The House of Representatives approved an amendment Wednesday that will facilitate marijuana businesses in working with banking institutions, International Business Times reports. The Heck Amendment, named after its sponsor Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), was approved by a vote of 231-192. The amendment effectively blocks the SEC and Treasury Department from penalizing banks who lend money to legitimate marijuana businesses in areas where they can legally do business. The Heck Amendment was supported by both parties and represents growing bipartisan support of marijuana businesses, especially after the recent vote by Congress to defund the DEA’s ability to interfere with medical marijuana patients and businesses that are in compliance with state law. If the Heck Amendment is implemented, it will be a major victory in the effort to allow legitimate businesses to control the marijuana market.
In the past, many financial institutions have shied away from assisting marijuana businesses for fear that the federal government will go after them for it, forcing most to operate on a cash-only system. Because of this, they are required to transport thousands of dollars physically, making them targets for robberies and other crimes. Wednesday’s vote is the first step towards allowing legitimate marijuana businesses to utilize alternative forms of payment, such as credit cards and bank accounts, like all other businesses.
As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,
and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.
It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.
The president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) expressed on Tuesday that he believes marijuana laws are total failures, reports mlive.com. John Dixon III is a police chief from Petersburg, VA and spoke at the annual NOBLE conference, saying that law enforcement is too concerned with arresting people for minor marijuana offenses that can irreparably harm those who are charged. He said, “We, as law-enforcement professionals, we need to really take a look at how we can decriminalize marijuana, especially user amounts. We are locking people up for a dime bag, for a joint. They’re put in the criminal-justice system which pretty much ruins the rest of their lives.” Dixon went on to discuss how he believes that medical professionals should be in charge of dealing with drug use and addiction, commenting, “Why do I have to lock you up for that? What benefit am I giving you, then? We have to get out of the business. That should be the focus of the medical field.”
The ACLU and others have noted that marijuana laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities across the country, despite similar use rates across racial demographics.
Dixon is far from the only law enforcement officer expressing his displeasure with prohibition. Major Neil Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), attended the seminar on Tuesday and insisted that law enforcement officers push to decriminalize marijuana by giving voice to the problems marijuana laws pose as seen by those who deal with them in the field every day.
MissouriGov. Jay Nixonsigned a limited medical marijuana bill into law yesterday. HB 2238allows some patients with intractable epilepsy access to products containing marijuana extracts. Those extracts must be limited primarily to a non-psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol, or CBD.
Many believe high-CBD marijuana extracts are effective in helping alleviate severe seizure conditions — reducing both the frequency and intensity of seizures. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana have this condition, so the vast majority of seriously ill patients in Missouri will be left out of the state program. MPP has a short analysis of the law available here.
Several other states have passed laws that are similarly limited. For the most part, laws passed in other states are not workable due to limitations imposed under federal law. By contrast, Missouri’s carefully crafted law is unique in that it may actually lead to a functioning program. This will be great news for those few seriously ill seizure patients who will be able to participate.
A bill that would establish regulations and protections for a wide range of medical marijuana businesses in California continues to make progress in the legislature. Sen. Lou Correa’sbill SB 1262recently emerged from the Assembly Public Safety Committee, and will next be considered in the Appropriations Committee in August.
Sen. Correa’s bill has been heavily amended no less than five times since it was introduced in February. Many of the changes in the past few months have been big improvements, but some provisions remain troubling. For instance, the current version of the bill requires costly business license fees, saddles local governments with primary responsibility to enforce the law, and gives wide latitude to law enforcement officials to prohibit businesses.
We have been told it is too early to know if these requirements will change as negotiations among many different groups continue at a rapid pace. The only thing that is certain is that the bill remains very much a work in progress. For a list of MPP’s concerns with the current draft of the bill, click here.