National Cannabis Industry Lobbies Fight for Equal Rights

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The National Cannabis Industry Association, the first organization dedicated to lobby Congress on behalf of the cannabis industry for medical marijuana, swarmed Capitol Hill for the first time March 30 with Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) at the forefront.

“This is not an industry looking for special treatment but an industry looking to be treated on par with other small businesses,” Polis said. “We in Congress need to ensure that this industry can access banking, be treated like any other business under the tax code and has regulations to ensure the safety and efficiency of the market.”

In a Washington, D.C. news conference, the organization joined the congressman and supporters to provide details about their self-proclaimed $1.7 billion industry. According to The State of the Medical Marijuana Markets 2011 report, California and Colorado rule the market for medical marijuana.

Within five years, the industry projects it will gross $8.9 billion nationwide. Nine more states and Washington, D.C. have medical marijuana laws or are “forming active markets.”

The organization’s main goal is to fight for equality and to be “treated like other businesses,” said Steve Fox, director of public affairs for the organization.

At the core of the complaints is Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, which they say makes it hard for those who run cannabis dispensaries to deduct business expenses on their taxes.

Section 280E bars deductions for any business dealing in controlled substances. And while marijuana is recognized in a growing number of states for its medical applications, the federal government still considers it a controlled substance.

"This is a serious and legitimate concern for individuals who are considering applying for one of the licenses in the district,” Fox said. “They could end up taxed by the Federal government at a level that’s not equal to what another business has.”

Association Executive Director Aaron Smith said in a statement that the group would oppose those lobbying against medical marijuana industries and continue to fight for equal business rights.

“All indications point to significant expansion of this sector of the U.S. economy in the years to come and the National Cannabis Industry Association was formed to provide the industry with a voice on the national state alongside other legitimate business interests,” Smith said.

For more information about the organization, go to http://www.thecannabisindustry.org/.

To read more about the IRS code, go to http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/Issues/2007/Oct/taxmatters.htm.