The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan non-government organization, advanced a resolution Monday urging that the federal government remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, “thus enabling financial institutions the ability to provide banking services to cannabis related businesses.”
The document claims that forcing states into doing cash-only business, “attracts criminal activity and creates substantial public safety risks; and … reduces transparency in accounting and makes it difficult for the state to implement an effective regulatory regime that ensures compliance.”
The resolution goes on to say, “States have been forced to take expensive security measures to mitigate public safety risks to taxpayers utilizing the system, state employees and the public at large.”
NCSL acknowledges that not all states are on board with ending federal prohibition, saying, “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.”
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 forcing cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis.
Last year, and back in 2015, NCSL drafted similar resolutions urging the feds to back down and loosen marijuana policies, claiming the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference. Although the latest resolution goes further than past versions, NCSL emphasizes that the document isn’t meant as a full-blown endorsement of legalization.
Pressure to end federal prohibition continues to mount on a federal level. There are several bills currently circulating in Congress that would allow states to determine their own marijuana policies, including a recent cannabis bill advanced by NJ Senator Cory Booker that would actually punish states that incarcerate minorities at a higher rate. Although any one bill’s chances of passing might be small, each attempt advances the national dialog and brings anti-prohibitionists a step closer to victory.
“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.
O’Keefe continues, “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. Even more so, states should not have to worry about the federal government interfering with their marijuana policy choices.”
Interestingly, none of the NCSL executive committee officers represent states which allow adult-recreational use, and only two of the seven come from states which have enacted medicinal use laws.
For any NCSL 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.
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/productfiles/92221867/Debate_Calendar.pdf
A recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA for the advocacy organization Marijuana Majority found that 76% of Americans surveyed support states’ right to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana. And in a Quinnipiac survey released back in April, 94% of those surveyed said they support legal medical marijuana, while 60% are in favor of legalizing adult recreational use.