Feature Image

Cannabis Firms Band Together to Protect Legal Marijuana Industry

A group of marijuana firms have come together to form a national advocacy and lobbying organization to protect the rights of states to legalize cannabis.

A new cannabis advocacy group made up of marijuana firms aim to protect the United States’ legal marijuana industry. The New Federalism Fund (NFF), a non-partisan 501(c) 4 organization, was created to protect local regulatory systems for the legal cannabis market and ensure that all legal businesses are taxed fairly.

“As the President stated in his recent address to Congress, every problem facing our nation can be solved by working together,” NFF Chairman and spokesman Neal Levine said in a new release. “We agree and look forward to working together with the President and Congress to support and improve the legal framework for cannabis that promotes public safety, local economic development, and our federalist system.”

Levine is also the senior vice president of government affairs at the Denver-based dispensary LivWell Enlightened Health, one of the founding members of the NFF.

The NFF plans to work closely with lawmakers in Washington D.C. to ensure they understand the structure of the legal cannabis industry and how it brings help to countless patients while removing the criminal and international cartel market. The coalition also intends to educate key decision makers on the industry’s economic, job creation and tax revenue benefits.

While marijuana remains federally classified as a Schedule I substance, 28 U.S. states and Washington D.C. have legalized it for medical purposes and eight states plus Washington D.C. have passed laws allowing for recreational use. The Obama administration opted for a hands-off approach, allowing states to implement cannabis measures without federal interference.

There’s concern among cannabis advocates and businesses owners that things may change under the Trump administration. Newly-confirmed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a vocal opponent to legal cannabis, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last month alluded to “greater enforcement” of federal law at a press conference. A federal crackdown would jeopardize billions in revenue and thousands of jobs.

“Marijuana isn’t going anywhere. Someone is going to sell it. So the question is, do we want regulated and compliant businesses who check IDs and pay their taxes to do that, or drug dealers? We want our elected officials to know that a regulated cannabis industry is the best way to stop the illegal drug trade will growing our local economies,” said Levine. “Local control over regulated commerce just makes sense. It’s a building block of federalism for good reason.”

In addition to ensuring the current industry can continue to operate in states that have passed cannabis laws without interference from the federal government, the advocacy group will also work with Congress and the Trump administration to promote actions to allow for businesses to openly bank. The coalition also wants to help reform the 280E section of the federal tax code, which disallows deductions and credits on income generated from sales of controlled substances.

“We’re not getting involved in a federal legalization debate,” Levine told The Cannabist. “We are focusing on the federalism aspect of an unfair tax policy.”

Learn more about the current cannabis laws in the U.S. by visiting our education page.