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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

Caulkins Gives Keynote Address before United Nations Summit

Jonathan-Caulkins

In 25 years, the public health community and public in general will look back on legalization and say, ‘What were you thinking?’ said Carnegie Mellon Professor Jonathan Caulkins during his keynote speech April 17 at the 2016 Cannabis‬ Science and Policy Summit preceding this week’s general assembly of the United Nations‬.

Caulkins is an internationally respected ‪‎drug‬ policy researcher whose career stops have included serving as co-director of the RAND Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center in Santa Monica (see his bio on Wikipedia for a broad overview of his work). He did not mince words at ‪‎the summit‬ about the harms of marijuana — current and projected. He presented a graphic to remind the room that half of marijuana‬ use is problematic and that contrary to popular belief, most users of the addictive drug are not college grads‬.

Legalization‬ advocates overstate weed’s role in criminal convictions, prison sentencing and violence related to drug trafficking in ‪‎Mexico‬, he said, further adding marijuana is “not a performance-enhancing drug, it’s a performance-degrading drug.” He ended his talk with this: “People will end up being harmed by this corporate cannabis model we are cresting.”

Use the hashtag #‎PreventDontPromote‬ to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Stand up for mental health‬.

Youth Marijuana Use High and Colorado Leads Nation

Californians, please think.  Our children can’t afford the explosive  growth in marijuana use that comes with legitimizing and legalizing the powerful drug.   We will not support the marijuana legalization proposition advocated by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and paid for by east coast billionaire Sean Parker.

The most comprehensive federal government drug use survey conducted in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) shows that Colorado now leads the country in past-month youth marijuana use, after legalizing marijuana in 2012. The state claims this dubious distinction after being in third place in the 2012-2013 report, and in fourth place in the 2011-2012 study.

“Now that Colorado has legalized and widely commercialized marijuana, their children use marijuana regularly more than children in any other state,” according to Dr. Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) a former White House drug adviser who grew up in California.   Project SAM will work actively against the proposition in California next year.

“In Colorado especially, Big Marijuana has been allowed to run wild, and it appears that kids are paying the price more than in any other state in the country.”

Other states that have legalized marijuana finished in the top six:  the District of Columbia (4th), Oregon (5th), and Washington state (6th).  Vermont and Rhode Island are also in the mix.

Youth Pot Users Includes 6 Percent of 12th Graders who are Daily Users

“This year’s survey shows how, in an era of falling overall drug,
cigarette, and alcohol use — an achievement made possible by years of effort and millions of dollars of public funding — marijuana use among kids remains strong,” remarked Dr. Sabet.

“It may also be why daily marijuana use is at near-record levels.
And this doesn’t even include teens not going to school.” Moreover, this year’s survey may underestimate minors’ marijuana use. Of most concern is its exclusive focus on use of “marijuana/hashish.” The term is not well-defined given the explosion of novel marijuana products. The survey showed that kids in “medical marijuana” states use far more edible products than kids not in those states.

That narrow focus may also exclude highly concentrated products such as butane hash oil (BHO), waxes, and resins (“shatter”), which have also gained in popularity. It therefore remains unclear whether survey respondents identified use of all of the above products as
“marijuana/hashish” use.  These products are very popular in California.

The survey also excludes high school dropouts, who are more likely to use marijuana than their peers.   Teens who smoke pot daily are much more likely to drop out of high school and/or college.

 

California Tries to Regulate “Medical” Marijuana

AB 266 Passes Legislature, Ask Governor to Veto It. Medical Marijuana is NOT medicine.

By Roger Morgan, Founder, Take Back America Campaign

It’s tough to regulate a criminal activity.  First of all, “medical marijuana” isn’t medicine. The term was coined to give pot a good name as a first step toward full legalization.  Since federal law was a barrier to the hoax, the pro-pot lobby, financed by Soros and others, hoodwinked California voters into approving marijuana for the chronically ill in 1996.

The marijuana industry has crafted the latest bill.  We urge the governor to veto it. Here is what is missing: Continue reading California Tries to Regulate “Medical” Marijuana