The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution Monday urging that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove marijuana from scheduling in order to give federally approved banks the ability to work with marijuana businesses. This would also allow states to determine their own marijuana policies without the threat of federal interference. For a resolution to pass, it must be supported by a majority of participating legislators in each of 75% of the states represented at the conference’s general business meeting.
Due to the Schedule I status of marijuana under federal law, federally insured banks risk penalties if they offer financial services to marijuana-related businesses. For that reason, many of these businesses are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, making them a target for criminals. While limited guidance has been issued, which intended to encourage financial institutions to serve marijuana businesses, access to banking remains a problem.
The resolution states:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove cannabis from scheduling thus enabling financial institutions the ability to provide banking services to cannabis related businesses; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Conference of State Legislatures acknowledges that each of its members will have differing and sometimes conflicting views of cannabis and how to regulate it, but in allowing each state to craft its own regulations we may increase transparency, public safety, and economic development where it is wanted.
The full resolution can be found online at http://comm.ncsl.org/productfiles/92221867/Debate_Calendar.pdf.
A different version of this resolution, which called for rescheduling marijuana to a lower schedule, was approved by NCSL last year. In 2015, the conference passed a resolution expressing that “federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference.”
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted effective medical marijuana laws. Marijuana is legal and regulated for adults in eight states — all of which also have medical marijuana laws — and adult possession and limited home cultivation is also legal in the District of Columbia.
There are currently several bills introduced in Congress that would allow states to determine their own marijuana policies, fix the banking issue, and address tax codes related to state-legal marijuana businesses.
“State legislators and the vast majority of voters agree that marijuana policy should be left to the states,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which tracks marijuana policy in all 50 states and lobbies in state legislatures throughout the country.
“Legitimate, taxpaying marijuana businesses should not have to face the difficulties of operating on a cash-only basis. Allowing banks to offer them financial services will be good for the industry and benefit public safety,” O’Keefe continues. “Even more so, states should not have to worry about the federal government interfering with their marijuana policy choices.”