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 full resolution can be found here.
MPP's Karen O'Keefe said the following statement in a press release:
“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.”
Earlier this year, the DEA had announced that they hope to have a decision regarding the rescheduling of marijuana within the first half of 2016. That time has now come and gone with the DEA failing to deliver.
A bipartisan coalition of Senators and Representatives has signed a letter to head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, urging the federal agency to remove marijuana and THC from Schedule I, its current status under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I is the most restrictive drug classification that, according to the DEA, is reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse and no known medical benefits.
“We ask that you clarify this policy immediately, and issue a public statement informing the research community that the DEA, in compliance with international obligations, will accept new applications to bulk manufacture cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, to be approved on merit-based criteria,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter, drafted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), also calls for the DEA to loosen restrictions surrounding medical marijuana research and to grant more licenses for the production of research-grade marijuana. Currently, the only federally approved source of marijuana is the University of Mississippi, whose supply is notoriously difficult for researchers to obtain and frequently alleged to be of sub-research grade quality.
The letter was signed by Sen. Gillibrand as well as Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR); and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
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