Federal Marijuana Banking Bill Introduced In Senate


Earlier today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate that would banks to do business with the marijuana industry in states where it is legal for medical purposes or adult use.

Politico reports:


Introduced by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.

Sen. Cory Gardner

Though four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That makes it difficult for businesses operating in those legalized states to access financial services through the banking industry. Instead, those companies have to run all-cash operations that the senators say invite crime.

The entire legal landscape that legal marijuana currently faces is “insane,” said GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in an interview.

According to a press release from Drug Policy Alliance, “Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced the House version of this Senate bill earlier in the year, having also introduced a banking bill the previous session.”

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Marijuana Now Legal In D.C.


Just after midnight last night, a law making marijuana legal for adults quietly went into effect in the Nation’s Capital.2015.02.25 - Front page - DC Takes Effect copy

Initiative 71, which was approved 70-30 by D.C. voters in November, allows adults 21 years of age or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana; grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes (of which no more than three can be flowering at a time) and possess the yield of those plants in the location where it was grown; and transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to other adults 21 years of age or older. It will remain illegal to use marijuana in public.

Certain members of Congress attempted to halt implementation of this law, even going so far as to threaten D.C. leaders with arrest. Others offered their support, asserting that the District is well within its legal rights to stop punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

MPP will continue to work with the D.C. Council to pass legislation regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

“We are hopeful that Congress will not stand in the way of D.C.’s efforts to regulate and tax marijuana,” said Robert Capecchi, MPP’s Deputy Director of State Policies. “Members of the District Council are clearly interested in adopting such a system, and they appear ready to move forward if Congress doesn’t interfere.”

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D.C. Council Members Introduce Marijuana Regulation Bill


Last week, District of Columbia Council Member David Grosso and three of his colleagues made it clear that Congressional bullying wasn’t going to stop them from considering a more rational approach to marijuana. On January 6, they quietly introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Councilmember David Grosso

This sensible proposal comes on the heels of voters’ overwhelming vote for Initiative 71, which will make marijuana possession and limited cultivation legal for adults 21 and older when it becomes effective. It also comes just four weeks after Congress approved a spending bill that prohibits the District from spending any money to enact a law to legalize “recreational marijuana” until at least through this summer.

The Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2015 would create a framework for a legal and responsible marijuana industry, complete with licensed cultivators, product manufacturers, retail stores, and testing labs. Allowing licensed businesses to grow and sell marijuana to adults 21 and older will create jobs, increase tax revenues, and allow D.C.’s law enforcement to direct their focus on more serious matters. Regulating these businesses means D.C. will know who is selling marijuana, under what conditions, where, and to whom.

If you are a resident of the District of Columbia, please email your council members today and ask them to support B21-0023! Let them know that D.C.’s elected lawmakers, not Congress, should decide District policy. Then, please pass this on to other District residents.

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Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment as Part of Federal Spending Bill


The bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice — which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration — from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. A similar amendment has been offered seven times in Congress,Congress logo failing in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. The House finally approved it in May when it was offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. 
The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains a provision that is meant to interfere with the implementation of Washington, D.C.’s recently approved marijuana initiative, and effectively blocks the District from regulating marijuana.
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Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment


After 11 years of MPP lobbying and attending receptions on Capitol Hill, Congress is finally poised to pass an amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws.Capitol

The U.S. House rejected the amendment in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Finally, in May of this year, the House passed the amendment, which was introduced by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).

Last night, the amendment was included in the annual spending bill that Congress is expected to pass today or tomorrow. It will then be the law through September 30, at which time it would need to be renewed each fall.

Unfortunately, a bad amendment to block local legalization in D.C. was also included in the spending bill. The D.C. mayor and council had been planning to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in our nation’s capital, which they’ll no longer be allowed to do.

That said, the medical marijuana and decriminalization laws in D.C. will remain in effect.

And it is MPP’s opinion that the ballot initiative that 70% of D.C. voters passed on November 4 will be allowed to move forward. This initiative — which removes penalties for adult possession and home cultivation — would take effect in approximately March (unless Congress affirmatively blocks the initiative).

The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.

Finally, marijuana has become a big issue on Capitol Hill, which is a precursor to ending federal prohibition.

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MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization


Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:

The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.

There’s also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.

In November 2016, at least five states are expected to vote on similar ballot initiatives – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – and one could potentially appear on the ballot in Missouri.

By the end of 2017, marijuana could be legalized in 15 states and D.C., which would comprise 26% of the nation’s population.

Read the rest of Kampia’s column here.

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Federal Bill Introduced to Increase Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana


Last week, a bipartisan bill that would allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana for certain patients was introduced in Congress.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Under current policy, doctors and other specialists working with the VA are prohibited from recommending medical marijuana to any patient, despite growing evidence that it is useful in treating pain, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress, even if a patient lives in one of the 23 states, Guam, or the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) with the support of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access, said they “are very proud to stand by Congressman Blumenauer and support the Veterans Equal Access Act.”

“The Veterans Health Administration has made it very clear that, as federal employees, they lack the free speech necessary to write the recommendations for Veterans to comply with state programs,” said Krawitz. “This legislation is needed to correct that legal situation and repair this VA doctor patient relationship.”

The status quo has numerous harmful effects, said Blumenauer. “It forces veterans into the black market to self-medicate,” he said. “It prevents doctors from giving their best and honest advice and recommendations. And it pushes both doctors and their patients toward drugs that are potentially more harmful and more addictive. It’s insane, and it has to stop.”

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D.C. Voters Legalize Marijuana For Adults 21 and Older!


By an overwhelming margin, D.C. voters approved Initiative 71, which will allow adults 21 and older to use, possess, and grow limited amounts of marijuana! The new law, which will not take effect until after it successfully clears a 30-day Congressional review period, legalizes limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by those 21 and older under D.C. law. Check out our summary here. Please note that it does nothing to change federal law, under which marijuana is still strictly prohibited.

So much gratitude is owed to the folks at the Yes on 71 campaign who worked tirelessly to get this initiative on the ballot and to ensure its success. Adam Eidinger, Nikolas Schiller, and their entire staff and volunteers, along with Dr. Malik Burnett and his colleagues from the Drug Policy Alliance, ran a smooth campaign focusing on the injustice of marijuana prohibition that clearly resonated with D.C. voters.

While there is much cause for celebration, passage of I-71 is just the first step. The law does not become operational unless and until it clears a 30-day Congressional review. This should happen sometime in February or March of 2015. In addition, the initiative does not create a legal, regulated market for marijuana. Please encourage your councilmembers to create such a system.

Thanks again to everyone who worked on this historic effort, and please make sure your friends and family in D.C. have heard the news!

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Overwhelming Majority of Delaware Voters Support Making Marijuana Legal


A new poll conducted by the University of Delaware finds 56% support for legalizing marijuana, with just 39% opposed. Earlier this year, Rep. Helene Keeley, Sen. Bryan Townsend, and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry sponsored legislation to reduce the penalty for simple possession of marijuana from a criminal charge to a civil fine. This is a strong step in the right direction.

Under current Delaware law, possessing even a small amount of marijuana is a criminal offense, carrying up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,150. And the effects of a conviction don’t stop there. A criminal record can make it difficult to find a job, obtain educational opportunities, or even find adequate housing.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have replaced the threat of jail for possession of marijuana with a fine. If you are a Delaware resident, ask your state representative and senator to make the same modest reform, and then ask your fellow Delawareans to call for this long overdue reform, too.

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Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia Next to Decide Marijuana Ballot Measures


According to a New York Times editorial, this November, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia will decide whether to make recreational marijuana legal and regulated — effectively disregarding the misguided federal ban on a substance that is far less dangerous than alcohol.

Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 would make the use and purchase of marijuana legal for those 21 and older, create a marijuana control board and tax the drug at $50 per ounce wholesale. It is already legal for Alaskans to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes, and surveys indicate that 18 percent of Alaskans smoke marijuana. Ballot Measure 2 would mean that Alaskans could buy it from a store instead of resorting to the black market.

This is not the first time the newspaper of record has supported sensible marijuana policy reform, and it is indicative of increasing national support for ending marijuana prohibition.

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