Forward step for cannabis banking legislation at federal level and more of the week’s top news (SLIDESHOW)

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A U.S. House committee advances an important marijuana banking bill, New Jersey cancels its adult-use vote, a beer behemoth reiterates that legal cannabis is hurting its sales – plus other important news from around the MJ space.

Cannabis banking bill could get a vote in US House within weeks

A key U.S. House panel passed a bill that would protect financial institutions that serve state-legal cannabis businesses.

The chair of the House Rules Committee predicted a successful full floor vote within weeks. But passing the measure in the Senate, or even getting the Senate to consider the bill, could mean tough sledding.

MJBizDaily takeaway: If the measure does pass and becomes law, cannabis-related companies would get relief from one of their most serious business burdens and have significantly better access to traditional banking services such as deposit accounts, electronic payment systems and loans to sustain operations and to expand.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

New Jersey lawmakers scrapped a scheduled vote to legalize adult-use cannabis after it became clear Gov. Phil Murphy couldn’t muster the support needed to pass the measure in the state Senate.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Potential cannabis business applicants continue their wait, but recreational legalization in the state is expected to come up for a vote later this year.

Murphy, in the meantime, wants to expand medical marijuana licenses, which will attract investors who are looking to position their MJ businesses for priority status in an eventual adult-use market.

Big Booze maven reiterates that legal MJ continues to hurt beer sales

Denver-based Molson Coors – the second-largest beer maker in North America – once again cautioned shareholders that rising cannabis legalization could continue to take a chunk out of its future profits.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Beer makers looking to shore up falling sales could increasingly pursue opportunities in cannabis to offset potential income losses from legal marijuana.

An example is Tilray, which formed a $100 million joint venture late last year with AB InBev to research infused drinks. Molson Coors itself has a joint venture already with licensed producer Hexo to develop and produce nonalcoholic cannabis-infused beverages.

Why is MMJ patient participation low in the Buckeye State?

News came out of Ohio that despite having roughy 20,000 residents registered as medical cannabis patients, fewer than a third of those have yet to buy any MMJ products since the state market launched in January.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The reasons for the disconnect between patient registration numbers and actual purchases remains somewhat murky, but some reports point to high prices and long drives for customers to dispensaries.

It’s important to remember that other states have seen MMJ sales slow to ramp up, such as New York, Minnesota and others.

Ohio likely remains a viable medical marijuana market overall – especially as regulators make adjustments to the law and the MMJ program, as they almost always do in new states that come online. But only time will tell as more dispensaries open in Ohio in 2019 to better serve patients.

Two steps forward, one back

It’s interesting to contrast differing banking news that hit this week in West Virginia and Florida.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a medical marijuana banking bill that will allow financial institutions in the state to bid on providing banking services related to the state’s MMJ program.

But SunTrust Bank in Tallahassee, Florida, revealed it was closing the account of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida on April 18.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Any moves to improve cannabis banking access are welcome, but short of federal action (click here for more on that topic), banks will remain leery of taking marijuana business customers, noted Rachel Gillette, head of the cannabis practice at the Greenspoon Marder law firm.

SunTrust’s move against the Florida MMJ association “highlights the urgency” of passing a federal banking bill, Gillette said.

Men hold almost all board seats in Canada’s top cannabis firms

Two dozen of the leading cannabis companies in Canada collectively employ only 11 women out of 154 board positions, and most – including the market leaders – have not disclosed written policies relating to the nomination of female directors.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Industry watchers say Canada’s market leaders ought to take steps to increase the number of women on their boards to enhance corporate performance and corporate social responsibility, since failing to do so will put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Guam approves legal footing for adult-use cannabis industry

Guam is about to become the second U.S. territory to create a recreational marijuana industry, after neighboring Northern Mariana Islands approved creation of an adult-use cannabis market last year.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Guam’s established tourism industry stands to benefit from adult-use cannabis tourism business opportunities. Given that companies are investing tens of millions of dollars into places such as Lesotho in Africa, expect Guam to see an influx of capital into business ventures in the near future – or after regulations are released in the coming year.

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