State Lawmakers Tell Feds to Reschedule Marijuana

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A group representing state legislators from across the U.S. is calling for marijuana to be rescheduled under federal law.

“The Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove cannabis from Schedule I thus enabling financial institutions the ability to provide banking services to cannabis related businesses,” reads a resolution adopted Wednesday by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

While the measure is not binding on the federal government and carries no force of law in the states the lawmakers represent, it is an indication of marijuana’s emergence as a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics and sends a strong signal to the Obama administration and the next president that the growing divide between local and federal cannabis policies is increasingly unsustainable.

The vote took place at NCSL’s annual legislative summit, held this year in Chicago. The resolution first cleared the body’s Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, as reported by The Marijuana Times.

The initial version of the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Ann Lininger (D-OR), called for cannabis to be completely removed from the Controlled Substances Act, but was amended in committee to focus on taking marijuana out of Schedule I in order to address the industry’s banking issues.

Last year, NCSL members approved a separate resolution saying that “federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference.”

The new measure goes further by specifically calling for marijuana to be rescheduled.

Many of the resolution’s whereas clauses focus on the difficulties that state-legal marijuana businesses face due to continued federal prohibition.

Current federal laws impose “substantial administrative and operational burdens, compliance risk and regulatory risk that serve as a barrier to banks and credit unions providing banking services to businesses and individuals involved in the cannabis industry,” it says. “Without banking options, cannabis related businesses are forced to operate exclusively in cash.”

The measure spells out the problems caused by keeping the legal marijuana trade mostly in cash. “A large and growing cash-only industry attracts criminal activity and creates substantial public safety risks [and] a cash-only industry reduces transparency in accounting and makes it difficult for the state to implement an effective regulatory regime that ensures compliance,” it says.

Marijuana law reform advocates cheered the resolution’s passage, saying it reflects a growing call for change.

“The resolution adopted this year recognizes that outdated federal marijuana laws are presenting the states with some serious public safety issues,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana.com in an email. “There is an immediate need for access to banking and other financial services for state-legal marijuana businesses. Like most Americans, state lawmakers are tired of waiting for Congress to catch up on this issue.”

In 2013, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar resolution calling for the federal government to better accommodate local marijuana laws. It noted that “enforcing the costly and ineffective prohibition on marijuana drains limited resources that could be better spent on programs that more effectively serve the public and keep our cities safe from serious and violent crime” and demanded that “federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference” so that states and municipalities can “set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities.”

The NCSL legislative summit in Chicago also included a panel discussion on the marijuana businesses’ banking issues and a “virtual tour” of a Illinois’s medical cannabis industry.

Separately, NCSL’s website hosts resources that provide a “deep dive” into policy issues surrounding marijuana and track state medical cannabis laws.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

3 Comments

  1. I want to start off commenting by stating this is not the official position of my company, but my own personal views regarding this issue. I feel that Cannabis needs to be de-scheduled or placed into a sub-class all on its own. Of course, NCSL will move to have it rescheduled… that means all those pharma, alcohol and tobacco lobbyists that get paid hundreds of thousands a year (if not millions) are doing their jobs. We do NOT want to reschedule and treat cannabis like a narcotic! It is a botanical plain and simple. If the DEA and Congress decide to reschedule to aII status, there will be an uprising in the tens of millions who have invested money into the already developing industry.

    This is just another sign of big business moguls coming in and taking over by using their already full pockets.

    My personal advice… De-schedule and create a sub-class on its own… and regulate the medical cannabis industry how you see fit… for recreational use, let’s have the Folgers and the Starbucks brands like any other industry and leave it at that. That way, large corporations like Pfizer, Philip Morris and other large corporations can have their piece of the action… and the artisan cultivators and shop owners can participate just as much.

  2. Yes, put this one Plant in its own category as this is good science a sub-category all by itself makes very clear common sense?
    Thank-you ,
    Brian

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