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Diversity Provisions Added To Marijuana Banking Bill Up For Congressional Vote This Week

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The sponsor of a marijuana banking bill scheduled for a key committee vote in Congress this week is moving to amend the legislation to add provisions requiring the federal government to track and issue recommendations on how to expand financial services to minority-owned and women-owned cannabis businesses, among other changes.

The bill, the the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, is slated to be voted on by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

In general the proposal seeks to protect banks from bring punished by federal regulators for working with marijuana businesses that are legal under state laws—a key goal for the cannabis industry, the lack of which is seen as a major roadblock to certainty, security and growth.

Current policy makes many financial institutions reluctant to work with marijuana growers, processors or sellers out of fear of violating money laundering or drug laws. And that has forced many cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis, which can make them targets for robberies.

The new House Democratic majority has identified moving on the banking issue as the first step in what could be a broad marijuana reform agenda, although top Republicans are seeking to delay the vote from happening at all this week.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s chief sponsor, wants to strike the current bill’s provisions and replace them with a new version—an “amendment in the nature of a substitute,” in Capitol Hill parlance.

Many of its core provisions, and the main thrust of the legislation, which currently has 143 cosponsors—nearly a third of the entire House—remain the same, however.

Chief among the changes are the diversity and inclusion provisions that would require federal financial regulators to issue reports on an annual basis compiling “information and data on the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses” and make “regulatory or legislative recommendations for expanding access to financial services” for those businesses

Separately, the Government Accountability Office would be directed to “carry out a study on the barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and the access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

Another change would spell out more clearly which activities are covered under the legislation’s protections. The original version referred to the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to define “financial service.”

The amended language, however,  specifies that the protections provided in the bill cover armored car services and money transmitting businesses, as well as the “authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring for deposit, transmitting, delivering, instructing to be delivered, reconciling, collecting, or otherwise effectuating or facilitating of payments or funds, where such payments or funds are made or transferred by any means, including by the use of credit cards, debit cards, other payment cards, or other access devices, accounts, original or substitute checks, or electronic funds transfers.”

The substitute additionally makes sure to clarify that protections under the legislation are extended to federal reserve banks and employees of marijuana businesses.

The amendment also deletes a requirement for federal banking regulators to issue guidance and procedures to banks but maintains a related provision directing the Financial Institutions Examination Council to develop the guidance.

“With access to banking services, cannabis businesses would longer need to operate as a cash only business, which could promote public safety and improve the efficiency of collecting taxes and fees from these businesses,” reads a new committee memo on the bill released ahead of Tuesday’s markup.

The legislation was the subject of a lengthy hearing last month.

Here’s a closer look at the changes Marijuana Moment spotted in a side-by-side comparison of the original bill and the substitute amendment, with technical and non-substantive changes listed last:

OLD:
[no comparable provision]
NEW:
SEC. 8. ANNUAL DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION REPORT.
The Federal banking regulators shall issue an annual report to Congress containing—
(1) information and data on the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses; and
(2) any regulatory or legislative recommendations for expanding access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.

 

OLD:
[no comparable provision]
NEW:
SEC. 9. GAO STUDY ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION.
(a) STUDY.—The Comptroller General of the United States shall carry out a study on the barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and the access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.
(b) REPORT.—The Comptroller General shall issue a report to the Congress—
(1) containing all findings and determinations made in carrying out the study required under subsection (a); and
(2) containing any regulatory or legislative recommendations for removing barriers to marketplace entry, including in the licensing process, and expanding access to financial services for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.

 

OLD:
(6) FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘‘financial service’’ means a financial product or service as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481).
NEW:
(6) FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘‘financial service’’—
(A) means a financial product or service, as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481);
(B) includes, whether performed directly or indirectly, the authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring for deposit, transmitting, delivering, instructing to be delivered, reconciling, collecting, or otherwise effectuating or facilitating of payments or funds, where such payments or funds are made or transferred by any means, including by the use of credit cards, debit cards, other payment cards, or other access devices, accounts, original or substitute checks, or electronic funds transfers;
(C) includes acting as a money transmitting business which directly or indirectly makes use of a depository institution in connection with effectuating or facilitating a payment for a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider in compliance with section 5330 of title 31, United States Code, and any applicable State law; and
(D) includes acting as an armored car service for deposit with a depository institution or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System with respect to any monetary instruments (as defined under section 1956(c)(5) of title 18, United States Code.

 

OLD:
[no comparable provision]
NEW:
(b) PROTECTIONS FOR FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS.—With respect to providing a service to a depository institution that provides a financial service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider (where such financial service is provided within a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of cannabis pursuant to a law or regulation of such State, political subdivision, or Indian Tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable), a Federal reserve bank, and the officers, directors, and employees of the Federal reserve bank, may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation—
(1) solely for providing such a service; or
(2) for further investing any income derived from such a service.

 

OLD:
(b)FORFEITURE.—A depository institution that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan or another financial service provided to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or to an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing such loan or other financial service.
NEW:
(c) FORFEITURE.—
(1) DEPOSITORY INSTITUTIONS.—A depository institution that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan or another financial service provided to an owner, employee, or operator of a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or to an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing such loan or other financial service.
(2) FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS.—A Federal reserve bank that has a legal interest in the collateral for a loan or another financial service provided to an owner, employee, or operator of a depository institution that provides a financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or to
an owner or operator of real estate or equipment that is leased or sold to such a depository institution, shall not be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative forfeiture of that legal interest pursuant to any Federal law for providing such loan or other financial service.

 

OLD:
ISSUANCE BY FEDERAL BANKING REGULATORS.—The Federal banking regulators shall each issue guidance and examination procedures for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers that are consistent with the uniform guidance and examination procedures developed under subsection (a).
NEW:
[no comparable provision]

 

OLD:
(5) FEDERAL BANKING REGULATOR.—The term ‘‘Federal banking regulator’’ means each of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration, or any Federal agency or department that regulates banking or financial services, as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.
NEW:
(5) FEDERAL BANKING REGULATOR.—The term ‘‘Federal banking regulator’’ means each of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration, the Department of the Treasury, or any Federal agency or department that regulates banking or financial services, as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

 

OLD:
(5) prohibit or penalize a depository institution, or entity performing services for the depository institution, for, or otherwise discourage a depository institution, or entity performing services for the depository institution, from, authorizing, processing, clearing, settling, billing, transferring, reconciling, or collecting payments for a cannabis-related legitimate business, where such payment is made by any means, including a credit, debit, or other payment card, an account, check, or electronic funds transfer
NEW:
(5) prohibit or penalize a depository institution (or entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution) for, or otherwise discourage a depository institution (or entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution) from, engaging in a financial service for a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.

 

OLD:
(a) IN GENERAL.—With respect to providing financial services within a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of cannabis pursuant to a law or regulation of such State, political subdivision, or Indian Tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable, a depository institution that provides financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, and the officers, directors, and employees of that depository institution may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation—
(1) solely for providing such financial services;
(2) for further investing any income derived from such financial services.
NEW:
(a) IN GENERAL.—With respect to providing a financial service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider within a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of cannabis pursuant to a law or regulation of such State, political subdivision, or Indian Tribe that has jurisdiction over the Indian country, as applicable, a depository institution, entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution, or Federal reserve bank that provides a financial service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, and the officers, directors, and employees of that depository institution, entity, or Federal reserve bank may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation—
(1) solely for providing such a financial service;
(2) for further investing any income derived from such a financial service.

 

OLD:
Nothing in this Act shall require a depository institution to provide financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.
NEW:
Nothing in this Act shall require a depository institution or entity performing a financial service for or in association with a depository institution to provide financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.

 

OLD:
The purpose of this Act is to increase public safety by expanding financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers and reducing the amount of cash at such businesses.
NEW:
The purpose of this Act is to increase public safety by ensuring access to financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers and reducing the amount of cash at such businesses.

 

OLD:
FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘financial service’ means a financial product or service as defined in section 1002 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (12 U.S.C. 5481).
NEW:
FINANCIAL SERVICE.—The term ‘financial service’ has the meaning given that term in section 10 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.

 

OLD:
CANNABIS-RELATED LEGITIMATE BUSINESS.—The term ‘cannabis-related legitimate business’ has the meaning given that term in section 8 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.
NEW:
CANNABIS-RELATED LEGITIMATE BUSINESS.—The term ‘cannabis-related legitimate business’ has the meaning given that term in section 10 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.

 

OLD:
SERVICE PROVIDER.—The term ‘service provider’ has the meaning given that term in section 8 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.
NEW:
SERVICE PROVIDER.—The term ‘service provider’ has the meaning given that term in section 10 of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019.

 

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Medical Marijuana Legalization Ballot That Voters Approved

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A voter-approved initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi has been overturned by the state Supreme Court.

On Friday, the court ruled in favor of a Mississippi mayor who filed a legal challenge against the 2020 measure, nullifying its certification by the Secretary of State. The lawsuit was unrelated to the reform proposal itself, but plaintiffs argued that the constitutional amendment violated procedural rules in place.

While the court acknowledged that a “strong, if not overwhelming, majority of voters of Mississippi approved Initiative 65” to legalize medical cannabis in the state, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s (R) petition was valid for statutory reasons.

Madison’s challenge cites a state law stipulating that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.” But that policy went into effect when Mississippi had five congressional districts, and that’s since been reduced to four, making it mathematically impossible to adhere to.

The state pushed back against the lawsuit and argued that a plain reading of the state Constitution makes it clear that the intention of the district-based requirement was to ensure that signatures were collected in a geographically dispersed manner—and the result of the campaign met that standard.

But in the court’s ruling released on Friday, the justices said that their hands were tied. The legislature or administration might be able to fix the procedural ballot issue, but it had to follow the letter of the law.

“We find ourselves presented with the question squarely before us and nowhere to turn but to its answer,” the decision states. “Remaining mindful of both the November 3, 2020 election results and the clear language in section 273 seeking to preserve the right of the people to enact changes to their Constitution, we nonetheless must hold that the text of section 273 fails to account for the possibility that has become reality in Mississippi.”

In sum, a Census-driven change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi “did, indeed, break section 273 so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions,” meaning there’s no legal way to pass a constitutional ballot initiative in the state.

“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

“We grant the petition, reverse the Secretary of State’s certification of Initiative 65, and hold that any subsequent proceedings on it are void,” the court ruled.

One justice who dissented said that the district-based requirement is arbitrary as it concerns Mississippi elections. While the federal government defines the state as having five congressional districts, the state Constitution “lays out the five districts,” and “there have been zero changes to the five districts” as far as the state’s laws are concerned.

In any case, this marks a major defeat for cannabis reform activists in the state who collected more than 214,000 signatures for their measure and saw 68 percent of voters approve it last year.

Under the voter-approved initiative, patients with debilitating medical issues would have been allowed to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal included 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would have been able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.

There was an attempt in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the event that the court overruled the voter-approved initiative, but it failed to be enacted by the session’s end.

This is the latest state Supreme Court setback to affect cannabis reform efforts.

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court dealt a critical blow to marijuana activists working to legalize marijuana in the state—killing an initiative that hundreds of thousands of voters have already signed and forcing them to start all over again if they want to make the 2022 ballot.

While a Nebraska campaign collected enough signatures to qualify a reform initiative in 2020, the state Supreme Court shut it down following a legal challenge. It determined that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule, much to the disappointment of advocates.

Read the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on the medical cannabis initiative below: 

Mississippi Supreme Court m… by Marijuana Moment

Congressional Bill Filed To Protect Marijuana Consumers From Losing Public Housing

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Congressional Bill Filed To Protect Marijuana Consumers From Losing Public Housing

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A congresswoman on Thursday reintroduced a bill that would allow people living in federally assisted housing to use marijuana in compliance with state law without fear of losing their homes.

As it stands, people living in public housing are prohibited from using controlled substances in those facilities regardless of state law, and landlords are able to evict such individuals. But the bill from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) would change that.

It would provide protections for people living in public housing or Section 8 housing from being displaced simply for using cannabis in states that have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes.

“Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or fear eviction, for using a legal product,” Norton said on Thursday. “Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana.”

The legislation would also require the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to enact regulations that restrict smoking marijuana at these properties in the same way that tobacco is handled.

“HUD, like DOJ, should not be allowed to enforce federal marijuana laws where states have taken action to legalize marijuana,” the congresswoman said, referring to a congressionally approved rider that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.

Norton filed earlier versions of the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act in 2018 and 2019, but they did not receive hearings or votes.

In 2018, a Trump administration official said that she was working to resolve conflicting federal and state marijuana laws as it applies to residency in federally-subsidized housing, but it’s not clear what came of that effort.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also raised the issue during a committee hearing in 2019, pressing former HUD Secretary Ben Carson on policies that cause public housing residents and their families to be evicted for committing low-level offenses such as marijuana possession.

She pointed to two specific HUD policies: the “one strike” rule, which allows property managers to evict people living in federally assisted housing if they engage in illicit drug use or other crimes, and the “no fault” rule, which stipulates that public housing residents can be evicted due to illicit drug use by other members of their household or guests—even if the resident was unaware of the activity.

Ocasio-Cortez and then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also filed legislation that year that would protect people with low-level drug convictions from being denied access to or being evicted from public housing.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also introduced an affordable housing bill last year that included a provision to prevent landlords from evicting people over manufacturing marijuana extracts if they have a license to do so.

Read the text of the marijuana housing legislation below: 

Norton cannabis housing bill by Marijuana Moment

Drug Possession Is Officially A Crime Again In Washington, But As A Misdemeanor Instead Of Felony

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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FDA Clears Researchers To Study MDMA Use By Therapists Being Trained In Psychedelic Medicine

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already authorized clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of MDMA for patients with post-traumatic stress disorders—but now it’s given the green light to a psychedelics research institute to expand its studies by administering the substance to certain therapists.

Volunteer therapists who are being trained to treat people with PTSD will be able to participate in the Phase 1 trials to gain personal experience with the treatment option. This is a complementary research project that comes as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is in the process of conducting Phase 3 trials involving people with the disorder.

The development comes months after Canadian regulators announced that certain therapists would be allowed to take psilocybin in order to gain a better understanding of the psychedelic when treating patients.

MAPS sought permission to proceed with the therapist-specific trials in 2019, but FDA placed them on a 20-month hold because of concerns about the merits, risks and credentials of investigators. MAPS appealed that hold, providing evidence about the study’s scientific value and ability of its staff, and FDA cleared them on Tuesday.

The organization “chose to dispute” FDA’s hold not just because of the impact it had on the planned studies, “but in an attempt to resolve an ongoing issue with the FDA regarding investigator qualifications across studies,” it said in a press release on Wednesday.

“While the term ‘dispute’ may seem adversarial, this process can actually strengthen the relationship and trust between us and our review Division and ensures the Division has support on this project from the [FDA] Office of Neuroscience,” MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) CEO Amy Emerson said. “This decision demonstrates how our strategic, data-driven strategy in challenging the FDA rulings can be successful.”

Now MAPS is able to launch the Phase 1 clinical trials into MDMA-assisted therapy for therapists.

It will be designed to “measure development of self-compassion, professional quality of life, and professional burnout among clinicians delivering the treatment to patients,” the association said.

Getting personal experience with the substance “is widely considered to be an important element in preparation and training to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapies.”

This will “support the goals of the MDMA Therapy Training Program to provide comprehensive training to future providers,” and it “builds capacity to deliver quality, accessible care to patients, pending approval of MDMA-assisted therapy as a legal prescription treatment,” MAPS PBC Director and Head of Training and Supervision Shannon Carlin said.

FDA first granted MAPS’s request for an emergency use authorization for MDMA in PTSD in 2017. The organization expects to complete its Phase 3 trails in 2022.

The scientific expansion move also comes as the psychedelics decriminalization movement continues to build in the U.S.

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Ballot Campaign After Legislative Filibuster Blocks Bill

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