Cannabis Prohibition 'Creates Substantial Public Safety Risks,' State Lawmakers Say

Cannabis prohibition is a threat to public safety, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) - a bipartisan group that brings together lawmakers from across the country to coordinate lobbying campaigns. Those lobbying efforts now include calling on the Trump administration to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and let individual states decide the legality of cannabis. 

"[T]he National Conference of State Legislatures believes that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove cannabis from scheduling," the group wrote in a recent policy resolution. "[T]he National Conference of State Legislatures acknowledges that each of its members will have differing and sometimes conflicting views of cannabis and how to regulate it, but in allowing each state to craft its own regulations we may increase transparency, public safety, and economic development where it is wanted."

The NCSL says that it's members are particularly worried about the public-safety hazard that the federal government created by forcing cannabis industries to operate on a cash-only basis. Because cannabis is a federally prohibited substance, most banks and financial institutions avoid doing business with medical or recreational marijuana industries out of fear of being implicated in organized crime.

That means dispensaries and many other cannabis companies have a lot of cash on-hand, which makes them prime targets for burglars. "[A] large and growing cash-only industry attracts criminal activity and creates substantial public safety risks," the NCSL wrote, adding that prohibition also imposes onerous challenges on legal states and members of the cannabis industry.

"[A] cash-only industry reduces transparency in accounting and makes it difficult for the state to implement an effective regulatory regime that ensures compliance....[T]he inability of cannabis related businesses to pay taxes in a form other than cash, which may only be remitted in person, creates a large burden on state to develop new infrastructure to handle the influx of cash, and on the business owners who may have to travel long distances with large sums of cash"

So to keep states safe, the NCSL wants the feds to repeal prohibition and let financial institutions do business with cannabis companies just like any other industry.

And that's bad news for Jeff Sessions. Trump's attorney general is trying to rally support for cannabis prohibition with the dubious claim that marijuana leads to violent crime. So Sessions definitely doesn't want to hear that prohibition poses a greater risk to public safety. Especially not right after his own task force turned on him last week by advising him not to crack down on legal states. And that setback came less than a month after Congress denied Sessions' request to unleash the DEA on states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, legalization has been gaining even more traction thanks to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D). Earlier this month, Sen. Booker introduced a cannabis bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and let states decide their own cannabis laws - just like the National Conference of State Legislatures wants.

So support for marijuana reform is growing by the day while opponents like Jeff Sessions are finding fewer and fewer backers for their outdated policies. Luckily for Jeff, you can treat depression with medical marijuana.

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