By Chase Difeliciantonio

The keynote speakers at the North Bay Business Journal’s 2019 North Coast Cannabis Industry Conference focused on California and national issues, illuminating the status of cannabis on Capitol Hill as well as consumer sentiment in the Golden State.

Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, noted at the Tuesday conference in Santa Rosa that there is much more federal legislative activity on cannabis than when his group, which advocates for marijuana policy reform, first started almost a decade ago.

“There was one piece of cannabis legislation in Congress when we started,” Smith said. “Now there are dozens.”

He highlighted two pieces of federal legislation: The STATES Act would take marijuana off the federal schedule of illegal drugs and provide some banking protection for the industry. The SAFE Banking Act would carve out an exemption to money laundering law and controlled substances legislation for financial institutions doing business with the cannabis industry.

Smith said a third bill, the Marijuana Justice Act which addresses social justice issues around marijuana prohibition, adding he expected a compromise between those provisions and the STATES Act to be signed into law.

Rounding out the morning keynote portion was Tamar Maritz, director of business development at BDS Analytics. She focused on consumer trends in the industry and the impact of state regulations.

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