Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) on Thursday sent a letter to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Martin Gruenberg asking for clarification on what guidance the FDIC provides to banks who offer financial services to marijuana-related businesses, and what role, if any, the FDIC played in M Bank’s decision to abruptly suspend operations in Colorado.
Last week, M Bank publically announced it would offer banking services to marijuana businesses in Colorado, only to abruptly reverse course a week later. A Denver Post article from January 26 cites industry insiders familiar with the situation claiming that the FDIC stepped in to warn M Bank executives that their actions were "too risky."
If this assertion is accurate, Rep. Blumenauer, who founded a marijuana working group in Congress, is demanding answers as to why this is the case.
Blumenauer is leading the effort in Congress to reform our outdated federal marijuana laws, which includes banking regulations.
"Having the FDIC clarify how it assesses risk and gives guidance, and how that aligns with guidance given by the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Treasury, is important if we’re going to have a stable and transparent financial system that provides much needed banking services to marijuana businesses," Blumenauer said.
Bill introduced with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana
A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.
HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six marijuana plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 in New Hampshire, which is the only state left in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
"Criminalizing someone for possessing a small amount of marijuana causes far more harm than marijuana itself,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting the bill. "A criminal record can prevent someone from accessing employment, an education, and even a home.”
By Steve Elliott
Oregon voters -- a whopping 56 percent of them -- approved Measure 91, which legalized marijuana, up to half a pound of it at home. But now Gov. John Kitzhaber has apparently decided he knows better than voters, and on Tuesday he indicated me might ask the Legislature to set lower limits.
Kitzhaber claimed he had "many concerns" about the voter-approved initiative, questioning the logic of allowing adults to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis at home yet just one ounce in public, reports Jeff Mapes at The Oregonian.
"The amount you can actually grow in a home-grow operation seems to me to exceed the amount that you're supposed to have legally," Kitzhaber said. "I don't know how you enforce that."
Kitzhaber did not say what kinds of possession limits he'd like to see.
Possession limits were deliberately set higher at home to allow adults to grow their own marijuana and make concentrates and edibles, according to backers of Measure 91.
"Just like home brewing of beer and the home making of wine, you need to have reasonable rules for personal cultivators and hobbyists who want to produce their own marijuana," said Anthony Johnson, chairman of New Approach Oregon, which sponsored the 2014 initiative.
By Steve Elliott
Legalized marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States, according to a new report.
The legal cannabis industry expanded 74 percent during 2014, according to the study, from California-based research and investment firm ArcView Market Research, report Chris Oberholtz and Josh Marshall at KCTV.
The market grew from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion in 2014 in combined retail and wholesale sales, according to the data, published in the company's third edition of the "State of Legal Marijuana Markets."
Five states -- California, Colorado, Washington, Arizona and Michigan -- now have cannabis markets greater than $100 million, according to the report.
"In the last year, the rise of the cannabis industry went from an interesting cocktail conversation to being taken seriously as the fastest growing industry in America," said Troy Dayton, ArcView Group CEO. "At this point, it's hard to imagine that any serious businessperson who is paying attention hasn't spent some time thinking about the possibilities in this market."
Colorado became the "new epicenter of the industry" as the first active adult use market, according to ArcView, and recorded $805 million total combined retail and wholesale sales.
By Steve Elliott
It's time for the National Football League to take a more modern approach to marijuana, according to three former Super Bowl champion players who wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post on Monday.
Marvin Washington, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Scott Fujita wrote that "many former and current NFL players use or have used marijuana to treat pain associated with injuries sustained on the field," reports Cindy Boren at The Washington Post.
"There is a compelling body of research showing that marijuana can help treat pain and brain injuries," the players wrote. They are asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league to change policies on cannabis.
"First and foremost, the NFL should allocate financial resources to advance medical research on the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating brain injuries," the players wrote. "In the case of trauma, a lot of inflammation occurs, which affects cognitive functioning and neural connectivity.
"A compound in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD) has shown scientific potential to be an antioxidant and neuroprotectant for the brain," the players wrote. "In a sport where closed head injuries are common, the league should be doing everything it can to help keep their players healthy during and after their careers.
By Steve Elliott
Hashish growers in Lebanon's cannabis-rich Bekaa Valley say they are ready to join the fight against Islamic militant group ISIS.
The Lebanese army and the hash growers -- who formerly trained their weapons on each other -- now have a common enemy, because ISIS has been targeting marijuana crops in Syria, reports Rebecca Collard at PRI. The group recently posted a video online of ISIS militants destroying shoulder-tall stalks of cannabis near the city of Aleppo.
With the Bekaa Valley hashish factory of Ali Nasri Shamas in Bouday, Lebanon, just 30 minutes from the Syrian border, that's a big concern. Many area residents fear the wild-eyed jihadis, known for their practice of beheading opponents in online videos, are coming to the valley.
But Shamas said he's ready if they do. "This is for ISIS and [the Al-Qaeda-affiliated] Nusra Front," he said, showing off a two-foot long machete.
That's not the extent of his arsenal, in case you're wondering. He also has mounted machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, all originally bought to defend his crops from the Lebanese army -- but now ready to be turned against ISIS.
When ISIS militants attacked a border village between Bouday and the Syrian border back in October, hash farmers joined in to defend it. "When we heard they were attacking Brital, I joined the other men going to defend the village," said one man who asked to be called Abbas.
By Steve Elliott
The recent announcement from the United States federal government that it won't stop Native American tribes from growing and selling marijuana is a game-changer. In February, the subject will be the focus of a groundbreaking national conference focusing on legalization in Indian country.
Tribal leaders, executives, entrepreneurs and health and social work professionals -- along with law enforcement personnel -- will be on hand to examine the legal, political and social policy implications of the change, reports Indian Country Today Media Network.
The conference will be held Friday, February 27, at the Tulalip Resort Casino in Quil Ceda Village, Washington. Odawi Law PLLC and Harris Moure, PLLC are the co-sponsors of the event to help "leaders in Indian country fully understand the wide-ranging issues associated with embarking on the development of tribal marijuana legislation and considerations of commercial marijuana cultivation, manufacture and distribution in tribal jurisdictions,” according to a press release.
By Steve Elliott
Big Brother is watching you. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has started a huge national license plate tracking program, and civil liberties advocates are not happy.
The DEA disclosed very few details, reports Bennett Stein at the American Civil Liberties Union, according to new documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The National License Plate Recognition program connects DEA license plate reading technology with that of other law enforcement agencies around the United States. The program, which already exists and has existed since 2008, but the DEA has provided very limited information to the public on the program's goals, capabilities and policies.
The ACLU in 2012 filed public records information requests in 38 states and Washington, D.C., seeking information about the use of automatic license plate readers. The organization's July 2013 report, "You Are Being Tracked," found that technology was being rapidly adopted, all too often with very little attention paid to the privacy risks.
In addition to filing public records requests with state agencies, the ACLU also filed FOIA requests with federal agencies, including the DEA. The new DEA records received by the ACLU this month are heavily redacted and incomplete, but they also provide the most complete picture yet of the DEA's burgeoning database.
FAIR Act Would Eliminate Department of Justice Program that Enables State and Local Police to Keep Proceeds of Property Seized from Citizens
Momentum Builds in Congress for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Days after Attorney General Holder Issues Policy Limiting Police Participation in Controversial Department of Justice Program
Bipartisan legislation was introduced on Monday in both houses of Congress that would roll back changes made in the 1980s by Congress to federal civil asset forfeiture laws largely intended to incentivize law enforcement to pursue civil asset forfeitures as part of the rapid escalation of the War On Drugs.
In the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of Sen. Paul’s FAIR Act.
“It’s encouraging to see strong bipartisan support in Congress for rolling back policies that have perpetuated the failed war on drugs and eroded the public’s trust in law enforcement,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Congress has an opportunity to end the perverse incentives that federal laws give police to take innocent people’s property and run.”
MJPayment on Friday launched what the company described as "an innovative and powerful cash management and logistics solution for the legal marijuana industry."
According to a prepared statement from the company, "MJPayment is taking the headache out of Cash Management with a complete financial solution that allows customers the flexibility to meet their changing demands."
The company is calling MJPayment "the first and only integrated financial solution for the marijuana industry." According to MJPayment, it "provides cash management, logistics, and payment solutions to the marijuana industry and their suppliers."
MJPayment says its partnerships allow customers to integrate everything from cash logistics and point-of-sale systems, to cashless consumer and supplier payment solutions.
The company says MJPayment provides a one-source helping hand by:
• Removing cash handling and security cost from client businesses
• Reducing administration costs
• Creating and maintaining a cashless business
• Paying bills and invoices electronically
• Providing cash management solutions for personal and business use
• Offering 24-hour customer support and rewards programs
"Our unparalleled experience is evident in our ability to deliver a wide selection of cost-effective solutions designed to fit each clients' unique needs," said Timothy Harrington, president of MJPayment. "We work to configure a solution tailored to a demanding customer base.
Michigan voters will decide at the polls whether or not to increase the state tax rate from six to seven percent. According to a recent Survey USA poll commissioned by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Report, Michiganders would rather legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
The poll indicates that a majority of Michigan voters are against raising the state sales tax to pay for roads and schools. A higher sales tax was approved by the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder during last year's lame duck session, and will be voted on in May in a special statewide election.
Of the 500 registered Michigan voters surveyed, only 43 percent support raising the sales tax to pay for roads; 49 percent opposed the hike, and 8 percent weren't sure.
The poll shows that 64 percent of Michigan adults would likely vote in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana, as opposed to raising taxes across the board. Twenty-eight percent of respondents opposed regulating marijuana like alcohol, and 8 percent weren't sure.
"The road tax is in serious trouble," said Tim Beck, chair of the Safer Michigan Coalition. "Voters are suspicious of more taxes imposed upon the general population.
"There are other, more creative ways to generate revenue to fund roads and schools," Beck said. "Regulation and taxation of marijuana is an alternative voters seem to prefer."
Florida for Care on Monday applauded the filing of Senate Bill 528, a piece of comprehensive medical marijuana legislation drafted and filed by Senator Jeff Brandes, the Republican representing District 22.
“We are very excited to see Sen. Brandes file this important piece of legislation,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care. "Sen. Brandes has taken a courageous step in service of making the voice of Floridians heard on this issue."
One such voice is that of Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, whose mother suffered from cancer. "I'm very encouraged by Sen. Brandes' bill," Sheriff Manfre said. "As a sheriff and as the son of a cancer survivor, responsible, comprehensive, medical marijuana legislation is critically important to me."
"I hope my fellow sheriffs will see this bill in the same light and work towards consensus on this issue which is deeply personal to many Floridians, as it is to me," Manfre said.
The bill is considerably more comprehensive than previously passed Senate Bill 1030, which allowed only for a low-THC, high-CBD strain of marijuana that would primarily help those suffering with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
“While SB 1030 was monumental in that our Legislature -- for the first time -- recognized marijuana as medicine, it simply did not help all sick and suffering Floridians in the way that Sen. Brandes’ bill would, if passed,” said Dan Rogers, director of legislative affairs for Florida for Care.
By Steve Elliott
Oregon voters last November chose to legalize marijuana. But some residents in the eastern part of the state still aren't ready to let go of prohibition.
Pendleton, an eastern Oregon town where the motto is "Let 'er buck" and the main attraction is the 105-year-old Pendleton Round-Up, may ban cannabis retailers from the city, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.
"When it comes to a lot of our laws, they are determined by a couple of counties and Portland," whined Pendleton Mayor Phillip Houk. "We are used to that, so what we have to do is buck up and figure out what we are going to do."
Among many in eastern Oregon, especially more rural areas of the state, the marijuana's reputation as a gateway to hard drugs, mental illness, family dysfunction and addiction still seems strong, The Oregonian reports.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Thursday held the first of 10 statewide public forums as part of an effort to collect input from residents. The first two, in Baker City and Pendleton, attracted more than 200 residents from a mostly rural area.
"I am trying to picture what this is going to look like in our town," said John Day coucilwoman Lisa Weigum, 30, who drove 80 miles to attend the Baker City meeting.
U.S.: Historic Bipartisan Support to Remove Industrial Hemp from the Controlled Substances Act in both the House and SenateSubmitted by restore on Sat, 01/24/2015 - 09:14
By Amy Peradotta, Special to Hemp News
Hopefully you have heard a thing or two in the news lately about industrial hemp. If so, it is because it is finally gaining political traction again after a very insidious yet successful smear campaign lasting nearly 80 years, equating it to marijuana. If you haven’t heard about hemp in the news lately, keep your eyes and ears peeled because big changes are on the way!
As of 2015, twenty-one states have defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to its production (CA, CO, DE, HI, IL, IN, KY, ME, MI, MO, MT, NE, NY, ND, OR, SC, TN, UT, VT, WA, WV). These are highly regulated pilot projects that must be administered in accordance with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and an institution of higher education. Despite the legality of hemp in these states, only two states (CO and KY) successfully planted and harvested a crop in 2014. This was the first legal crop grown and harvested on American soil since WWII. If you are wondering why that might be, it has to do with our good friends at the DEA.
By Steve Elliott
A letter has been sent to marijuana stores in Washington state on official Department of the Army letterhead asking marijuana stores to not sell to enlisted troops.
"This letter is to inform you that your establishment has been declarted 'Off-Limits' to members of the Armed Forces effective 21 January 2015," the letter, first revealed on Twitter by Seattle-based Canna Law Group's Hilary Bricken on Thursday.
"Forces are prohibited from entering your establishment as long as this order is in effect," readers the letter, signed by David L. Chase, Colonel, U.S. Army, and President, AFDCB (Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board).
"This restriction will remain in effect indefinitely in accordance with established Armed Forces policy unless you agree to stop selling substances similar to marijuana to military personnel," reads the curiously worded letter. I say curiously worded, because these stores don't sell "substances similar to marijuana," Col. Chase. Sir, they sell MARIJUANA.
"You have thirty (30) days to present evidence to the AFDCB that you agree to stop selling these substances to military personnel," the letter demands, taking the "guilty until proven innocent" approach that seems to be popular among Army types.