalization in the upcoming State of the State address.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Mary Volcko, project specialist, at mvolcko@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Cannabis Team.

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