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Cannabis Legislation Introduced in Congress

The legislation would prevent criminal prosecution and civil liability against agents and brokers who choose to engage with cannabis-related legitimate businesses.
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cannabis legislation introduced in congress

As of press time, Big “I"-supported cannabis-related legislation was expected to be introduced today in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The Big “I" supports federal legislation that creates a “safe harbor" for agents and brokers who, of their own accord, choose to do business with cannabis-related legitimate businesses. Any such legislation would protect Big “I" members from criminal and civil liability.

In the House, Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) introduced the “Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act". The legislation attempts to reconcile federal law with conflicting cannabis-related state laws by providing a federal “safe harbor" to financial services providers including insurers and agents and brokers.

The legislation would prevent criminal prosecution and civil liability against agents and brokers who choose to engage with “cannabis-related legitimate businesses." It would also provide clarity for transactions involving these businesses.

Under current federal law, the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal, except for some limited research purposes. However, at the state level, all but a handful of states permit medical marijuana use in some capacity and several states now allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

The Big “I," along with its industry partners, worked diligently to include the insurance protections in the SAFE Banking Act and is pleased with this step towards legal clarity for agents and brokers. A group of insurance trade associations sent a letter of support to the bill's cosponsors thanking them for including needed clarity for insurance transactions related to cannabis that are otherwise permissible under state law.

Additionally, another cannabis-related piece of legislation was expected to be introduced in both the Senate and House today. The “Clarifying Law Around Insurance Marijuana (CLAIM) Act", sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) in the Senate and Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) in the House, would prevent federal criminal prosecution of insurers and civil liability for agents, brokers and insurers, as well as their officers, directors or employees.

This legislation would also help consumers who may have direct or indirect contact with state-legalized cannabis businesses to access insurance products and services and utilize the protections they offer and enable agents and brokers to comply with state statutory and regulatory requirements.

The Big “I" again joined with the insurance industry to send a letter of support to Capitol Hill for the CLAIM Act. The letter thanked the legislation's cosponsors for offering a comprehensive solution that provides legal certainty for the insurance market while also preserving the states' traditional role in regulating the business of insurance.

As any cannabis-related legislation makes its way through Congress, we will continue to provide members with updates in the weekly News & Views e-newsletter.

Wyatt Stewart is Big “I" assistant vice president of federal government affairs.

Thursday, March 18, 2021
On the Hill