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PNC Bank announces shut down of Marijuana Policy Project account

PNC Bank announces closure of MPP accounts

One of the nation’s leading marijuana legalization groups says PNC Bank has notified it that it will close the organization’s 22-year-old accounts, a sign of growing concerns in the financial industry that the Trump administration will crack down on the marijuana business in states that have legalized it.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lobbies to eliminate punishments for marijuana use but is not involved in growing or distributing the drug — an important distinction for federally regulated banks and other institutions that do business with such advocacy groups.

Nick Field, the MPP’s chief operating officer, said a PNC Bank representative told him in May that the organization’s accounts would be permanently closed July 7 because an audit of the accounts revealed that the organization received funding from marijuana businesses that handle the plant directly.
“They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,” Field said.

A wise decision on their end

Although marijuana businesses are legal in some states, many banks will not provide services to sellers or growers because the drug is banned at the federal level.
But policy and advocacy organizations such as the MPP have been spared. A bank’s severing ties with an organization that accepts donations from such businesses signals a new level of concern in the banking industry.

PNC Bank declined to discuss its relationship with the MPP, but a spokeswoman said that “as a federally regulated financial institution, PNC complies with all applicable federal laws and regulations.”

The bank has held the MPP’s accounts since the organization was formed in 1995.

Some advocacy groups say the abrupt closing of the MPP’s accounts is an unpleasant side effect of growing uncertainty about protections for the marijuana industry in states that have legalized it. The industry enjoys loose protection via a combination of legislative amendments and memos from the Justice Department that effectively allow states to operate medical and recreational marijuana businesses without federal interference. But many advocates worry that the Trump administration is changing course to enforce federal laws and dismantle key protections for the expanding industry.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization. During a Senate drug hearing in April 2016, Sessions — then a Republican senator from Alabama — said, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

When asked during his confirmation hearing in January whether he would enforce federal drug laws as attorney general, Sessions replied, “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law.”
The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week, Sessions wrote to congressional leaders asking for the ability to prosecute medical-marijuana dispensaries. Sessions implored members of Congress to reconsider a rule enacted in 2014 to prevent the Justice Department from using federal funds to block state laws that legalize medical-marijuana cultivation and use.

Legal marijuana is protected by the “Cole memo”

The sale of recreational marijuana, in contrast, is loosely protected by the 2013 “Cole memo.” The memo, issued by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole during the Obama administration, instructs state law enforcement agencies not to use their resources to prosecute the authorized sale of marijuana in states where it is legal.

The vice president for regulatory compliance at the American Bankers Association says these protections are not enough reassurance for financial institutions. Banks are subject to federal regulation to prevent fraud, money laundering or breaches of privacy.

Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, banks accepting any money associated with its sale could be investigated for money laundering,” said Rob Rowe, the ABA executive, adding that many banks do not make a distinction between advocacy organizations and businesses that sell or grow marijuana.
But Field’s organization, the MPP, and many other advocacy groups, such as NORML, say banks’ concerns are overblown. The Justice Department has never investigated a bank for offering accounts to state-legal marijuana businesses. In addition, Field said, advocacy organizations are legal entities that are subject to strict scrutiny by the IRS.

“We are a registered 501(c)(3) and (c)(4). We have yearly audits. We are compliant with the IRS,” he said. “It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”

Field said the MPP is still seeking a new bank. John Hudak, an expert on marijuana policy and governance at the Brookings Institution, suspects that the MPP’s difficulty in finding another bank reflects banks’ fears that Sessions intends to roll back protections for the industry and enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“It’s no secret,” Hudak said. “It’s a situation that is creating an increasingly uncertain policy environment.”

Amid the uncertainty, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) introduced a bill to ensure protections for banks providing “financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses.” The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, introduced in April, has 44 congressional co-sponsors.

The first provision of the bill would prevent federal regulators from terminating banks’ federal deposit and share insurance “solely because the depository institution provides or has provided financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business.”

Many marijuana advocacy organizations hope the bill will pass, offering the industry the banking security it seeks.
“It’s one thing to take a position about making marijuana legal,” said Mason Tvert, the MPP’s communications director. “It’s something different to say these businesses should be able to be bank legitimately.”

Originally published by The Washington Post

Ivanka Trump; New Nancy Reagan?

Ivanka Trump gets an office in West Wing, Washington Post 3/21/17

“Although Ivanka Trump lacks a formal White House job, the president’s older daughter is moving into her own West Wing office, an administration representative said — a move that increases her profile as an influential, although unofficial, adviser to her father…President Trump has named Ivanka, 35, the mastermind behind his child-care and maternity- leave plans, the first proposals on such issues from a Republican president…”

This may be a good fit for Ivanka Trump to fill the Nancy Reagan chair as the nation’s top drug prevention advocate supporting the millions of drug-besieged Parents currently suffering over 500 drug-related deaths of their loved ones EVERY DAY– and the millions more enslaved to drug-incapacitated family-member addicts.

When Nancy Reagan served as honorary chairman for Parents’ drug prevention organizations throughout the nation with her direct access to the President, that collaborative effort was credited with reducing teen drug use by 50% during the Reagan era saving many lives and preventing many family drug crises.

A specific example is when Parent Drug Prevention leaders told Nancy Reagan about the blood-bath being created on the nation’s highways that resulted from teen drunk driving fatalities that skyrocketed after the drinking age was lowered to 18 from 21. One of our parents at a local meeting lamented at that time, “I’m getting tired of going to teen age funerals.” Nancy immediately responded by bringing to President Reagan’s attention this horrific tragic outcome from the lower drinking age promoted by the alcohol industry assisted by misguided liberal theorists. The President immediately coordinated a bi-partisan initiative with leaders of Congress to enact a federal law mandating returning the drinking age to 21. As a direct result of Nancy Reagan speaking up for us, 21 became law and teen drunk driving fatalities decreased by over 70% saving many lives since then.

In Nancy Reagan’s keynote address at the D.C. National Federation of Parents annual conference in 1986, she counseled us not to give up out of frustration at the slow rate of progress in preventing drug-related tragedies. She told us the “Starfish Story” about the retiree at a beach community who walked the beach every morning at sunrise and observed the great number of starfish that had been stranded on the beach as the tide went down. He knew they would die as the sun rose and dried them, so he tossed them back in the water as he walked along. A friend watching him commented that with all the starfish along the beach his efforts would not make any difference. To which he responded as he tossed another starfish back into the water, “It makes a difference to this one.”

Today, over three decades later, Parents are increasingly suffering from failing national drug prevention policies. But we keep trying, hoping to save at least “this one” once in a while. But under the overwhelming influence of addictive substances massive profits, government officials at all levels are failing to initiate effective policies to stem this nationwide public health crisis of drug-related deaths and disabilities. See our recent article citing this crisis at link:  Lawmakers Corrupted by Drug Money Ignore Marijuana Harms.  It includes many other links to valid studies and reports.

As a young mother with children who could become as endangered by the nation’s failing drug policies as millions of our children are, Ivanka Trump may be perfectly positioned to understand and be motivated as Nancy Reagan was, to provide the high-level leadership needed to “make a difference to all families” in this nation’s war on drugs.

We Parents should welcome Ivanka Trump’s new White House position. Especially if her influence as a Nancy Reagan type drug prevention spokesman should result in serious new effective drug prevention policies that will prove their benefit by recording major reductions in drug-related death rates in confirmation of President Donald Trump’s legacy of success similar to that of our beloved Nancy and President Ronald Reagan.

NICAP 3/22/17

DeForest Rathbone is a Board Member, Parents Affected By Addiction (PABA). DeForest Rathbone is a leader in the parent’s movement which has been active since Nancy Reagan’s campaign which was credited with a 50% drop in youth drug use during the Reagan era. He can be reached in Leonardtown, MD, 301-994-2733, DZR@prodigy.net.

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell

Vaping is Not a Safe Alternative

Marijuana Users Hide it with Vaporizers

While electronic cigarette enthusiasts and marijuana addicts continue to blow their clouds, new research conducted on electronic cigarettes has pointed towards the additional dangers. After conducting a federally funded study on the dangers of vaping, Harvard scientists are now calling for “urgent action.” The researchers found harmful chemicals that destroy the lungs; these chemicals are commonly found in vaporizer liquids, also known as “juice”.

Recently, a 14-year-old girl wound up in the hospital suffering from mild burns to the legs and arms while trying to enjoy a ride on the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios. The man sitting next to her on the ride brought his vape to the amusement park. The vaporizer in his pocket exploded, causing burn injuries both to the man and teen girl. This was not an isolated incident. The U.S. Fire Administration deems electronic cigarettes as “flaming rockets” due to their ability to blow up as compared to other battery-powered devices. Despite this warning, the FFA is still allowing these devices on airplanes.

Dangers of Dabbing

The dangers of ‘dabbing’ are also quite alarming. Dabbing is smoking highly concentrated marijuana oil produced by using butane as a solvent. The ‘dabs’ are then smoked through a vape pen or bong. Vaporizers are often used to conceal the use of marijuana in school, at work, and any public place because the scent is not detectable. The dabbing trend has led to more marijuana addicts and home explosions because of the process of making the concentrate using highly flammable butane. What is disturbing is that marijuana users continue to ‘dab’ for the quick and fast effects of ‘dabbing’, the THC content can be up to 70 to 85 percent. Michigan State Police are facing the challenges of controlling the dangers of ‘dabbing’ as stated by Lt. David Kaiser, “We always have explosions. We always have severe burns. It’s something that can wreck your body and your life forever,”. (Jackman, 2015). According to Jackman, a link between psychosis and dabbing was also found.

Vaporizers Not Safer Than Tobacco

Vaporizers are widely known to be a “tobacco substitute.” Yet, the American Lung Association reports that vaporizers not only contain nicotine but other chemicals harmful to the lungs, including toxic-cancer causing chemicals, such as a chemical used in anti-freeze. The ‘vaping’ industry misleads smokers into believing that vaping is safer than smoking and a great way to quit cigarettes. The allure of the hundreds of flavors entices consumers to indulge. Young people are particularly vulnerable to such marketing messages. The flavors themselves contain harmful elements that damage the lungs. Diacetyl, a chemical found in flavors is now known to be harmful to the lungs.

Wired, the technology magazine, tells the stories of several tragic vape pen accidents. The fact that an electronic cigarette are blowing up in adults and teens faces resulting in fractures, burns, and broken teeth leaves us wondering why people continue to put themselves at risk. While we wait for further research to explore even more dangerous aspects of ‘vaping’, we can only hope that smokers will not be fooled into thinking vaping is a safer alternative.

Former Addict Comments on Mainstreaming of Marijuana

Illuminating Comment Thread on Bend Bulletin Article

A recent article, Mainstreaming Marijuana, which outlines the ominous trends due to marijuana legalization is sparking some good conversation on the issue. Here is a portion of the comment thread:

M. Parent wrote:

I don’t use cannabis. I just can’t tolerate people being punished for using it, having their lives ruined via draconian laws
Your addiction is quite rare. At least you were never in the position of dying or acquiring a deadly ailment via its use.

Most users have no issue or problems with mj other than legal ones.

Be well

Skyway 1234 responds:

Thank you for your polite response, which must be because you don’t smoke pot. The pot smokers are unbelievably nasty, cruel, rude and determined to have their way. We don’t have draconian marijuana laws anymore. Today the only time people are arrested and charged with marijuana possession is if they have other charges against them and law enforcement wants to throw the book at them.

The percentage of convictions for marijuana alone are very few. My addiction is sadly anything but rare. I’ve been sitting in meetings now for 29 years and marijuana is the #1 drug that I see people going back out on. It is insidious and anything but good for your health. Our society has raised it’s young people to believe marijuana is completely harmless, so they don’t have a clue of what they are doing to themselves.

Most users have issues and problems, but we have a cabal of marijuana sellers who are determined to make you believe it is wonderful to smoke pot. Think of how it was with Big Tobacco, only in addition to the smoke and tar in your lungs, you’re loaded. People are smoking pot and driving, raising children, going to work, getting divorced, and so on. My older brother doesn’t have a problem with marijuana, he just keeps getting divorced – 4 times so far. No problem.

No matter how obvious it is that a death has occurred as the direct result of marijuana, pro pot advocates will not admit it. For example, there was a case in San Diego where a teenaged girl was hired to babysit a 1 1/2 year old toddler. While at the house, the baby was playing in the bedroom alone, the girl got a call from her Aunt, stepped outside, and the two females started smoking pot out in the car. The thick smoke must have been what blocked them from seeing the baby come out of the house and walk into the street. The baby was killed.

Now, was that death due to marijuana? Of course it was. The pro marijuana people advocated and supported the teen until she was acquitted of all charges and let go. Baby dead – perp walking the street. No matter how awful it is, pot advocates will tell you that it wasn’t because of pot. I’ll give you a true set of statistics. We have 50 million people in the US with a pot problem, 60 million alcoholics, and 15-21 million hard drug addicts. 259 million prescriptions are written each year for painkillers alone – and 250 million for anti-depressants. All of the above is for a population of 321 million. According to a UN study conducted at the end of 2014, the US has 5% of the world’s population – and 80% of the world’s drug addicts. Do we really need to make it easier for young people to obtain and use mind altering substances?

I’m not arguing with you to be spiteful, or annoying, to irritate or be a “right fighter.” I am saying this because I don’t want to see the suicides, the psychotic reactions, the honey oil explosions, the head on collisions, and the terrible toll marijuana takes on our society in hundreds of ways.

Look around online to find information that is not being provided to you by the marijuana industry, because they are feathering their own nests by trying to get the young people to believe marijuana is utterly harmless. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Please read the full article here and the comments that follow:

Mainstreaming Marijuana in the Bend Bulletin