Colorado Governor Says Marijuana Rescheduling And Banking Reform Are First ‘Dominoes’ On Path To Federal Legalization | Turn 420
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Colorado Governor Says Marijuana Rescheduling And Banking Reform Are First ‘Dominoes’ On Path To Federal Legalization



Colorado’s governor says that while federal marijuana legalization is the ultimate goal, incremental rescheduling and cannabis banking reform are important “dominoes” that could help pave the way. And he said his state continues to have “very strong conversations with the White House” about the need for policy change.

During a keynote speech at a National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) event in Denver on Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis (D) touted Colorado’s leadership in the cannabis legalization movement, adding that “we’ve been making continual progress” in the decade since its market launched.

“Through all of that, of course, we put equity at the center of our work,” he said. “We want to make sure that people who have been at the short end of the drug war for decades are first in line for the kinds of opportunities that come out of a rational, regulated structure.”

To that end, Polis announced at an earlier event organized by the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) on Thursday that the state’s Cannabis Business Office (CBO) is launching a pilot program called “Access to Experts” that will provide technical assistance, compliance guidance and more to social equity marijuana businesses.

He said that the services are especially necessary given the lack of cannabis industry access to such services from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) that are available to other traditional markets.

Polis also noted at the NCIA event he’s been at the “forefront of working with other governors to call for long overdue federal action on reclassifying marijuana.”

“Through the legalization of cannabis in Colorado, we put great regulations in place. It’s long past time that the federal government reclassify it,” he said. “Is there more that they can do after that? Of course. But let’s begin with the reclassification that will make our communities safer, expanding freedoms for people, reduce costs and taxes on cannabis businesses.”

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently reviewing cannabis scheduling after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended moving it from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

“I’ve also strongly been outspoken about federal legalization,” the governor said. “We continue to have very strong conversations with the White House, with members of the Senate and the House and the [Food and Drug Administration] on the importance of doing this now.”

He also noted his work to promote the passage of federal cannabis banking reform legislation, including a letter he led with 22 other governors urging congressional leaders to act on the bill.

“We’ll continue to do this until we get these pieces done,” he said. “It’s not going to happen at once, but we’re going to start like dominoes getting these changes to come into place so that we can better support, reduce the tax structure, remove impediments to capital formation from a legal cannabis industry in the states that have thriving cannabis sectors such as the state of Colorado.”

Polis also reflected on how he used to joke about not wanting other states to enact legalization because Colorado’s market benefitted from the additional out-of-state cannabis tourism.

“A lot of other states have” legalized marijuana since, he said. “So that means there’s less tourism, of course, and we’re a little bit less special—but we are going to continue to lead in this area and double down.”

Polis, advocates and industry stakeholders also marked the 10-year anniversary of adult-use cannabis sales in Colorado last December, with the governor saying his state “has developed one of the leading regulatory systems in the world and inspired countless others like it across the country and around the globe.”

The governor also frequently touts the economic benefits of legalization. And to that point, Colorado has seen more than $15 billion in legal marijuana sales since opening day a decade ago.

The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Council Staff (LCS) released a report in August showing that Colorado generated more tax revenue from cannabis than alcohol or cigarettes during the last fiscal year

Another key marker of the state’s regulatory success is the effectiveness of youth access restrictions, with the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) recently touting an ID verification compliance rate of 99 percent at the state’s cannabis businesses.

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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