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This Week in Cannabis (10/8): SAFE Banking and Washington v. Barr

It is the first full week of October in 2020, and it is certainly a big one for the cannabis industry. Today, our blog will talk about the inclusion of the SAFE banking act in a new round of COVID-19 stimulus as well as the upcoming oral arguments session for the groundbreaking cannabis lawsuit, Washington v. Barr.

There was big news in the fight for cannabis banking regulation late last week. On October 3rd the U.S. House of Representatives included the text of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in a broader COVID-19 business relief bill. The inclusion of this language is big news for both the Cannabis Industry and Financial Institutions nationwide who up to this point have not been able to receive money from the Cannabis Industry, with few exceptions for state chartered Credit Unions. While it remains to be seen if the Senate will pass the HEROES Act, which the SAFE Banking Act is a part of, the fact that The House considers this an important matter to legislate gives a boost to the future of the Cannabis Industry. Advocates for Cannabis banking reform say that allowing the Cannabis Industry to bank nationwide would cut down on the spread of COVID-19 through cash transactions, which could spread the virus.

The SAFE Banking Act being included in the HEROES Act isn’t the only big news in Cannabis this week. Tomorrow, September 9th, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear arguments in the Washington v. Barr appeals case. The plaintiffs have outlined an argument that claims the inclusion of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as a Schedule 1 narcotic is a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Washington v. Barr potentially has far reaching consequences with unclear outcomes even if successful. One potential outcome could be the removal of Cannabis from the CSA, which would then provide the first path to federal cannabis legalization since its prohibition began in 1937. Oregon Congressional Rep. Earl Blumenauer has submitted a 30-page amicus brief to go along with the plaintiffs’ case, which will be argued by Hiller PC, a New York City based firm. The case was first heard in Federal Appeals Court by the 2nd Circuit, who said the plaintiffs needed to exhaust all administrative avenues prior to seeking intervention from the courts. However, seeking administrative intervention from the DEA, who oversees the CSA, would probably result in a far worse result for medicinal cannabis patients. The DEA could reschedule cannabis to a schedule 2 narcotic, which would then require all cannabis products to meet FDA standards. Only time will tell what the highest court in the land will decide, but Washington v. Barr represents the first major legal challenge surrounding cannabis legalization of its kind. If it were to fail to achieve its goals, more cases would undoubtedly follow in its place to continue the fight towards legalization.

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