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Mitch McConnell Meets with Top Cannabis Execs in California

MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto, Getty Images Cannabis industry executives will try and convince Sen. Mitch McConnell that hemp producers interested in CBD are unfairly hurt by current banking laws.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime opponent of reforming marijuana laws, is spending more time than usual thinking about cannabis on a trip to California this week.

McConnell is attending at least two days’ worth of meetings with cannabis industry executives, small-business owners and advocates in Southern California, in order to discuss potential cannabis-related banking reform, among other topics, according to people familiar with the matter. McConnell’s schedule includes two cannabis-related lunches with executives and advocates, one of which will take place in Newport Beach, Calif., and a tour of at least one cannabis-related company in the area.

It was not immediately clear whether McConnell’s California Wednesday and Thursday schedule signals a shift in his thinking about cannabis banking reform, the people said. McConnell’s Washington office did not respond to several requests for comment.

“I think this is absolutely positive that McConnell is meeting with stakeholders in the cannabis market,” PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg told MarketWatch over the phone. “The U.S. market needs the banking act to flourish, without it — there are legitimate companies that are following the rules that are facing major obstacles. Banking legislation would be a huge positive catalyst.”

The cannabis industry representatives will attempt to convince McConnell that reform is necessary because the current legal regime unfairly penalizes businesses that obey federal laws, such as hemp farmers producing the crop for legal CBD products, according to a person familiar with the lobbying strategy.

“We’re happy to see that Leader McConnell is coming to see how a regulated market is an improvement over prohibition,” National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith told MarketWatch in an interview. “Right now the priority is banking, which affects [McConnell’s] constituents in the hemp and CBD industry, as well as legal cannabis businesses here in California. That’s really our primary ask — common-sense policies around banking and public safety, and we’re hopeful [McConnell] will see the need for that and move forward along with Chairman [Sen. Mike] Crapo.”

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Max A. Cherney on MarketWatch

Published: October 10, 2019

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