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The American Cannabinoid Association

2021 : A Year In Review For The Cannabis Industry

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, people have tended to lament 2021 as if it were a repeat of 2020. While that may be true outside of the industrial hemp and commercial marijuana industries, it was, once again, a landmark year for cannabis, as I thought that it might be.  

In many ways, 2021 was set to be a banner year for cannabis. The industry’s mood was broadly optimistic heading into 2021. The Democrats sweep of the 2020 electoral cycle brought into reach the possibility of federal legalization. Now, while legalization has long been touted as a Democrat-focused policy, I have always disputed that fact. The reality is well characterized by my friend and colleague, Chris Roberts. Ultimately, those high hopes concerning legalization were tempered as 2021 yet again delivered a mix of progress and frustration from a policy perspective.   

The federal government moved forward with providing frameworks for the allowance of the research of cannabinoids and other cannabis-derived compounds through the Medical Marijuana Research Act (introduced Oct. 2021), and the Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act.

But In Legislation

In terms of federal policy advancement and reform, we saw the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act pass the House of Representatives for the fifth time, and actually be included in more sweeping legislation indicative of the fact that cannabis policy issues are not relegated to second-class status in terms of policy debate. Yet, it once again, stalled in the U.S. Senate for a variety of reasons that highlight the differentiated policy approaches to cannabis embraced by republicans and democrats. The SAFE Banking Act does indeed have a chance in 2022, so long as it happens before the full onslaught of midterm election campaigning begins. It may already be too late.      

We also saw influential D.C. politicians carve out their piece of the federal cannabis reform pie with the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act; the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity (CAOA) Act; and, Nancy Mace’s Republican cannabis reform bill. While all these bills were effectively dead-on-arrival, the fact that both sides of the aisle are staking claim to issues of import in the cannabis reform debate is not only encouraging, it is significant. Cannabis leadership from the White House is what’s needed to see movement. Given the aforementioned midterm elections, it’s unlikely this will happen in 2022.

States Supporting Passage

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