As voters across the nation support ending the criminalization of cannabis, state legislators across the nation are finally heeding the call as the National Conference of State Legislatures has now urged the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances. Cannabis currently remains a Schedule I controlled substance, the same classification as heroin. It is great that state legislatures want to end federal marijuana prohibition. Hopefully, we’ll start to see more federal officials respect the will of the voters as well.
New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker announced his “Marijuana Justice Act” that would de-schedule cannabis, just as the state legislators have called for, as well as address some of the racial injustices caused by the misguided war on marijuana. While some advocates have expressed some reservations about Booker, it is a positive step that such a progressive cannabis law has been introduced by a likely 2020 presidential candidate, on the heels of Bernie Sanders’ bill to end federal prohibition last year.
There is obviously much work left to be done, but cannabis legalizers can celebrate another small victory today as we march towards ending the harmful war on cannabis. Please contact your representative and senators to let them know that you support removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances because prohibition has proven to be a costly, harmful and ineffective policy.
Below is a press release from the Marijuana Policy Project announcing the decision of the National Conference of State Legislatures to call for an end to federal marijuana prohibition:
National Conference of State Legislatures Urges De-Scheduling Marijuana
Resolution approved by state lawmakers from around the nation expresses support for amending the Controlled Substances Act to enable financial institutions to provide banking services to state-legal marijuana businesses; would give states control of their own marijuana policies without federal interference
BOSTON, Mass. — 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/
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.”
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The Marijuana Policy Project is the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization. For more information, visit http://www.MarijuanaPolicy.org