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  • by NORML March 19, 2019

    In the first in what are anticipated to be multiple Congressional hearings to address the federal prohibition and criminalization of marijuana, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled to convene a markup on The Safe Banking Act, HR 1595 on Tuesday, March 26th.

    Thousands of state-licensed and regulated businesses lack access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes because federal law discourages financial institutions from engaging in such partnerships. This ongoing federal prohibition forces this newly emerging billion-dollar industry operates largely on a cash-only basis — an environment that makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. It also places the safety and welfare of these business’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities.

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “This situation is untenable. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions. In order to best support the states that have had the good judgment to license and regulate businesses to produce, manufacture, or distribute cannabis, it is critical that Congress address the lack of basic banking services and amend federal law accordingly.

    “The banking issue is just one aspect of the failed policy of federal marijuana criminalization. In order to truly bring the marijuana industry out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to amend this, and many others, outdated and discriminatory practices.

    “This will certainly not be the last hearing of this Congress to discuss marijuana prohibition and we expect a full hearing on prohibition to be scheduled in the months to come.”

    The sponsor of The SAFE Banking Act, Congressman Ed Perlmutter said, “For six years, Congress has failed to act on the issue of cannabis banking, putting thousands of employees, businesses, and communities at risk. However, the issue is finally receiving the attention it deserves with the first-ever congressional hearing and now a scheduled committee vote. With 97.7% of the U.S. population living in a state where voters have legalized some form of adult recreational, medical or limited-medical use of marijuana, congressional inaction is no longer an option. And with broad, bipartisan support in the House, I look forward to the SAFE Banking Act continuing to move forward in the Financial Services Committee and on the floor of the House.”

    You can send a message to your member of Congress in support of The SAFE Banking Act here. 

    Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional fifteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

    Specifically, a 2019 report estimates that over 211,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

    Send a message to your member of Congress in support of The SAFE Banking Act now!

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 18, 2019

    A.1617, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), has been re-introduced this legislative session. The bill would legalize the adult possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana.

    Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice.

    Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

    • Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

    Our communities can’t wait. The decades of marijuana prohibition had created a stain on the fabric of our society, and urgent action is needed to begin to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs. Adult-use cannabis legalization must be passed in the state budget, and support for the MRTA goes a long way towards making that a reality. Freedom simply cannot wait any longer.

    Click here to send a message to your New York State Assemblymember in urgent support of this effort.

     

    We also encourage you to plug in with Empire State NORML. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their webpage HERE.

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  • by Chicago NORML March 14, 2019

    This year, on April 8th, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) will be returning to our nation’s capital in Washington D.C. and playing a leading role in drafting policy agendas to ensure participation of people of color in the cannabis industry.

    Chicago NORML is very excited to participate in the summit this year. As we continue our work with legislators, businesses, and our communities on cannabis reform and legalization here in Illinois, our attendance and participation in this summit is crucial.

    We could use a little help getting there! Please make a donation which will help defray costs of sending us to this important high-level policy discussion and workshop. Make an investment in our work by donating what you can.

    We expect to engage with industry leaders on important topics that will soon have a direct impact on our communities such as banking, taxation, criminal justice reform, and equity in ownership. Additionally, we expect to address how Federal measures such as Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, the RESPECT Act, and the States Act will affect us on the local level.

    Never have we been so close to comprehensive reform in Illinois and it’s imperative that we get it right. Help us make legalization a reality in Illinois and ensure that it is done so in a way to build an economy that works for all of us.

    Thanks for all you do,
    Chicago NORML

     

    You can find out more at www.chicagonorml.org and follow Chicago NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 13, 2019

    In news that bodes well for the future of cannabis legalization in the state of New York, both chambers of the state legislature have included legalization language in their annual budget proposals.

    Both budget proposals also address the expedited expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions, implementing social equity programs in the state’s growing marijuana industry, and diverting tax money earned through the legal cannabis industry to benefit communities that have borne the brunt of the most brutal aspects of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in New York.

    Though Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal does not allow for the personal cultivation of marijuana plants, the NY General Assembly’s budget proposal does promote home cultivation upon the legalization of adult-use and retail sale of cannabis in the state. If home cultivation is included in final legislation and is signed into law by the governor, New York would help reinvigorate legislative support for the practice, which has waned considerably in other east coast states that are exploring legalizing cannabis for adult-use.

    The legal allowance of home cultivation in private residences is a core tenet of NORML’s Attributes of Adult Access Regulations. Read about home cultivation and our core tenets here.

    Though it remains to be seen if the Empire State will legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2019, we cannot let up in our fight for the personal freedoms of New Yorkers. As always, we need your help to make sensible marijuana reform a reality in New York.

    Click here to send a message to your state lawmakers in support of cannabis legalization in New York.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 5, 2019

    The state-licensed cannabis industry gained over 64,000 new employees in 2018, and now employs over 200,000 full-time workers, according to data compiled by Whitney Economics and the online content provider Leafly.com.

    Commenting on the new findings, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “The federal government needs to deschedule marijuana to allow states to better and more fully benefit from the economic growth engine that is the legal marijuana industry. Further, state regulators need to ensure as this sector expands its economic benefits are shared by all, including and most especially by those who suffered most under the failed policy of criminal prohibition.”

    The report, entitled Cannabis Jobs Count, identifies some 211,000 full-time jobs in the legal cannabis sector. This total increased to 296,000 jobs when ancillary employers are included.

    By comparison, 112,000 Americans are estimated to currently work in the textile industry, while only about 52,000 people are employed by the coal mining industry.

    “[T]he legal cannabis industry remains a substantial and unrecognized engine of grassroots job creation,” authors concluded. “In fact, cannabis job growth is proceeding at double digit rates in many states despite being overtaxed locally and heavily penalized at the federal level.”

    California (67,000 jobs) led the country in cannabis-related employment, followed by Washington (47,000 jobs), and Colorado (44,000 jobs).

    The full report is available online here. Additional economic data is available via the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy,” online here.

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