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.
The good news is we will get a vote thanks to two courageous senators who are taking a stand for medical marijuana patients and respecting state laws. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are sponsoring an amendment identical to the one that passed in the House last month. The amendment was filed yesterday and could be voted on at any time.
An Arizona judge issued a decision Friday claiming that State Health Director Will Humble acted illegally by denying PTSD patients access to medical marijuana, reports the Arizona Daily Sun. According to Judge Thomas Shedden, Humble utilized the dearth of scientific studies regarding PTSD and marijuana usage as grounds for denying medical marijuana to patients, many of whom are veterans. Shedden claims that Humble should have listened to testimony from medical professionals who claimed medical marijuana had helped their patients.
Arizona passed a ballot initiative making medical marijuana legal in 2010, but PTSD was not included in the qualifying conditions. Proponents of adding PTSD tried to do so in 2012, and then again in 2013. Following the 2012 proposal, Humble contracted the University of Arizona to study the effects of marijuana in conjunction with PTSD, which produced results of “varying quality.” Humble responded to Judge Shedden’s decision saying,
“There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. At the hearings that we had, one family after the next came up and personally testified that they believed that marijuana provided relief for their PTSD. But throughout my entire career I’ve really focused on using scientific evidence really as the cornerstone of good, effective decision making when it comes to public policy,” he said. “And that evidence is not there.”
Unfortunately, the federal government has a history of making it very difficult to study marijuana, unless the purpose of the study is to determine negative effects. In 2011, Dr. Sue Sisley at the University of Arizona was denied permission to research the effects of marijuana on PTSD in veterans. A new study is awaiting final approval from the DEA.
You read that correctly — Congress just voted to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana!
During a debate regarding a Justice Department funding bill, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a longtime MPP ally, offered an amendment intended to block DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. It passed by a surprisingly wide margin — 219-189. The amendment will not become law until it is signed by the president, but we’re well on our way.
MPP played a key role in building support for this measure, and we couldn’t have done it without our supporters.
We have had a lot of victories since MPP was founded in 1995, but this is one of the biggest — not just in the organization’s history, but in the history of the marijuana policy reform movement.
We worked with Congressman Rohrabacher and former Congressman Maurice Hinchey on this amendment for more than a decade, and our lobbying presence in Congress has never been stronger. This year alone, we met with staffers from more than 100 congressional offices, as well as dozens of members in person. With this victory, even more doors will be open to us in the future.