Clearly, lawmakers throughout the United States are becoming increasingly supportive of legalizing marijuana. Recently, the National Conference of State Legislatures petitioned the federal government to declassify cannabis and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act. It also wants states to have full authority to set their own marijuana policies, without any interference from the federal government.
In a resolution adopted on Monday, the group argues that not only would this respect the rights of individual states, it would also enable marijuana businesses to access banking services and improve public safety in the process. Because banks are federally insured, they can face penalties for working with anyone in the cannabis industry. This forces companies to carry cash and risk their own safety.
According to Karen O’Keefe from the Marijuana Policy Project, “State legislators and the vast majority of voters agree that marijuana policy should be left to the states.” In this resolution, the group makes it clear that the federal government needs to amend the Controlled Substances Act. Removing marijuana from scheduling will permit financial institutions to provide banking services to pot-related companies.
This is the third time that the NCSL has urged the government to reform cannabis at the federal level in just as many years. In 2015, the group approved a resolution demanding 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.”
Last year, it called for the removal of weed from its Schedule 1 status under the Controlled Substances Act. However, although the recent resolution attempts to achieve more than past iterations have, the group made it very clear that it is not a full-blown endorsement of marijuana legalization. Instead, it “acknowledges that each of its members will have differing and sometimes conflicting views of cannabis and how to regulate it.”
The resolution continues to say, “But in allowing each state to craft its own regulations, we may increase transparency, public safety, and economic development where it is wanted.” Advocates of legalization praised the measure, lauding it as sensible and a step in the right direction. As director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, O’Keefe had this to say about the resolution:
“States should not have to worry about the federal government interfering with their marijuana policy choices.” Most voters agree with her. In various polls conducted over the last few years, the vast majority is supportive of legalization and believes that states should be able to make their own decisions regarding cannabis policy in their jurisdictions.
O’Keefe continued to say, “Legitimate, taxpaying marijuana businesses should not have to face the difficulties of operating on a cash-only basis. Allowing banks to offer them financial services will be good for the industry and benefit public safety.” Currently, cash-only operations put companies at risk of becoming criminal targets by people intent on stealing from or outright robbing them, often violently and at gunpoint.
Last month, the advocacy group Marijuana Majority conducted a survey that found as many as 76 percent of Americans supportive of states being able to create their own laws around the use of marijuana and sales of it. In April, a Quinnipiac survey showed 94 percent of civilians in favor of medical marijuana, and 60 percent agreed that it should be legal for recreational use by adults, as well.
As Tom Angell, the founder of Marijuana Majority, noted on Monday, a separate resolution was also under consideration by the NCSL, which endorsed the notion that “medical cannabis can be an effective tool in combating the national opioid crisis.” Currently, the nation is battling a widespread epidemic of opioid addiction, mainly caused by the over-prescribing of addictive opioid drugs by doctors.
The resolution, which the Health and Human Services Committee plans to vote on some time this year, makes a valid argument. It states, “There is ample evidence that states with medical cannabis programs have accomplished a significant reduction in the number of opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations in states that have passed medical marijuana programs.”