New Jersey’s Half-Baked Ballot Initiative Prevents Meaningful Marijuana Reform

(Source) On Election Day, November 3, 2020, voters in four states, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in their states. These referendums, known as ballot initiatives, allow voters to participate in the state’s policymaking process by inviting them to vote on a proposed law. Prior to the 2020 election, nine states and D.C. legalized recreational marijuana through this method. Some ballot questions contained very general language concerning taxation and regulation. Now, eight years after the first successful legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado, the political conversation has evolved beyond rudimentary concerns.  This past year, criminal justice was on the ballot nationwide, allowing voters to impact state and local policies.  Now, there is a broader dialogue about legalizing recreational marijuana as a means of social and criminal justice reform. Many advocates of marijuana reform hope to wield this democratic tool to ensure that it would protect those who have been or would be harmed by marijuana’s criminalization. In light of the many historic moments of 2020 that have shed light on racial disparities and injustice in the United States, it is appropriate to address these key concerns in the ballot initiatives. In Arizona, the approved ballot measure included [read more]

A “Growing” Industry?: Banking Regulation’s Impact on the Legal Cannabis Industry’s Growth

(Source) With the increase in the number of states legalizing cannabis for recreational or medical purposes, issues come to light surrounding the implications of the relationship between the legal cannabis industry and banks. Due to marijuana’s current illegal status under federal law, the legal cannabis industry suffers in several ways from its lack of banking access. As of 2019, in the United States, marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C., for medical use, but only twelve of those jurisdictions allow both medicinal use and recreational use of marijuana. While most states have legalized marijuana in some form, under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1), marijuana is a substance with a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted use for medical treatment, and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision (Schedule I substance), and remains illegal under federal law. Marijuana’s current legality status under federal law makes banks very reluctant to work with the cannabis industry. If banks provide services to the cannabis industry, those banks risk criminal prosecution for not only money laundering, but also aiding and abetting in a federal crime. If desired, banks could file a suspicious activity report for every transaction dealt with by the cannabis [read more]