Statement of the Honorable Nicole “Nikki” Fried
U.S. House Committee on Small Business
Hearing on Cannabis Industry
June 19, 2019
Chairwoman Velázquez, Ranking Member Chabot, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to address the extraordinary impact upon which the emerging cannabis industry can have on American small businesses.
For more than 70 years, American entrepreneurs, farmers, and businesses have been denied the boundless economic opportunities presented by cannabis. With the reclassification of hemp as an agricultural commodity per the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, many tens of billions in economic potential have now been unlocked for businesses of all sizes.
With more than 25,000 known uses including fibers, biocomposite building materials such as hempcrete, biodegradable paper products and plastic substitutes, and food and medical products including CBD, cannabis represents a green industrial revolution with hundreds of thousands of potential jobs in growing, processing, manufacturing, and retailing of cannabis products.
While 46 states have legalized cannabis for either medical or recreational use, there remain several crucial roles in which the federal government can either impede or facilitate the explosive growth of the legal cannabis industry — growth that is projected to outpace the fast-growing technology and healthcare sectors in coming years.
Conflicting guidance from the federal government has led to unnecessary hurdles and higher levels of risk for legally-operating businesses in this emerging market. Rural communities, veterans, people of color, and small businesses have much to gain from cannabis business growth — yet may risk jeopardizing federal benefits they may receive, such as veterans benefits or federal loans, should the federal government crack down on cannabis enterprises otherwise legal under state laws.
Relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration, are strongly encouraged to revisit federal policies and regulations that run counter to the entrepreneurial growth of cannabis taking place across America.
In addition, the absence of traditional banking services forces state-licensed businesses to resort to all-cash operations, which is both inefficient and a public safety concern. Businesses cannot operate proficiently with irregularities restricting their growth, stability, and the ability to pay bills and expenses. This is an issue impacting our state and national economy.
This is why I strongly support the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act(H.R. 2215). Lack of access to an efficient and safe banking system, and traditional loans and capital markets, puts legally-operating cannabis businesses at a crippling disadvantage. Without Congressional action, continued confusion and misinformation regarding cannabis could discourage financial institutions from partnering with businesses on this promising new commodity.
As Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, and in my previous work as an advocate for cannabis and medical marijuana, I come from an unconventional background for the position – one which has led me to seek innovation for our state’s economy. This pivotal moment in our nation’s economic history requires our members of Congress to seek that same spirit of innovation.
America’s emerging cannabis industry has the potential to lift up every community from coast to coast. After seven decades of lost opportunities, now is the time for Congress and our federal government to empower small businesses and embrace the economic revolution of cannabis that puts American jobs, families, and livelihoods first.