Aside from the obvious societal and legal implications, the proposal by Senators Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker to change marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug will also have financial ramifications. One of the difficulties in running a marijuana business is dealing with the IRS, still empowered to enforce IRC Code 280E. The code was created during the Reagan era to help in the administration’s War on Drugs and specifically prohibits the deduction of normal business expenses from any income derived through the sale of illegal drugs. This includes expenses such as rent and payroll and has resulted in tax rates for some marijuana businesses to approach 70 percent as opposed to a more-normal 30-35 percent. The CARERS Act removes marijuana from the illegal drug category in states with medical marijuana programs. This makes running a marijuana-based business in states with regulated programs more financially feasible and will allow such businesses to lower the amount they charge for their products, better enabling them to compete with back-alley sellers.
Another advantage could be the potential impact on interstate commerce. This legislation may eventually enable manufacturers and distributors to move their products across state lines. Currently, products sold within a state must be manufactured in that state, and with the elimination of that restraint, manufacturers could centralize production in a few facilities and ship geographically, potentially increasing their bottom line.
A third advantage is that patients may now have the ability to have their marijuana prescriptions covered by their health care plans. Health care providers may include medical marijuana as a covered treatment in the future and could potentially make the option more affordable for patients.
Lastly, the banking community has been reluctant to deal with marijuana businesses for fear of running afoul of federal anti-money laundering statutes. The proposed legislation should remove that fear and will enable marijuana business owners to enter into more normal banking relationships and also allow them access to capital and loans to grow their businesses.