The door is wide open for marijuana legalization at a federal level, now that the Biden administration has reached the halfway point of its first year with an increasingly favorable Congress on cannabis. Legalization, in turn, will lead to more research and advancements in this industry.
During an unPACKed with Healthcare Packaging podcast earlier this year, Healthcare Packaging Director of Editorial Content Keren Sookne predicted that efforts will ramp up mid-2021 based on House of Representative actions at the close of 2020.
“The House passed the MORE Act, which was really historic in that it was written to remove cannabis entirely from the Controlled Substance Act,” Sookne explained, calling the move the most significant step forward that we’ve seen on a federal level. She added that it initially lost momentum when the Senate adjourned for the year, but she expected Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to make legalization a priority in the summer. Whether Sookne had inside knowledge or simply read the tea leaves correctly as an industry expert Schumer announced July 14 that ending the federal prohibition on marijuana was a top priority.
“I am the first majority leader to say it’s time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana, and as majority leader, I’m going to push this issue forward and make it a priority for the Senate,” Schumer said. The bold statement came less than 24-hours after he introduced a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act and co-sponsors Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The act would lift the 84-year federal ban on cannabis and allow compliant cannabis businesses access to financial services such as bank accounts and loans.
On the unPACKed podcast, Sookne pointed to the lack of access to loans and financial backing as one of the main reasons wealthy corporations dominate cannabis businesses in states where adult or medicinal use is currently legal.
“There’s still lots of predatory investors, unsolved applications and really high tax rates. All of these factors contribute to a lack of success in promoting minority-owned [or small to medium size] cannabis business ownership,” she explains.
The more significant issue, which Sookne believes most Americans are unaware of, is that the lack of federal legalization significantly hampers research and advancements in medicinal marijuana. Historically, all marijuana research in the U.S. comes from a small handful of universities.
“[As consumers and potential patients], we have been hampered by the fact that companies and growers have created such amazing products, and we have not been able to test those on diseases and illnesses yet,” she explains. “Once we make it easier to expedite research applications and grant easier access to cannabis for researchers, everything is going to improve in terms of our medical research.”
As cannabis opportunities increase and legislation restrictions decrease, companies will need proper packaging and education to ensure their products reach targeted consumers, whether for medicinal or recreational use.
New technologies, solutions and education addressing the changing landscape of cannabis packaging will be on display at PACK EXPO Las Vegas co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO 2021 (Sept. 27-29, Las Vegas Convention Center) where the packaging and processing community will reunite. With over 1,500 exhibitors, no other event in 2021 will bring together a more comprehensive gathering of suppliers offering new products, technologies and solutions. It’s where executives and plant managers, engineers, brand managers and packaging designers come to see machinery in action, connect with suppliers, network and gain the latest perspective on a plethora of industries in over 40 vertical markets. The two shows will bring attendees and suppliers of packaging equipment and materials together. To learn more about the advanced packaging solutions that will be on display as well as the educational, networking opportunities and the virtual component of the show, and to register, visit http://www.packexpolasvegas.com. Visit the show website for information on the PACK Ready health and safety plan.