A congressman from Northern California introduced a bill this week to allow struggling small cannabis farmers to ship their products nationally direct to consumers once marijuana is legalized at the federal level.
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman of California’s second congressional district announced the Small and Homestead Independent Producers (SHIP) Act, which his office said is “specifically targeted to support the smallest family farmers.”
“Under my bill, folks in our state will be able to ship their products straight to consumers when the antiquated federal prohibition on cannabis is finally repealed,” Huffman said in a statement. “As large, commercial cannabis operations squeeze out local producers from the market, this legislation is critical for farmers to survive and expand their small businesses.”
However, that dichotomy – market competition between smaller craft growers and larger commercial operators – may be why there wasn’t much celebration this week from most national cannabis reform groups.
Almost none of the major trade organizations issued statements about Huffman’s bill, compared to the flurry of statements and activity created by other congressional bills such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace’s States Reform Act, or U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act.
Federal cannabis lobbyists generally agree most marijuana-related bills don’t face much chance of becoming law in the near future, with the possible exception of SAFE Banking.
However, a spokesman for the U.S. Cannabis Council wrote in an email to Green Market Report that while the organization doesn’t have a formal position on the SHIP Act, “We welcome all substantive engagement on cannabis reform by members of Congress.”
Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, expressed solid support for the bill, and wrote in an email that the SHIP Act is “important legislation which will help to level the playing field for the craft cannabis businesses at the heart of our industry.”
“It’s imperative that Main Street Cannabis businesses can flourish in the post-prohibition era and cannabis isn’t entirely dominated by Wall Street,” Smith wrote. “Passage of the SHIP Act is one step Congress needs to take to make that vision a reality.”
The bill is “an incremental step in the right direction,” Sam Rodriguez, vice president of the board of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, wrote in an email.
But the SHIP Act was particularly hailed by several industry groups that represent small marijuana farmers in California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine, many of whom have been advocating for years for interstate cannabis commerce.
“The direct-to-consumer model is a necessary resource for any small-scale craft-producing community that is deeply tied to the land on which it creates — whether it produces wine, whiskey, cheese, beer, cannabis, or honey,” said Genine Coleman, executive director of the California-based Origins Council, in the release.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) also threw its weight behind the bill. In an email, MPP Director of Government Relations Chris Lindsey said Huffman’s move is “encouraging” because the SHIP ACT would “help ensure that small businesses will play a serious role in the industry.”
“The SHIP Act addresses an area of particular concern for members of the reform community, and that is the prospect of larger businesses controlling too much of their own state’s cannabis markets once businesses can sell products across state lines,” Lindsey wrote.
Still, at the recent Cannabis Expo in the Hamptons in New York this past August, one speaker expressed displeasure at the idea. He said he believed New York would fight it. The speaker said he felt the state had invested too much money in helping the cultivators and farmers to be undercut by cheap product from California. He also noted that interstate marijuana commerce would lead to huge grow operations in a handful of states with low costs of production, which could kill other cultivation jobs that many states were proud of creating. This position is often professed in private and shows that interstate commerce could face major opposition from entrenched interests within the industry.
The Origins Council represents small cannabis farmers across Northern and Central California, and other backers of the measure include the Humboldt Country Growers Alliance, F.A.R.M.S. Inc, Washington Sun & Craft Growers Association, Vermont Growers Association, Maine Craft Cannabis Association, Farm Bug Co-Op, Big Sur Farmers Association, Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, Trinity County Agricultural Alliance, and the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, according to the release.
It was also endorsed by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy, the first such endorsement that the organization has lent to any federal marijuana bill.
The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, another staunch cannabis ally in Congress.
Debra Borchardt contributed to this report.