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Axios' Mike Allen in conversation with Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI). Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Wednesday morning, Axios executive editor Mike Allen hosted a series of conversations exploring how cannabis and its extracts are shaping the future of health and wellness.

Why it matters: While cannabis is steadily making its way into the health and wellness mainstream, choppy state-dependent regulation has made it difficult for the industry to truly take off.

Beau Wrigley: Chairman and CEO, Surterra Wellness
Beau Wrigley, chairman and CEO of Surterra Wellness. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Wrigley, who is the chairman and CEO of Surterra Wellness — a rapidly growing health and wellness company focused on cannabis products — kicked off the program with a View From the Top segment led by Axios senior vice president Ali Rubin. Wrigley unpacked what he sees as the future of medical cannabis and how it could help mitigate some of America's most pressing health crises.

  • How cannabis can contribute to society: "It's a substance that allows for tremendous health benefits," he said referring to cannabis' ability to ameliorate epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety and sleep disorders. "It's about quality of life for people."
  • Cannabis as an alternative to opioids: “There are people who want to avoid chronic pain and use cannabis instead of opioids."
  • The industry's obstacles: "We're in an unusual regulatory environment. ... It's creating real challenges in the market place."
Benjamin Witte: Founder and CEO, Recess  
Ben Witte, CEO of Recess, in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Witte, whose company Recess makes drinks infused with CBD oil (a non-psychoactive compound made from hemp), sat down with Axios' Mike Allen to explain the mission of his company and how it taps into an "anxiety economy" spurred by our fast-paced, high-intensity world.

  • The future of CBD: "It will eventually become an everyday product ... like whey protein."
  • Why it matters: “It’s the macro feeling of our time — people feeling off-centered and anxious. ... I think of CBD as the caffeine of the 21st century and Recess as the Red Bull.”
  • The bipartisan support for hemp legalization: "Everyone wants this to happen. I bet my life on the Hemp Farming Act introduced by Mitch McConnell. ... [It] basically says we want hemp to be the future crop of America."
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, U.S. Virgin Islands
Rep. Stacey Plaskett in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Plaskett, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, explained what's holding Congress back from pushing cannabis legalization forward.

  • The role of her subcommittee in the legalization debate: "We’re trying to stay in our lanes so that we’re not bleeding into others. Legalization will be up to the judiciary."
  • Congress' concerns: “What you’re hearing from members is concern not about the benefits, but the long-term detriments. They have real concerns about that."
Rep. Dave Joyce, Ohio
Rep. Dave Joyce. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Joyce, who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, discussed who should oversee the regulation of cannabis and echoed Wrigley's perspective on the role it could play in combatting opioid abuse.

  • Why legalization should be a states' rights issue: “We need to have research done, we need to have regulations in place. States are doing that."
“If cannabis can relieve pain and be less addictive and start to solve the opioids problem, then god bless it, let’s go.”
— Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio)

Thank you Surterra Wellness for sponsoring this event.

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Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

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The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

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Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.