Cannabis businesses in New York are set to receive easier access to banking services.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s governor was in a giving mood this week — ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, he granted pardons to dozens of people with with cannabis-related convictions.
Read on to learn what else happened in the cannabis space this week.
New York governor breaks down cannabis banking barriers
On Thursday (November 23), New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D), with the support of Senator Jeremy Cooney (D) and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), signed legislation that will help cannabis entrepreneurs gain easier access to financial institutions. The move comes barely a week after Hochul signed into law a piece of legislation that will provide tax relief to struggling cannabis businesses that are unable to file federal tax deductions.
Senate Bill S1047A allows New York’s Office of Cannabis Management to, with consent, provide banks with information on cannabis business licensees and applicants. The idea is to alleviate the obstacles faced by banks that want to do business with cannabis clients, but face the time-consuming and costly burden of complying with federal laws.
While important for New York-based cannabis operators, the new law will have no effect on federal banking reform. In September, the SAFER Banking Act, which would allow cannabis companies across the country to access services from financial institutions, made it to the floor of the Senate, but stalled there. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now facing an uphill battle to persuade members of the GOP to support the bill; however, in an interview with Yahoo News last weekend, he said he plans to move forward with the bill “as soon as we have those 10 or 11 Republican votes.’
Wisconsin governor grants cannabis pardons
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) granted 82 pardons on Wednesday (November 22). This act of clemency brought his overall tally to 1,111 pardons. According to a press release on his website, approximately one-third of the pardons issued this week were to individuals who were convicted of cannabis possession, cultivation or sale.
“It continues to be a privilege to hear about individuals’ lives, work, and what they have done to overcome their past mistakes and build positive, rewarding lives for themselves and their families,” said Evers.
Teenagers not more likely to use cannabis post-legalization
A research paper conducted by a doctoral candidate and published in a special issue of Clinical Therapeutics suggests that high school students today are at no greater risk of smoking cannabis than they were before legalization.
Faith English, a PhD student at the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is the paper’s lead author. She found that high schoolers are more likely to use cannabis if they perceive parents or friends using it, but that they were just as likely to use cannabis under similar circumstances prior to legalization in 2016.
English and senior author Jennifer Whitehill acknowledge that more research is needed to determine whether or not the legalization of cannabis does indeed influence use in adolescents and teenagers, but note that their research suggests influence by peers is a more likely cause of cannabis consumption in adolescents than legalization.
Importantly, the survey reveals a 6 percent increase in the proportion of youth who perceive their parents as cannabis users. The researchers also found a decrease in the percentage of youth who perceive that their best friend uses cannabis — it declined from 69 percent in 2016 to 64 percent in 2018.
Sarasota begins repeal of cannabis civil citation program
On Monday (November 20), the City Commission of Sarasota, Florida, began the process of repealing its cannabis civil citation program in line with police recommendations. The decision comes after a presentation revealed that almost 90 percent of the population does not comply by paying their fines.
In 2019, the City Commission passed an ordinance to decriminalize cannabis, mandating that instead of facing arrest, individuals caught with less than 20 grams of cannabis had the option to pay a US$100 fine or complete 100 hours of community service. The option was open to those over the age of 18 as long as they were not caught smoking the drug.
Sarasota Police Commissioner Debbie Trice told city news publication MySun Coast News that since the inception of the program in 2020, less than 12 percent of violators have complied with issued fines.
“Right now we have a law that is not working,” she said. In light of the low participation rate, the City Commission voted 4 to 1 in favor of drafting an ordinance to repeal the cannabis civil citation program.
Hawaii throws up legalization roadblock
Last week, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez submitted a 294 page proposal for establishing a retail market for adult-use recreational cannabis in the state. The news came as a surprise to many, as Lopez has been opposed to legalizing recreational use for adults; however, the report indicates that her attitude toward legalization is evolving.
Hawaii News Now was the first to report the story, quoting Lopez’s forward-thinking, but strict, stance on the issue: “The most important thing we can do is we can bring the people who have been growing and selling cannabis illegally into the legal market. If the dealers don’t go straight, they face a specialized 14-member law enforcement unit. It’s going to be a concerted investigative process to ensure that the law is followed.’
The proposal has been well received by lawmakers, but many members of the law enforcement community are concerned that legalization will prove to be too great a risk. Leading a coalition against the proposal is Honolulu City Prosecutor Steve Alm. In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Alm said that there is “no impetus to changing the system,’ adding that he predicts opposition from health and education experts. He said that in his view, statistics on traffic deaths and emergency room visits in states where cannabis is legal are reason enough to oppose reform.
Securities Disclosure: I, Meagen Seatter, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.