In separate advisories issued by the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, the memos follow comments expressed last month by Attorney General Eric Holder, who noted concerns over the fact that legal cannabis businesses are forced to deal almost exclusively in cash, due to the fact that most banks refuse to work with them.
The advisories state that it is in fact possible for banks to work with cannabis businesses while still avoiding federal scrutiny. In order to do so, the business must not be distributing to minors, trafficking sales to places where cannabis isn’t legal, etc..
Jennifer Shasky Calvery, Director of the Treasury Department, says the new memos are intended to signal that “it is possible to provide financial services” to state-licensed cannabis businesses, while still complying with federal anti-money laundering laws.
“While we believe today’s guidance should provide banks some of the assurances they need to begin doing business with the marijuana industry, it doesn’t solve all the problems,” says Michael Elliott, director of the Marijuana Industry Group. Elliott’s group wants Congress to approve pending legislation that would “provide certainty for banks and allow our industry to operate just like any other business”.
Although Elliott is correct that more work needs to be done, these memos are clearly a step in the right direction.
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Today, the Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network division of the Treasury Department released long anticipated guidance to banks and other financial institutions on how they can interact with marijuana businesses that are licensed under state law.
Under current regulations, financial institutions are required to file suspicious activity reports when they suspect the transaction has a drug connection. The new guidance creates a three tiered system for these reports: marijuana limited, marijuana priority, and marijuana termination. This will allow these institutions to work with marijuana businesses as long as they were operating in accordance with state laws and regulations. The Department of Justice reserved the right to pursue criminal charges when they suspect businesses are breaking the guidelines they released late last year and would still require banks to report any activity they suspect to be as operating outside of state regulations.
“Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” noted FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery in a press release. “Our guidance provides financial institutions with clarity on what they must do if they are going to provide financial services to marijuana businesses and what reporting will assist law enforcement.”
“This reduces the burden on banks,” FinCEN stated during a briefing on the memo, “Marijuana under federal law requires a SAR. Now, the necessity is limited, reducing the banks’ burden a bit and more importantly clarifies where law enforcement focuses its attention.”
While this is a good start when it comes to allowing marijuana businesses to operate the same as those in any other regulated industry, memos such as these can be ultimately overturned by future administrations. To make this change lasting and binding, Congress must now act to codify it into law. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act is currently pending before the House of Representatives and would do just that. You can click here to quickly and easily write your representative and urge him/her to support this important legislation.
By Michelle L. Dunbar, Executive Director of St. Jude Retreats
Is marijuana a dangerous drug that can lead to brain damage and addiction, or is it a miracle drug that can alleviate pain and fight disease? Earlier this year Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a physician and CNN medical analyst released a documentary that asked these questions. While he initially was a skeptic who thought the push to legalize marijuana was simply so people could get high legally, he admits that his extensive research has changed his mind. As I watched his documentary called “Weed” I was struck by the vast number of medicinal uses for marijuana. Most people know that marijuana use increases appetite and decreases nausea, but research, which is primarily being done outside this country, is showing benefits for a myriad of diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s, dementia, depression, PTSD and even cancer.
While I was encouraged that Dr. Gupta really did the research and looked at the results of medicinal marijuana use, I was troubled by the addiction and dependence warnings throughout the documentary. It shows his reluctance to jump on board fully with the idea that marijuana is actually as safe as caffeine and certainly safer than alcohol. He admitted that just 1 in 11 marijuana users become “addicted” or “dependent”, which in and of itself means it should not be classified as Schedule 1 substance by the US. But it’s important for people to understand what is meant by addiction and dependence. It simply means that use for 9% of the people became habituated, much like other habits people can develop such as smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeinated beverages, exercising or biting your nails. The term dependence implies that there is a lack of control, and that even if they wanted to people cannot stop their use without help, but there is no research that supports this. As a matter of fact all research as well as common sense supports that all people always maintain the ability to stop substance use at any point in time, just like any other behavior. Instead dependence means there is the existence of withdrawal symptoms if the individual stops use abruptly. For marijuana use those symptoms are mild and may include insomnia, irritability or mild nausea that last a few days. These are much the same symptoms as for quitting smoking.
What was even more troubling was how so many doctors easily and seemingly without a thought dismissed the use of medicinal marijuana in favor of using much stronger and more dangerous drugs, such as opiates and benzodiazepines. In the case of a 5-year old with a severe form of epilepsy, the family had to go to multiple doctors to find one that would prescribe marijuana when there was clear evidence it could help her. Her epilepsy had become so debilitating that her parents knew she would not survive much longer. They were willing to try anything to save her life and had found that marijuana had been helpful for others with similar conditions. As they saw more and more doctors; none would prescribe marijuana to such a young girl, but shockingly these same doctors were more than happy to prescribe much more heavy duty, dangerous drugs that are responsible for millions of accidental overdose deaths each year: benzos, tranquilizers and narcotics. In his research for the documentary Dr. Gupta stated he couldn’t find any deaths attributed to marijuana overdose; not one. Thankfully the family found a doctor who was willing to help; prescribed marijuana and that little girl went from having 300 seizures per week to just 2-3 per month. Furthermore her cognitive functioning has improved dramatically.
So what is really going on with marijuana? How is it that a drug with what appears to be so many potential benefits and so few side effects remains illegal in most states in the U.S.? Could it be the strong pharmaceutical lobbies? Or perhaps it is due to the myriad of government agencies and millions of taxpayer dollars devoted to the “war on drugs” and addiction treatment? Either way it is clear that marijuana is not the scary, dangerous substance it was touted to be 50 years ago.
Marijuana is now legal for medicinal use in a handful of states in the U.S., and is now legal for recreational use, although heavily regulated, in Colorado and Washington. While it is clear that marijuana is a cheaper, safer, more effective drug with the potential to help tens of millions of people suffering from chronic and even terminal conditions, change in attitude and policy is slow. And credible research is lacking in this country due to the anti-drug policies and agenda of our government.
Most people pay little attention to policies until they directly affect them. It’s difficult to fathom the vast numbers of people that are taking dangerous and harmful drugs for chronic conditions who could receive incredible benefits from medicinal marijuana.
The Sindicate performs the Sublime classic "Badfish" at the Hempstalk Festival in Portland, Oregon on September 8, 2013. #Badfish Video Footage: Hempstalk 2011 Audio mixed by Aloha Sound Footage archived by Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) http://hemp.org From: RestoreHemp Views: 122 3 ratings Time: 02:34 More in Music
Yesterday Oregon’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3 to 2 to put Senate Bill 1556, a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, to a vote of the people this November. The measure will soon be assigned to its second committee, where its approval will send it to the full Senate.
If approved into law, Senate Bill 1556 would legalize the possession of up to 6 ounces of cannabis (initially it would have been 8 ounces, but it was amended), as well as the private cultivation of up to 3 plants, for those 21 and older. In addition, state-licensed cannabis retail outlets would be legalized, with the legislator tasked with establishing a regulatory system.
Recent polling has found that 63% of those in Oregon support cannabis legalization, indicating that the proposal has a good chance of being approved if put on the ballot.
If approved, Senate Bill 1556 would go into effect January 1st, 2015.
The post Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Put Cannabis Legalization on Ballot This November appeared first on The Joint Blog.
A legislative proposal to legalize recreational cannabis was officially introduced today in Mexico City.
If approved into law, the proposal would legalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for anyone 21 and older.
In 2009, Mexico City took a step towards decriminalizing cannabis, by making the possession of up to 5 grams no longer a criminal offense; this new proposal would take it a step further, by actually legalizing small amounts of cannabis, including sales. The measure – which was introduced by members of the Democratic Revolution Party – would create a health program to monitor cannabis consumption and sales.
The proposal comes as federal lawmakers in Mexico continue to discuss legalizing cannabis on the national level.
The post Legislation to Legalize Cannabis Introduced in Mexico City appeared first on The Joint Blog.
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced federal legislation, House Resolution 4046, to remove legal restrictions prohibiting the Office of National Drug Control Policy from researching marijuana legalization. These restrictions also require the office to oppose any and all efforts to liberalize criminal laws associated with the plant.
“Not only is the ONDCP the only federal office required by law to oppose rescheduling marijuana even if it is proven to have medical benefits, but it is also prohibited from studying if that could be even be true,” said Congressman Cohen. “The ONDCP’s job should be to develop and recommend sane drug control policies, not be handcuffed or muzzled from telling the American people the truth. How can we trust what the Drug Czar says if the law already preordains its position? My bill would give the ONDCP the freedom to use science—not ideology—in its recommendations and give the American people a reason to trust what they are told.”
These restrictions were placed on the Office of National Drug Control Policy by the Reauthorization Act of 1998, which mandates the ODCP director “shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;”
You can quickly and easily contact your representative by clicking here.
Nebraska State Senator Norman Wallman has introduced a new measure, Legislative Bill 1001, that would effectively legalize the cultivation and sales of hemp by removing it from the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, where it currently resides as a Schedule 1 drug, classified along with the rest of the cannabis plant. The measure has been referred to the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature, and, having already received its first hearing, awaits receival of a vote.
Under the proposed measure, farmers would need to pay a $150 yearly fee to obtain a license to grow hemp, at which point they would be granted full ability to cultivate, process and sell their product.
While many people recognize the vast benefits hemp offers, such as an eco-friendly alternative to everything from fossil fuels to paper products, economic stimulation through local production of a commodity that boasts a multi-billion dollar market, and even health benefits derived from hemp seed oil (which is high in Omega fatty acids required by the human body), some lawmakers may still need convincing.
Those who support hemp legalization should contact members of the Nebraska State Legislature Judicial Committee – particularly the Chairman, Senator Brad Ashford – and ask for their support on LB 1001. The Chairman has the ability to put the measure to a vote and progress the bill toward a full floor vote, or deny a vote and kill the bill where it stands.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon's 3rd District grows frustrated with witnesses' "inability to answer" direct questions about the real health risks of marijuan... From: Regulate Marijuana Views: 1192 27 ratings Time: 06:28 More in News & Politics
With cannabis recently legalized in parts of the country, scientists who have been sitting on their hands for years can now study the plant in its natural form – scientists like those at the University of Colorado Boulder, who have announced the launch of the Cannabis Genome Research Initiative. The goal of the eighteen-month endeavor is to map the DNA makeup of cannabis, and to provide more knowledge about the plant’s history.
“Despite the fact that cannabis is one of the most valuable and historically important crop species, we know comparatively little about the plant,” says Nolan Kane of CU‘s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who is leading the project. According to Kane, the data gathered through mapping the cannabis genome will allow growers to explore “more efficient and cost-effective cannabis breeding — choosing what to breed with what in smarter ways.” Kane doesn’t dismiss the progress already made by cannabis cultivators – far from it – but feels his research will make things easier.
“The tools I will develop will allow a better prediction of which plants are desired without the expense of growing, measuring, chemotyping, etc., all of those plants,” says Kane. “This is a huge additional expense and waste of time that can be avoided by modern, marker-assisted selection.” Kane says another major application of cannabis genome research is to breed more advanced, economical forms of hemp. “This is a potentially very valuable crop for agriculture in Colorado and other places,” he states. “It could be used for biofuels, food and fiber production for high-quality paper, clothing, rope, so many purposes.”
Quick to reassure that their research has nothing to do with Genetic Modification, or the production of GMOs, Kane explains that, “With our work, the genetic variation isn’t altered, you are just choosing what to breed with what in smarter ways. People have been breeding animals and plants for 10,000 years or more, so the basic approaches are not new, just substantially improved in terms of efficiency.”
Although the project is not yet fully funded, researchers plan to proceed regardless, with high expectations of plenty of support to come. - TheJointBlog
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John Trudell and Bad Dog perform the song "The Moremes" at the Lane Community Center in Eugene, Oregon on July 2, 2011. Footage archived by the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) http://hemp.org From: RestoreHemp Views: 134 4 ratings Time: 03:58 More in Music
John Trudell and Bad Dog perform the song "Crazier Than Hell" at the Lane Community Center in Eugene, Oregon on July 2, 2011. Footage archived by the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) http://hemp.org From: RestoreHemp Views: 94 6 ratings Time: 04:53 More in Music
John Trudell explores the realities of hemp as earth medicine at the Lane Community Center in Eugene, Oregon. Footage: July 2, 2011 Footage archived by the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH). From: RestoreHemp Views: 93 7 ratings Time: 00:33 More in Nonprofits & Activism
Legislation to legalize recreational cannabis was formally introduced today in Rhode Island.
The proposal, sponsored by Senator Josh Miller, Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Representative Edith H. Ajello, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, would legalize the possession, private cultivation and sales of cannabis for those 21 and older.
Under the proposed law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, and the cultivation of up to two plants, would be legal for anyone 21 and older; state-licensed cannabis retail outlets would be authorized to distribute cannabis.
The measure would establish a $50-per-ounce tax rate on cannabis (from grower to retailer), in addition to a 10% tax on sales.
According to polling released late last month, 53% of those in Rhode Island support the legalization of cannabis, with 41% opposed.
The post Legislation to Legalize Cannabis Introduced in Rhode Island appeared first on The Joint Blog.
John Trudell and Bad Dog perform the song "From the Heart" at the Lane Community Center in Eugene, Oregon on July 2, 2011. Footage archived by the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) http://hemp.org From: RestoreHemp Views: 249 10 ratings Time: 04:04 More in Music
Italy’s constitutional court on Wednesday struck down a controversial drug law – approved in 2006 – that tripled sentences for selling, cultivating or possessing cannabis, making the penalty equivalent to “hard drugs” such as cocaine and heroin.
The constitutional court said the law was “illegitimate”, without going into further details.
According to Reuters, this new ruling could set free as many as 10,000 inmates who were imprisoned due to the nation’s harsh cannabis policies.
The 2006 law, which raised sentences for cannabis possession, cultivation and sales from 2-6 years, to 6-20 years, has led to a drastic increase in those in prison due to cannabis; in fact, 40% of Italy’s inmates are incarcerated for a cannabis-related offense.
After today’s ruling, the 2006 law will be repealed, reverting the nation’s cannabis policies back to when it was considered a “soft drug”, carrying significantly lower penalties than the possession, cultivation or sales of hard drugs.
“The so-called drug war as conceived in North America has been lost and it’s time to return to rational rules that distinguish between substances,” says Franco Corleon of Society of Reason, a human rights group that praised today’s ruling.
The post Federal Court Strikes Down Italy’s Cannabis Law, 10,000 Inmates to be Set Free appeared first on The Joint Blog.
The goal of the new bill (H.R. 4046) is to “strike provisions that prohibit the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from studying the legalization of marijuana, that require the Director to oppose any attempt to legalize marijuana, and for other purposes.”
Currently, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and its Director, commonly referred to as the “Drug Czar”, are required by law to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use” of Schedule 1 substances – cannabis included.
The Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014 will effectively abolish the statute of the law requiring staff of the ONDCP to lie about cannabis and oppose legalization, if passed.
The post New Federal Bill Introduced: The Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014 appeared first on The Joint Blog.
The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act (House Bill 2198 and Senate Bill 9) is designed to provide protection for patients, caregivers and physicians from penalties surrounding medical cannabis, and to create safe access points, or compassion centers, for patients to obtain medication.
The measures would also establish a “compassion board” under the Department of Health and Environment, as well as a patient/caregiver registry, complete with I.D. cards.
The bill reads as such:
A qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a court or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of cannabis in accordance with this act, provided that the qualifying patient possesses an amount of cannabis that does not exceed 12 cannabis plants and six ounces of usable cannabis.
Patients may also have up to 12 seedlings, which won’t count towards their plant/possession limits. The same rules apply for caregivers, who may assist up to 5 qualified patients. The measures define a qualifying patient as “a person who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition.” Qualifying medical conditions are listed as:
Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, nail patella, migraine, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, lupus, spinal disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and conditions for which cannabis has been found to be beneficial or the treatment of these conditions;
A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
The measures also establish protections for patients from discriminatory practices, a cautionary step many medical cannabis measures miss:
(1) No school or landlord may refuse to enroll or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for such person’s status as a registered qualifying patient or a registered designated caregiver, unless failing to do so would put the school or landlord in violation of federal law or regulations. (2) For the purposes of medical care, including organ transplants, a registered qualifying patient’s authorized use of cannabis in accordance with this act shall be considered the equivalent of the authorized use of any other medication used at the direction of a physician, and shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance. (3) Unless a failure to do so would put an employer in violation of federal law or federal regulations, an employer may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon either of the following: (A) The person’s status as a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver; or (B) a registered qualifying patient’s positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed or was impaired by cannabis on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment. (g) A person shall not be denied custody of, visitation or parenting time with a minor and there shall be no presumption of neglect or child endangerment for conduct allowed under this act, unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor as established by clear and convincing evidence.
A provision was also included to restrict authorities from cooperating with any federal interference of patients’ rights:
Where a state-funded or locally-funded law enforcement agency encounters an individual who, during the course of the investigation, credibly asserts that such individual is a registered cardholder or an entity whose personnel credibly assert that it is a compassion center, the law enforcement agency shall not provide any information from any cannabis-related investigation of the person to any law enforcement authority that does not recognize the protection of this act.
If passed, the compassion board established in this measure will have 90 days to establish recommendations for regulations, and to determine requirements for those wishing to apply for patient or compassion center status. The bills state that:
If at any time after the 110 days following the effective date of this act, the department is not accepting applications, including if it has not created rules and regulations allowing qualifying patients to submit applications, a notarized statement by a qualifying patient containing the information required in an application, pursuant to subsection (a) of section 7, and amendments thereto, together with a written certification shall be deemed a valid registry identification card.
The post Companion Measures Filed in Kansas to Legalize Medical Cannabis appeared first on The Joint Blog.
Earlier today, 18 members of Congress signed onto a letter that was delivered to President Barack Obama calling for him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
“We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana. Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter reads, “Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.”
The letter was signed by Representatives Blumenauer (OR), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Honda (CA), Huffman (CA), Lee (CA), Lofgren (CA), Lowenthal (CA), McGovern (MA), Moran (VA), O’Rourke (TX), Polis (CO), Quigley (IL), Rohrabacher (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Swalwell (CA), and Welch (VT).
“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana,” the letter continued, “A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”
You can read the full text of the letter here.