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Cannabis News

Every week there is a lot that goes on in the world of cannabis, and sometimes it can be a little hard to keep up with. The Cannabis Catch Up is a weekly series that collates some of the most important news in cannabis from throughout the week and puts it all in one place.

This week, big news came out of New Zealand as the Government revealed their cannabis legalization bill which will be put to a vote next year. Brazil announced that the country will allow the importation of medical cannabis, hemp banking protocols were eased across America and a federal agency revealed people with minor drug convictions will be allowed to work at credit unions. Read on to catch up on the biggest cannabis news from the past week! 

New Zealand Government reveals cannabis legalization bill 

Cannabis could possibly be legalized within New Zealand next year if it gains a majority vote. A cannabis legalization bill will be the subject of a voter referendum next year.

 Earlier this week, the New Zealand Government released a draft bill stating that “The Government is publishing a draft Bill at this point to ensure that New Zealanders are informed about the direction being taken and the decisions that have been made to date,” 

If more than 50 percent of voters approve the legislation, the incoming government will have to legalize cannabis for adult use across the country which is huge!

The draft bill proposes to set an age limit of 20 to purchase cannabis products, it requires all cannabis to be consumed within private residences and licensed facilities, it would mandate investments in public health education campaigns, place restrictions on advertising and create a licensing scheme for cannabis businesses. 

In terms of possession limits, individuals will be allowed to purchase up to 14 grams of cannabis per day and cultivate two plants for personal use. 

The reason for the early release of the draft bill is to provide the nation with the opportunity to participate in the way the shaping of the bill. Justice Minister Andrew Little said in a press release that “by making the referendum questions and the initial draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill available early the intention is to encourage public awareness and discussion.” 

A recent poll revealed that the majority of New Zealanders are actually opposed to legalizing cannabis with 49% against it and 43% supporting the policy change. The percentage of people in support of the change has grown since a poll taken earlier in the year, so hopefully by the time the vote comes around it has grown even more. 

The two main objectives of the bill are to firstly “minimize harms associated with cannabis” and to reduce the rates of cannabis consumption through education programs. Additionally, the intention is to eliminate the black market which will reduce the prison population and the risks associated with purchasing cannabis from the black market. 

We will be eagerly awaiting the results of the vote and bidding for the legalization of cannabis for New Zealand. 

Brazil allows the importation of medical cannabis and the cultivation of industrial hemp 

The Brazilian pharmaceutical regulator, Anvisa, approved regulations for the importation of medicinal cannabis-based products although in a separate vote blocked a proposal to allow the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. 

The approved guidelines allow the procedures for manufacturing and importing such products and requirements for prescription, sale and supervision. 

A spokesperson stated that products chosen to be imported should be semi-finished raw material and not the actual cannabis plant itself. 

Once the new laws are published in the country’s official gazette, the new regulations will officially come into law 90 days after. 

Although it is only a small step in the wider scheme of cannabis legalization, it does demonstrate a major shift in the country’s approach to drug laws for a country that has significantly suffered from deadly drug violence. 

Anvisa said that cannabis-based products will only be available for sale in registered pharmacies with a prescription. 

Hemp banking protocols eased following the crop’s legalization 

Federal financial regulatory agencies issued a statement on Tuesday updating banks on the requirements for providing financial services to hemp-related businesses. 

The statement emphasised that banks are no longer required to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) for customers solely because they are involved in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

The statement also mentioned that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) will issue additional guidelines after further reviewing and evaluating the USDA interim final rule. 

Prior to the legalization of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, financial institutions were required to file suspicious activity reports for any account associated with the crop as it was listed as a schedule I controlled substance. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a leader in hemp legalization, stated that “…these new banking guidelines are an important step toward giving hemp businesses the certainty they need. The work doesn’t stop here, however, and more must be done to make sure hemp businesses are treated fairly and allowed to fully realize the legal crop’s potential in our state and nationwide.” 

The American Bankers Association (ABA) responded to the updated requirements for hemp-related clients, stating that the regulators’ hemp move has been “long sought” by the financial services industry. They went onto state, “we appreciate the steps regulators have taken today to clarify regulatory expectations for banks, and we look forward to working with them as they develop additional guidance.” 

This has since sparked more conversation on the matter of cannabis-related business access to banking. As cannabis is still listed as a schedule I drug under federal law, financial institutions are still required to file SARs for cannabis businesses. 

Although, if the cannabis banking bill is passed through the Senate, it’s likely that financial services would eventually see a similar update on SAR reporting guidance for cannabis companies. 

Federal agency allows people with minor drug convictions to work at credit unions 

A federal agency has stated that people with minor convictions for simple drug possession should be allowed to work at credit unions so long as they meet certain criteria.

Following the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board’s proposed changes to its employment guidance back in July, the NCUA stated on Monday that these changes will be formally enacted. 

Stating that “While not discounting the public health implications of illegal drug use and possession, the Board continues to believe covered persons with single convictions or program entries for simple drug possession pose minimal risk to insured credit unions.” 

The changes will come into effect on January 2, 2020. 

With a federal agency recognising the lingering negative impact of cannabis prohibition, choosing to put an end to it in the context of credit unions is a massive step forward and a giant leap away from cannabis prohibition. 

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