September 11, 2013
James Cole, deputy attorney general for the Department of Justice (DoJ), told Congress that their agency and federal banking regulators will “help clear the way for financial institutions to transact business with the legitimate marijuana industry without fear of prosecution.”
Cole spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) and conveyed that the DoJ is “dealing” with the allowance of financial assistance through banking institutions for marijuana-related businesses.
Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the SJC, pointed out that “as a result of the banking constraints, legitimate marijuana businesses are operating on a cash-only basis and ‘that’s a prescription for problems, tax evasion’ and other criminal activity.”
Cole remarked that “cash-only businesses” result in “the presence of guns”.
Leahy remarked that “the banking industry is not willing to provide services to state-authorized dispensaries because they fear they may be violating federal money-laundering laws.”
Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) said : “Leahy favors legalization.”
Riffle would like to see “a breakthrough in the hearing that would lead to changes in federal banking laws, allowing marijuana sellers to accept credit cards and checks, not just cash.”
The issue is not that marijuana-related businesses will pave the way for “robberies and smoothing the route away from the black market and Mexico’s cartels” but rather that the Obama administration should simply legalize marijuana on a federal level to “allow all states to legalize marijuana.”
Speaking at the Washington Convention Center, District of Columbia council member David Grosso said that he wants to propose legislation later this month that would legalize marijuana for recreational use within city limits.
This bill would outline the regulation and taxation of marijuana sales while creating licensing requirements under the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).
Another aspect of the proposal is the ability of marijuana users to grow a limited amount of the plants on their own property.
Grosso said : “If we’re going to have alcohol legal in this country, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have marijuana legal.”
Cole released a statement regarding the federal government’s new stance on marijuana enforcement policies.
Skeptics agree that this is “guidance” not a law and that Congress must step in to reform current federal legal constraints regarding marijuana legalization and the persecution of users.
Kevin Sabet, spokesperson for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) explained that “we are at a precipice. We’re about to create Big Marijuana by allowing the commercial production, retail sales and mass advertising of this drug similarly to how we have had Big Tobacco for the last hundred years.”
House Representative Dana Rohrabacher is supporting a bill that “would exempt from the federal marijuana ban anyone complying with state laws that allow production, possession and delivery of marijuana.”