Reported this week in the Daily Herald:
Community banks and credit unions are ready and willing to provide financial services to entrepreneurs in the state’s new legal pot industry. But they aren’t able to, at least not yet.
Marijuana businesses, even ones that will soon be legally licensed in this state, are considered criminal enterprises under federal law, which makes handling their money a crime in the eyes of the Department of Justice.
Until the agency changes its outlook or Congress changes the law — and efforts are under way to do both — those getting into the pot business can’t open a bank account, secure a line of credit or obtain a loan from a federally insured financial institution in their neighborhood.
Fortunately, there is already a bill Congress could act upon to resolve this issue. Earlier this year, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Denny Heck (WA – 10), along with a bipartisan group of 16 other Republicans and Democrats, introduced legislation that would reform federal banking laws relating to marijuana businesses. HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws and would allow marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law to access banking services.
Under current federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses that follow state law are prevented from opening bank accounts and operating as any other businesses would, which could ultimately lead to crime such as robbery and tax evasion in addition to the already onerous burden of setting up a legitimate small business.
Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your elected officials and urge them to support this important legislation. You can do so by clicking here.
New York City Comptroller’s Office: Legalizing Marijuana in NYC Would Yield $431 Million Annually in Savings and RevenueAugust 15, 2013
The regulation and taxation of marijuana for New York City residents age 21 and over would yield an estimated $431 million in annual savings and revenue, according to a report released this week by the New York City Comptroller’s Office. The mission of the Comptroller’s Office is to ensure the financial health of New York City by advising the Mayor, the City Council, and the public of the City’s financial condition.
The report, entitled “Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC,” estimates that regulating and taxing the commercial production and retail sales of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually. This figure is based on existing estimates regarding cannabis’ present market price and demand in New York City, as well as by calculating the imposition of an excise tax (on commercial production) and sales tax (on retail sales).
Authors further estimate that $31 million dollars would be saved annually in eliminating citywide misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests [NY State Penal Law 221.10 -- possession of any amount of cannabis in public view], which in recent years have totaled approximately 50,000 arrests per year — largely as a result of law enforcement’s aggressive use of ‘stop-and-frisk’ tactics. Persons arrested are often under age 25 and disproportionately are those of color. Combined, blacks and Hispanics make up 45 percent of marijuana users in New York City, but account for 86 percent of possession arrests, the Comptroller’s report found.
The Office did not attempt to quantify the broader economic impacts of legalization, including the costs of lost time, work, and other opportunities currently imposed on those arrested. The report’s authors also acknowledged that they did not attempt to quantify the costs of incarceration, which are largely borne by the state, or other secondary fiscal impacts of legalization, such as the positive or negative effects on public health spending.
Following the release of the study, City Comptroller and Mayoral candidate John Liu spoke out in favor of legalizing the consumption of cannabis by adults, stating: “New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed, and its enforcement has damaged far too many lives, especially in minority communities. It’s time for us to implement a responsible alternative. Regulating marijuana would keep thousands of New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system, offer relief to those suffering from a wide range of painful medical conditions, and make our streets safer by sapping the dangerous underground market that targets our children.”
Over the last year or so I’ve read about and on occasion met with the newly minted ‘cannabis CEOs’ in America (men and women who’re at the vanguard of creating a sustainable cannabis industry in America post prohibition). Most of them talk in couched terms regarding what they ‘hope’ to see happen with a legal cannabis market in the US or issue over-the-top and breathless press releases that seek to attract investor attention.
However, Vice Magazine has produced a very fascinating and revealing short documentary featuring a real life cannabis industry CEO who walks the walk when it comes to not only taking substantive legal chances to further his businesses, but one who lives his life as-a-always-interested-stakeholder in the future of humans being able to access high quality cannabis products.
Having met Amsterdam’s Arjan Roskom of the famed Green House coffeeshops and seed company on a number of occasions previously, I was hardly surprised when Vice contacted me to review their documentary that Arjan was featured and had provided them an insider’s view of what it is like to be a genuine cannabis industry maverick.
The Vice documentary focuses on Arjan and his lead cultivator traveling to the deep jungles of Colombia to re-locate three famed sativa strains of cannabis historically cultivated in this region of South America.
Cannabis kudos to Vice and Arjan!
In what can only be described as a horrible tragedy for college student Daniel Chong–as well as for the American taxpayer–the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to pay $4.1 million dollars to Mr. Chong for falsely imprisoning him after an April 20, 2012 party, and worse, literally forgetting about him in a holding cell for five days where Mr. Chong drank his own urine to survive, and cut himself to leave a dying message to his mother.
To date no DEA field agents or local managers have been held responsible for this gross error (ironically, only the taxpayer is left being the responsible party in this legal nightmare).
This kind of abuseful and money-wasting government nitwittery is another prime example of why cannabis prohibition must end in America post haste.
San Diego Union Tribune article about the settlement, and previous news coverage, is below:
By Jeff McDonald1:08 a.m.July 30, 2013
Daniel Chong, the self-confessed pot smoker who was caught up in a drug sweep last year and nearly died after federal agents inadvertently abandoned him in a holding cell for five days without food or water, is now a millionaire.
Attorney Eugene Iredale announced Tuesday he reached a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, without even filing a lawsuit.
The harrowing experience for Chong, 25, an engineering student, began on a Friday night in 2012, when he admittedly went to some friends’ house in University City to celebrate April 20, a special date for marijuana users.
Chong didn’t know it at the time, but the home had been under surveillance by a federal narcotics task force.
Drug agents executed a search warrant early in the morning of April 21, Among other things, they found 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana and several weapons in the residence, according to court papers.
The agents also found Chong sleeping on a couch in the front room and transported him and six others to the San Diego field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for follow-up interviews.
Chong said he answered all of the agents’ questions and they agreed to send him home without criminal charges.
But instead he was returned to a temporary holding cell, where he spent the next four days without food or water. He has said he became delirious, drank his own urine, ate the broken shards of his glasses and used the glass to cut the message “sorry mom” in his own forearm.
He said he kicked the door and screamed for help but agents never came to his assistance. DEA agents admitted later they “accidentally” left Chong in the cell and took the unusual step of apologizing publicly to the UCSD student.
DEA officials declined to comment about the case Monday.
Findings of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice have not been released.
At a meeting with drug reform advocates in San Francisco, former Mexican President Fox expressed support for California’s efforts to legally regulate cannabis, medical and otherwise. He said that California has a strong cultural influence on Mexico, and that progress here would help efforts there.
Speakers included Dale Sky Jones for CCPR, Nate Bradley for LEAP and myself for California NORML, who noted that marijuana prohibition is an international problem founded on international treaties, which need to be fixed through international cooperation by the U.S., Mexico, and other countries. Many thanks to President Fox, Jamen Shively, and Steve DeAngelo for arranging this meeting. – Dale Gieringer, CA NORML
Former Mexican president Fox urges marijuana legalizationSource: Reuters – Tue, 9 Jul 2013 12:40 AM
By Ronnie Cohen
SAN FRANCISCO, July 8 (Reuters) – Former Mexican President Vicente Fox took his crusade to legalize marijuana to San Francisco on Monday, joining pot advocates to urge the United States and his own country to decriminalize the sale and recreational use of cannabis.
Fox met for three hours with the advocates, including Steve DeAngelo, the Oakland-based executive director of California’s largest marijuana dispensary, and former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively, who hopes to create a Seattle-based pot brand now that Washington state has legalized recreational use.
Legalization, Fox told reporters after the meeting, is the only way to end the violence of Mexican drug cartels, which he blamed on America’s war on drugs.
“The cost of the war is becoming unbearable – too high for Mexico, for Latin America and for the rest of the world,” Fox said in English.
Every day, he said, 40 young people are killed in drug-related violence.
Fox’s position on legalizing drugs has evolved over time since the days when he cooperated with U.S. efforts to tamp down production in Mexico during his 2000-2006 presidential term. He has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to current policies, backing two prior efforts to legalize marijuana in Mexico.
Mexico’s current president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has opposed legalization. But he recently said that he would consider world opinion on the matter, particularly in light of recent voter-approved initiatives to legalize marijuana in Washington state and Colorado for recreational use.
In San Francisco on Monday, Fox said he had signed on to attend and help develop an international summit later this month in Mexico to strategize a path to end marijuana prohibition.
Participants scheduled to attend the three-day meeting starting July 18 in San Cristobal include an American surgeon, the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health and a Mexican congressman who plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in Mexico this summer, Fox said.
The bill, which he expects to be introduced by Mexican lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran, would legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, Fox said.
Support for legalizing marijuana in the United States has been growing. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws, according to the pro-legalization National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But the drug remains illegal under federal law.
Lifting the prohibition on cannabis in Mexico, however, appears to face more of an uphill battle. Mexican lawmakers have rejected previous legalization efforts and polls have shown little popular support for the idea.
But Fox promised to wage what he said was a necessary battle.
“We cannot afford more blood and the loss of more young people,” Fox said. “We must get out of the trap we are in.” (Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)