For years, cannabis companies and reform advocates have hoped to see federal lawmakers act on industry banking access. Many contend that until such reforms are made, few, if any, cannabis brands will likely see a profit if they are prevented from the banking and financing provided to legalized industries. In addition to banking, cannabis brands are left without access to insurers, loans, and other essential business needs, leaving them vulnerable to banking and business closures unless backed by funds only a few major players have. 

These pain points and many more have long been opined about in countless news articles and op-eds over the years. Now there’s no doubt an importance to the subject, and it rightfully deserves media attention. Still, few argue that there aren’t numerous other topics pressing the industry today. With the recently Senate committee-approved SAFER Banking Act moving forward, some have speculated that passage is imminent. 

While that isn’t exactly true, there is optimism surrounding the legislation that hasn’t been felt in quite some time. That was, until Oct. 25, when ardent anti-cannabis legislation lawmaker Rep. Mike Johnson became the new Speaker of the House, throwing some doubt into an already uncertain future for the bill.

Social Equity

Equity and restorative justice measures are often a talking point. However, we often see that the efforts to create an inclusive and restorative justice-focused industry tend to fall short, be it at the hands of legislators or lawsuits contesting the legality of social equity parameters. 

In recent months, New York has been front and center of such issues, with hundreds of CAURD equity applicants granted licenses only to have their progress halted due to several lawsuits.

With licensing now open to all, what’s next in the Empire State remains to be seen. We’re seeing similar news out of Connecticut in recent months, with provisions challenged in court and concerns about reinvestment money. Concerns have also been voiced in Minnesota, with farmers and activists calling for more robust equity measures in the state’s legalization bill. 

Some have stated that SAFER must pass so equity and small operators can survive and thrive
in the industry. Meanwhile, several lawmakers, including Raphael Warnock and Cory Booker,
have called for stronger equity parameters in the federal
banking bill. 

Testing and Safety

Recalls continue to be a concern across many cannabis markets. In just the past few weeks, edible products in Michigan, including Viola, have been recalled for alleged excessive THC potency.

In Arizona, select Curaleaf products were voluntarily recalled in October over concerns of possible aspergillus contamination. Meanwhile, the most substantial recall in recent weeks came from Missouri. The billion-dollar market has been the gem of the industry as of late, but roughly 62,000 infused products that hit shelves back in August are now being recalled. 

Each of these instances highlights the ongoing need to improve product safety before industry reputations are irreparably damaged. But with lab testing and allegations of inflated THC percentages persisting for years, this issue could be much larger than some may think. 

Industry Waste and Pollution 

The cannabis industry and lawmakers continue struggling to balance common sense safety measures and pollution. This very issue has been a regular talking point in the industry since legalization became a reality. 

Many thought pieces and analyses have been conducted to assess the damage created by cannabis products and packaging. Child safety laws are undoubtedly one of the most significant contributors to the problem, leaving operators in a bind between adhering to regulators and safeguarding children while also being conflicted by the staggering amount of waste created by such parameters.

Another primary industry waste concern is single-use vapes and the waste produced. Combined, these are two of the more enormous, longer-standing hurdles in the space. 

Research 

Despite decades of anecdotal feedback, many of the most extraordinary medical claims about cannabis cannot be definitively stated. This problem stems from years of research prohibition and high hurdles, making clinical analysis nearly impossible to complete. That isn’t the case worldwide, as evidenced by the groundbreaking research conducted in countries such as Israel. 

However, the U.S. continues to lag as regulations restricted analysis for years. With the DEA expected to decide on rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III soon, many are anticipating a research floodgate to open. While this could benefit our understanding of the plant, many advocates argue that rescheduling falls short of the ultimate goal of legalization. Even if SAFER Banking doesn’t pass this year, more media attention and opinion pieces will likely focus on rescheduling and its impact on research in the coming months.

Education

Closing the so-called education gap between the public and cannabis insiders continues to be a concern. Numerous thought pieces and analyses have been presented over the years.

However, the general public does not seem to comprehend the news or doesn’t want the information the industry offers them. Some in the space are pushing for simplified education in hopes of demystifying some of the long-held misnomers in the industry, notably the incorrect characteristics ascribed to indica and sativa plants, as well as myths around THC potency. 

However, if they are trying to learn at all, much of the public is in the infancy of learning about the plant. How can these problems be addressed effectively? 

More to Discuss

These topics and many more could benefit from increased news coverage and opinion pieces if SAFER Banking were to pass this year. Numerous other pressing subjects, ranging from farming practices to market consolidation to job creation and reduction, deserve increased attention. 

Still, this massive space can only cover so much at one time, leaving one to wonder what will fill the airtime void if banking concerns are reduced if SAFER Banking were to pass. There is no doubt that rescheduling will be in focus, but what else could step further into the media spotlight remains to be seen.

This article first appeared in Volume 5 Issue 3 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.

  • Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based journalist, author, and content marketer. His work has appeared in High Times, Rolling Stone, Business Insider, and many more. He is the author of “Cannabis Jobs” and “The Art of Marijuana Etiquette.”

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