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EXCLUSIVE: Why Rep. David Joyce Says 'Education Is The Key' To Cannabis Reform

What does the future hold for the cannabis industry in legislative terms?

Benzinga · 09/13/2022 15:15

What does the future hold for the cannabis industry in legislative terms?

“We've made tremendous progress and I like to say we're getting closer and closer,” U.S. Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, said Tuesday at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago.

As co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Joyce is fighting for federal cannabis reform. Joyce’s efforts were honored this year with the Benzinga Cannabis Friend of the Industry Award

‘Losing The War On Drugs'

What drew Joyce to the marijuana industry and legislation fight was his experience working as a prosecutor, he said, adding that he quickly realized “we were losing the war on drugs.”

“Here we have now 47 states and districts where you actually have cannabis legal in some way, shape, or form. Yet, federally, we're still treating it as though it was fentanyl, or even worse, you know, opium. And, so we need to change,” Joyce told Brady Cobb, founder and CEO of Sunburn Cannabis, at the conference. 

According to Joyce, states should be allowed to do the things they are doing right now, but it is important to get the federal government out of the way, to create an industry where the cannabis business is honored by the tax system and the banking system.

To accomplish this, and to fashion the bills that can actually pass, it is crucial to listen to the other side, he said. 

Optimistic Outlook

John Sullivan, executive vice president of vertically integrated multistate cannabis operator Cresco Labs (OTC:CRLBF), said, “for the first time though I have to say I am optimistic about the outlook.”

What makes it an exciting time for the cannabis industry in the terms of legislation progress, for Sullivan, is seeing senators, both Republicans and Democrats, “actually talking about getting something done.”

“There's a broad base recognition that some of the more moderate additions like CLIMB and HOPE are palatable to both sides,” he said, adding that, “Republicans and Democrats are gonna agree if cannabis is legal in a state now that people with nonviolent offenses should have those offenses, expunged from the record. They should be able to work in the industry.”

In December 2021, Joyce and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, introduced the bipartisan Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act that would set up a State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program via the DOJ.

As for the the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Actm it was introduced in June 2022, by Rep. Troy A. Carter (D-LA) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA).

The piece of legislation aims to provide many benefits to the challenging cannabis industry, including one that would allow listing on national securities exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. 

The bill’s introduction came on the heels of the Senate's rejecting the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act for the sixth time. The SAFE Banking Act aims to protect financial institutions that wish to provide their services to state-legal marijuana businesses.

Education Is Crucial, But Taxes Help

Joyce further highlighted the importance of education to move the legislative process forward. He shared how U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican who has been known to oppose any cannabis-related progress, came on board as one of the co-sponsors of the Medical Marijuana Research Act after Joyce explain to him the problems around cannabis research.

“Education, I think, is the key,” Joyce said.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and 2H Media via Unsplash.