Congressional panel urged to support states-rights marijuana legislation

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The head of a cannabis industry lobbying group urged U.S. Congressional lawmakers Wednesday to pass legislation to protect state-legal marijuana businesses and resolve the “untenable” conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

Neal Levine, chief executive officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation, called the current situation a “frustrating dichotomy” that creates a hazardous cash-only industry and saddles MJ businesses with higher taxes.

He said he believed the STATES Act, which would protect state-legal businesses from federal interference, would best resolve the current conflict.

Levine emphasized how the industry is a “driver of economic growth and tax revenue.”

He cited the 2019 Marijuana Business Factbook‘s projection that state-legal businesses will generate more than $12 billion in retail sales this year.

Levine’s comments came as a key U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a landmark hearing about cannabis reform.

“Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform” is believed to be the first congressional hearing in the context of ending the federal prohibition on cannabis.

Much of the hearing focused on the need for marijuana reform to address the impact of the war on drugs on African Americans and other minorities.

Levine stressed his federation’s effort to come up with social equity solutions to diversify the cannabis industry but acknowledged that the current industry isn’t diverse.

“There’s growing consensus current marijuana laws are not appropriate and we must consider reforms,” subcommittee chair Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, said in her introductory remarks.

Tom McClintock, a Republican from California, noted growing bipartisan support for reform.

Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, is expected to introduce his own marijuana legislation.

It’s unclear, however, whether Nadler’s panel also will embrace the STATES Act.

Jeff Smith can be reached at