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).
NCSL adopts resolution calling on feds to deschedule marijuana from Schedule I & allow banking where it's legal under state law #NCSLsummit
— Joe Henchman (@jdhenchman) August 10, 2016
— EllieBoldmanHill (@EllieHill) August 10, 2016
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.
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) August 9, 2016
The CFI Business Committee passes the amended marijuana resolution with all but one voting member in favor #NCSLSummit
— AFSA SGA (@AFSA_SGA) August 9, 2016
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.
— Ann Lininger (@annlininger) August 9, 2016
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.
Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.