The Democratic-controlled United States House of Representatives voted Wednesday to advance legislation that would allow banks to do business with marijuana businesses in states that have “legalized” marijuana despite marijuana being federally illegal. The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act known as the SAFE Banking Act would allow cannabis businesses to access financial services now unavailable to them because marijuana is federally illegal and shelter financial institutions from prosecution for doing business with marijuana businesses . The legislation faces a tough path in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Currently 33-states have passed legislation to “legalize” some form of marijuana use in direct conflict with federal law. Banks have been unable to do business with marijuana businesses in fear that they would violate federal anti-money laundering laws.
Senator Robert Menendez D-NJ sought to have a provision added allowing marijuana businesses to obtain insurance “The SAFE Banking Act ensure that marijuana businesses operating legally are treated like any other legal small business when it comes to accessing essential banking products including in New Jersey, which has taken bold steps to expand medical marijuana” Menendez said.
Perhaps someone should inform Senator Menendez and members of the United States House of Representatives that marijuana is federally illegal. In this case state law does not trump (pun intended) federal law. Every state that has “legalized” marijuana has done so in direct violation of federal law. There are no legal marijuana businesses in the United States. How can the federal government now allow banking institutions to do business with an illegal industry? What’s next? Are we going to allow banks and financial institutions to do business with opioid dealers?
Despite some form of marijuana laws passed by individual states (laws regarding “legalized” marijuana, “decriminalizing” marijuana and “medical” marijuana) marijuana is illegal under federal law (See the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811)). Under federal law marijuana is treated like every other controlled substance, such as cocaine and heroin. Under the Controlled Substances Act marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that the federal government views marijuana as highly addictive. Federal marijuana laws are very serious and punishment for people found guilty is frequently very severe. Federal law considers marijuana a dangerous illegal drug.
As you know if you’ve read my prior blog posts on the subject I am firmly against any form of legalized recreational marijuana. I am also a realist. I realize that despite overwhelming evidence of the negative effects of marijuana usage and a study of the social impacts in the states that have “legalized” or “decriminalized” marijuana a majority of Americans support legislation to legalize marijuana use. Those of us who are against the legalization of marijuana will have to accept that. Today marijuana remains federally illegal. Until the federal government passes some sort of legal marijuana legislation the House has just voted to allow Tony Montana to open a bank account.
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