A group representing thousands of lawmakers from around the U.S. is calling on the federal government to end marijuana prohibition so that states can enact their own cannabis policies without intervention.
“The federal government should respect state decisions to regulate cannabis, including hemp in non-FDA approved cannabis products,” reads one of two new policy directives adopted on Wednesday by the National Conference of State Legislatures. “NCSL believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own cannabis policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state cannabis policies.”
“NCSL maintains that the administration should prioritize its enforcement actions against criminal enterprises engaged in cannabis production and sale, and not against citizens who are compliant with state cannabis laws. Furthermore, NCSL urges Congress to prohibit the administration from using federal funds to enforce the CSA in a manner inconsistent with these enforcement priorities.”
The other directive, which focuses on banking access for marijuana businesses, says that federal prohibition forces growers, processors and retailers to operate on a cash-only basis, which “attracts criminal activity and creates substantial public safety risks.”
“NCSL acknowledges that a cash-only industry reduces transparency in accounting and makes it difficult for states to implement an effective regulatory regime that ensures compliance.”
Letting state-legal cannabis businesses use banks will provide access to “capital, security, efficiency, and record keeping,” the state lawmakers say.
Calling existing Treasury Department guidance enacted during the Obama administration “insufficient,” the group says that “current federal regulations force financial institutions to incur inordinate risk, should they decide to provide banking services to licensed cannabis businesses.”
Very pleased that Oregon-led directive to push Congress to remove #cannabis from DEA schedule just passed @NCSL unanimously. With cannabis legal in >30 states & territories, this action must happen soon so legitimate businesses have access to financial services.
— Sen. Steiner Hayward (@ESHforOregon) August 1, 2018
“Thirty states, the District of Columbia and Guam already allow some form of legal cannabis use,” Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, (D), said in a press release. “We are trying to create an above-board, legitimate industry, where for many years only an unregulated market prevailed. It’s past time for Congress to finally help us do that by removing cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Operating as a cash-only business invites crime and hinders our work to improve public safety. When businesses in this industry begin using banking services, it will lead to better regulation and improve access to capital. Congress needs to step up and help us make sure this legal industry is properly regulated and contributing to our states’ economies.”
A Republican colleague agreed with Burdick.
“The cannabis industry is making big contributions to Oregon’s economy, and giving these business owners access to secure banking is critical to their ongoing success,” Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters said. “Voters across the nation have shown support for the legal cannabis industry, it is time for the federal government to take the necessary steps and deschedule cannabis in order to promote safety, security, and remove barriers to much needed research.”
The state legislators’ policy positions are similar to those recently adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties, both of which are pushing the federal government to respect state and local marijuana laws.
40 states, including VA, just voted in favor of state-level cannabis regulation. Not legally binding, obviously, but a strong message to Congress to get out of the way. #NCSLsummit
— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) August 1, 2018
“NCSL’s directives reflect the growing support for reform at the federal level,” said Karen O’Keefe, the state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “State lawmakers, like most of their constituents, are increasingly frustrated with Congress’s failure to resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Whereas lawmakers previously expressed their collective opinion on the subject, they are now taking it a step further and demonstrating a commitment to advocating for reform.”
NCSL itself has adopted a number of marijuana reform positions at past conferences, most recently calling for cannabis descheduling last year.
Also at this year’s conference in Los Angeles, lawmakers heard two separate panels on cannabis issues, one focused on banking access and another looking more broadly at the federal-state divide on marijuana.
Sen. @hertzieLA (D-CA) & experts from @NCIAorg, @ABABankers, @Weedmaps & @EastCarolina discuss novel ways to provide financial services to the #marijuana business. #NCSLsummit pic.twitter.com/fKKwJdEVjT
— NCSL (@NCSLorg) July 30, 2018
— Mary Ann Dunwell (@MTMaryAnn) July 31, 2018
Among the exhibitors at the event were the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, the anti-legalization Smart Approaches to Marijuana and the narcs at the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Marijuana Moment Patreon supporters can read the full text of NCSL’s new cannabis policy directives below:
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.
Watch: Senator’s Spot-On Impression Of Mitch McConnell Talking About Marijuana
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was apparently taken aback when he heard that the red state of Utah is likely to legalize medical marijuana in November.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in an interview on Wednesday that the exchange took place during Senate’s tax reform debate earlier this year, and he executed a pretty uncanny impression of McConnell in the retelling.
Asked by Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call to share his favorite story about McConnell, Gardner said the two struck up a conversation on the Senate floor about marijuana and small business tax issues.
At the time, the Colorado senator was pushing an amendment to undo the provision in federal tax law known as 280E that prevents marijuana businesses from writing normal expenses off of their returns.
Gardner pressed McConnell on the issue, telling him that “47-plus states have legalized some form of marijuana, medical marijuana, CBD… Even Utah is most likely gonna legalize medical marijuana this year.”
“And McConnell looks at me and he goes, ‘Utah?’ And just this terrified look. Right as he says that, [Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)] walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin, and he says, ‘Orrin, is Utah really gonna legalize marijuana?'”
Then, looking at his feet, hands folded, the Mormon senator from Utah deadpanned: “First tea, then coffee, and now this.”
“It was just hysterical,” Gardner said.
You can watch the full Roll Call interview here.
Though McConnell isn’t quite the face of cannabis reform in Congress, he’s taken a leadership role in the fight to legalize industrial hemp—successfully securing a provision to accomplish just that in the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill, which is now being reconciled with a proposal from the House that contains no hemp language.
Gardner, meanwhile, has embraced reforms sought by the legal cannabis industry in the years since Colorado became the first state to end marijuana prohibition in 2012.
Photo courtesy of RollCall.
Man Sends Marijuana Samples To Feds… To Make A Legal Point
Mailing numerous cannabinoid samples to U.S. courts and the Department of Justice was a key part of one man’s convoluted lawsuit strategy against the federal government that relied on an obscure Confederate-era statute, court filings show.
Oh, right. This requires some explanation. So, it’s not entirely clear what the end-game in this case was meant to be, but the essential facts are as follows: a man named Jeffrey Nathan Schirripa filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleging that the government failed to hold up its end of a contract that, in a roundabout way, he attempted to force upon it.
Schirripa first sent cannabinoid samples to the Justice Department and a U.S. district court in 2015 to lay the groundwork for a theoretical “contract” between himself and the government, according to the filings. But the court “dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Then, in an apparent effort to “prove the existence” of a contract, Schirripa attached unspecified parts of marijuana to 18 copies of a confidential petition for rehearing this year. Schirripa seemed to believe that he was creating “subject matter jurisdiction,” a necessary component of an implied unilateral contract that he said the government violated.
The court did not agree that unsolicited mailings of controlled substances constituted the relevant subject matter in an implied contract, though. On Monday, it filed this order:
“The Clerk of Court is directed to transmit these 18 documents to the U.S. Marshals Service for appropriate disposition or alternate action within the purview of the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The judges explained that the specific U.S. statute that Schirripa used as the basis of his subject matter claim was enacted in 1861, and it was exclusively designed to “weaken the Confederate States by authorizing the President to seize property aiding the Confederacy in its insurrection.” In other words, it didn’t apply here.
In his petition for rehearing, Schirripa included a flow chart visualizing of his intended logic.
It starts with the fact that he sent prototypes of “neuroprotecting antioxidants” to members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Schirripa admits that sending the “gifted” substances directly violated the Controlled Substances Act. So far, so good.
But from there, the petitioner seems to suggest that in both possible scenarios he presents—that the law can be enforced against him for mailing a controlled substance or that it can’t and so the cannabinoids are therefore “subject to prize/capture”—he’s proven to be an “interested party,” thereby validating his claim that the government breached an implied unilateral contract.
“I don’t fully understand the Schirripa’s flow chart, but it appears to be a boot-strap version a catch-22 for the court—the type of argument that you might figure out while high,” Dennis Crouch, a law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, wrote in a blog post about the case.
The court seemed to agree. The statutes upon which Schirripa rested his contract theory “have no relation to any contract theory or any government bid or procurement practice,” the judges ruled in their denial of his rehearing. “The Court of Federal Claims thoroughly considered Mr. Schirripa’s arguments and theories, and fully explained their inapplicability.”
The appeals process might not have worked out, but it’s hard to imagine that Schirripa will be totally deterred. This marks his third appeal on “related actions” since 2014, court documents show. The legal logic of an implied unilateral contract didn’t hold up this time, but Schirripa—who has described himself as “the world’s most qualified expert in the realm of Cannabinoid Reform”—seems to be nothing if not tenacious.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.
Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says
A Democratic lawmaker who many political observers believe will likely be the next chairman of the powerful U.S. House Judiciary Committee implied in an interview on Wednesday that he supports legalizing other currently illicit drugs in addition to marijuana.
“From everything we have learned, people are going to do drugs. And certainly the softer drugs like marijuana, there’s no good reason at all that they cannot be legalized and regulated properly,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said.
“The major effect of the war on drugs has been to fill our prisons with huge numbers of people to no great effect except to waste money and to ruin lives.”
In the comments, which Nadler made during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, the congressman did not specify with substances he believes should be legalized, but his use of the pluralized phrase “softer drugs like marijuana” and the word “they” suggests his anti-prohibition views extend beyond just cannabis.
There is no precise definition of what constitutes a “soft drug” as compared to a “hard drug,” but some analysts categorize substances like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA in the former category in light of their lack of addictive potential.
Nadler is currently the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies involved in drug enforcement and prosecution. If Democrats take control of the House in the midterm elections, as many poll watchers predict, he would likely ascend to the panel’s chairmanship and have the power to bring marijuana and other drug reform bills up for a vote.
Also in the radio interview, Nadler called the war on drugs an “abject failure” that is “not succeeding in reducing crime or doing anything else.”
“We ought to look at drugs as a public health issue.”
The comments came shortly after another key Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), released an eight-page memo to fellow party members laying out a step-by-step strategy for how they can accomplish federal marijuana legalization in 2019 if they take control of one or both chambers of Congress. The plan includes a hearing on marijuana descheduling before the Judiciary Committee.
When it comes to marijuana, Nadler sees it as “far less damaging than nicotine to people’s health and we should probably regulate it similarly,” he said in the interview, adding that its current restrictive Schedule I status “doesn’t make any sense.”
Photo courtesy of David.