It’s Time To Get Over the Prejudice Against Marijuana!

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel March 7, 2016

    At NORML we were once again reminded this past week of the pervasive prejudice against marijuana, and marijuana smokers, that remains in the general American culture. Yes, a majority of Americans now oppose marijuana prohibition and favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. But there remain numerous obstacles and penalties that continue to deny fair and equal treatment to marijuana smokers, and those who are associated with marijuana.

    I have previously written about the urgent need to protect responsible marijuana smokers from job discrimination (requiring a showing of impairment on the job before an employee can be terminated); from unfair child custody laws (requiring a showing of abuse or neglect before removing minor children from the custody of their marijuana smoking parents); and unfair DUID laws (requiring a showing of impairment before charging a marijuana smoker with driving under the influence of drugs). These are three areas of the law where we will continue to fight for fair and equal treatment for marijuana smokers.

    More Subtle Biases

    But today I want to discuss another, more subtle bias that can unfairly impact those of us who support full legalization. These involve the refusal of banks and credit card processing companies to offer their services to businesses and non-profits that are somehow connected to the newly emerging legal marijuana industry in several states.

    Initially I presumed these problems were unique to those who actually held licenses to commercially cultivate or sell marijuana. Most of us are familiar with the enormous challenges these banking and financial limitations cause for those who have invested their time and resources to start a new business legal under state law. Today, most are forced to operate on a cash-only basis; no bank accounts or credit cards allowed.

    The Obama administration has reassured the banking and related industries that they will not be penalized by the feds for providing necessary and usual business services to those businesses operating legally under state law. But the banking industry realizes this policy could be reversed under another, less marijuana-friendly president, and largely has refused to budge until particular provisions of federal law, which they feel put them in legal jeopardy, have been changed.

    Proposed Federal Reforms Pending

    There are serious efforts underway in Congress to fix these banking problems, and support is clearly growing among the members. HR 2076/S 1726, The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015, sponsored by a bi-partisan group of legislators, would fully protect financial institutions providing services to legitimate marijuana business. Many observers, myself included, expect this area of federal reform will be the first to be approved by the Congress, among the several federal marijuana proposals pending. (You can register your support for these measures from the NORML website.

    NORML has been supportive of these reforms, believing they are necessary for the newly legal marijuana industry, and because it is in the best interest of consumers that the legitimate industry operate in a transparent manner, as other industries do.

    Suddenly, NORML Loses Credit Card Services

    But now we have a more personal reason to fight for this change. NORML has abruptly lost our ability to accept credit or debit card donations on our website. Without advance notice, NORML was notified by registered mail this past week that the company that processes our debit and credit card donations, TransFirst, had decided, apparently based on their review of our website, that we no longer qualify as a client, and they immediately ceased processing our credit card traffic. As with many non-profits, we depend to a large degree on donations from our website to fund our organization, so this (hopefully temporary) glitch presents a serious threat to the organization.

    NORML is a not-for-profit public-interest lobby that represents the interests of responsible marijuana smokers. We do not grow or sell marijuana, nor do we have any financial interests in the marijuana industry. Nonetheless, when I asked TransFirst what rule we had violated, they said we were part of the “marijuana industry.”

    Our advocacy is First Amendment-protected activity; marijuana legalization is our policy goal, and we work every day to nudge the country a little closer to that policy.

    But now, when someone with the TransFirst financial services corporation decided to visit our website, and discovered that we are a pro-legalization lobby, we are suddenly found to be unsuitable as a client. We are denied the same business services routinely provided to tens of thousands of other non-profits, many of whom also focus on controversial social issues, simply because we have a website that promotes the legalization of marijuana!

    We are working now to identify another company that will not be frightened by our political views, that will step in to provide these necessary services. And unlike most of those in the legal marijuana industry, at NORML we have never had problems finding banks willing to handle our accounts. For that, I suppose, we should be grateful.

    But that is not what I am feeling right now. I am angry that some mid-level executive at TransFirst was able and willing to disrupt our work at NORML based on the content of the advocacy on our website. That represents a totally unnecessary act (there is no theory under federal law that would penalize a company for providing financial services to NORML), and one that smacks of an anti-marijuana prejudice that is reminiscent of the days of “reefer madness.” We are being penalized for our political views.

    It is time for all of us to stand-up and say, loudly and clearly, “Get over it. There is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana and it’s time we began treating people who smoke, and corporations that work in and around the marijuana industry, in a fair manner.”

    It is time we, as a society, overcome our anti-marijuana prejudices, once and for all.

    32 responses to “It’s Time To Get Over the Prejudice Against Marijuana!”

    1. Keith Kropf says:

      Ok, I’ll be sure to cease doing business with TransFirst, and I will let them know why.

    2. Flower Top says:

      Yes Finally But Not Completly Cannibus Is Accepted As Medicone By Four Smart State People And Will Change More States But Dat Movie Reefer Madness Put Society Over The Bridge ?Let’s Fix Bridge For People Who MEED Medical Cannibus especially Children??????

    3. Todd says:

      Founding Father of the United States Thomas Jefferson said, “If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”

    4. Daniel says:

      Here is the driver of this:

      TSYS, headquartered in Columbus GEORGIA is full of ignorant and conservative execs. I would bet money one of them ordered a review of accounts to dismiss clients that they found undesirable.

    5. Julian says:

      Great quote Todd. The only laws in the US more costic and inhumane than our food and drug policy would have to be our special districting for mosquito control exposed by John Oliver on the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. Middle managers, ghost governments and colluded beurocracies are enemies of freedom wherever rules are made and broken.

      Does anyone else smell the sweet terpene fragrance of a lawsuit? Perhaps TransFirst could have argued cutting credit services to NORML PAC, by categorizing the for-profit lobby as part of the “marijuana industry,” but cutting services to NORML Foundation, a registered non-for-profit organization with stated bias that it is “part of the marijuana industry,” implying profit, means that NORML Foundation needs to calculate the lost revenue adding up and sue TransFirst for damages. Oh, and violation of 1st amendment rights; that should add up to a healthy award. File it in Federal court. Find another credit service. We’ll donate for that!

    6. Steve says:

      I think the solution is more support from citizens and not letting up educating them that the social stigmas associated with cannabis simply aren’t true, many successful people find it a healthier choice and the fact that it is actually good for some because of its healing properties. Only then will the anti propaganda by big pharma, big alcohol and the private prison lobbying and anti ads be seen through as malicious and self serving. Awareness is the answer.

      • YearofAction says:

        @Steve, That is a great way to help more people get over the prejudice against marijuana.

        More support from citizens who are knowledgeably encouraged to defend our Constitution, could restore our access to the versatile cannabis plant by calling for the government to respect the Necessary and Proper clause, the Ninth Amendment, and the Tenth Amendment, which are literally assaulted by the existing federal definition of marijuana.

        A specific reform of the definition of marijuana that the federal government uses, can work to end such stigmas when more people defend the Constitution by calling for it. The enforcers of that definition won’t call for it, many in the “marijuana industry” won’t call for it, and most of the Establishment won’t either. It must be demanded by the people who want to realize the benefits of cannabis and end the problems caused by that definition.

        This year is a good time to get educated about marijuana reform. The points supporting this specific reform are listed in the comments here:


    7. Hempopotomus says:

      Desperate petty attempts that if were reversed on the prohibition party would call for incarceration.

      NORML once Medical Cannabis is 50 state legal on a federal level, is it likely that there will be a influx of litigation against Department’s, Agencies, or businesses?

      Beyond the pettiness it seems like this is criminal! Especially if their actions lead to someone not getting the medicine they need.

      • Jim heffner says:

        I’ve been saying that some of the actions by authority abusing prohibitionists that are intentionally causing harm to people are war crimes. If priests and athletes are held responsible for their actions why not bureaucrats, politicians, and LEOs?

    8. sk says:

      It seems clear to me that this is a deliberate attempt to violate NORML’s first amendment rights. Is there any possibility for NORML to recover damages?

      [Editor’s note: Violations of the First Amendment are almost exclusively the domain of governments. Meaning that a citizen possess no inherent First Amendment right to do business with a private company if the company does not want to do business with a person, company or organization (the private company, generally speaking, can be sued for violating the rights of so-called ‘protected classes’, i.e., gender, age, race, religion, etc…).

      NORML’s ‘speech’ vis-a-vis what credit card processing companies are willing or not to work with it is not part of the currently recognized protected classes.]

      • Anonymous says:

        To the editor:
        Point taken about First Amendment rights.
        But there’s still a path to justice:
        The bottom line is that TransFirst made a statement that termination of credit services was based upon NORML, including NORML Foundation’s association with “the marijuana industry.” They could have just terminated services without an explanation and left themselves less exposed to a civil suit for compensation due to negligence per se, deceptive practices, breach of contract and implied warranties.
        Dig up any recorded statements you can. Call every executive and record their statements,(recording yourself of course, just for fun),

        And since you won’t be going the First Amendment route, perhaps it would be better to sue TransFirst locally instead of Federally at first, using Georgia’s Peachtree NORML to pursue and petition the State Attorney General’s office:


        Fair Business Practices Act
        (O.C.G.A. Sections 10-1-390 et seq.)

        “Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act prohibits unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the marketplace. This law applies to consumer transactions involving the sale, lease or rental of goods, services or property mainly for personal, family or household purposes. The Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit will pursue a case of this nature whenever the Attorney General determines there is a substantial public interest.”

        Georgia’s Fair Business and Practices Act contains two provisions that qualify as violations that NORML may take in interest;

        1). Making false or misleading statements about another business or its products or services.

        2).Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised (example: using “bait-and-switch” tactics)

    9. B says:

      Aren’t they violating the constitution somewhere? Drag them into court for this…publicly even. Watch TSS stock prices fall when they’re plastered all over CNN and the AP.

    10. Mark Mitcham says:

      Sounds like typical corporate horseshit to me. “The Man” sucks. (By “The Man” I mean corporate america at large, and the ideologies that drive it.)

      I know “The Man” ain’t here to serve society; ask any CEO: they’re here to make a profit. Duh. Who said anything about social responsibility, or doing good in the world? Puh-leeze. That’s a lie for the marketeers to sell. (Don’t feel bad, I fell for it, too. It’s your job, that’s where they have you. Your employer is golden… or at least, has the gold!)

      Look, The Man is malicious! That’s why we have to keep spelling it out for him: “No, you can’t discriminate based on race. No, you can’t discriminate based on gender. No, you can’t discriminate based on religion. Or age. Or…” We’re talking about a complete and total failure to grasp the concept!

      Why such personal resentment on my part? Drug tests. It’s not the biggest issue (I think the state stealing children from parents is number one, that’s totally horrifying,) but every drug test I’ve ever taken out of economic desperation was for me something emotionally akin to rape — like an involuntary finger fuck — particulary when a nurse is feeling my balls to make sure I’m not wearing a prosthetic. I have a sense of shame to this day for allowing that to happen, but I was desparate for work and had few other options at that time. I don’t think I can ever forgive “The Man” for that.

      So I’m not surprised at NORML’s credit card issues with “The Man.” But we’ll keep fighting back, and we’ll keep looking those bastards right in the eye, because we know damn well we’re not doing anything wrong by our association with cannabis.

      • Fireweed says:

        I felt exactly the same way about drug testing, that I should never be forced or coerced to disrobe or be touched without my free consent. Anything else amounts to feeling raped. If I had a partner that demanded sex, it would feel the same way. I left my last job with a full-blown case of ptsd, and having the ever-present threat of drug testing was part of it. I once wrote on an employee satisfaction survey that I am not a piece of livestock in reference to random drug testing. I’m against even pre-employment drug testing for the same reasons.