The US House of Representatives voted 236 to 186 today to approve Treasury Dept. guidelines to allow banks to do business with legal marijuana businesses. Lawmakers rejected a move by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., to block the Treasury Department from implementing guidance it issued in February telling banks how to report on their dealings with marijuana-related businesses without running afoul of federal money-laundering laws. “They are operating just in cash, which creates its own potential for crime, robbery, assault and battery,” said Rep. Earl Perlmutter, D-Colo., whose state has legalized recreational pot use. “You cannot track the money. There is skimming and tax evasion. So the guidance by the Justice Department and the guidance by the Treasury Department is to bring this out into the open.” The vote is largely symbolic since Treasury already had gone ahead with the guidance, but it demonstrates a loosening of anti-marijuana sentiment on Capitol Hill. A coalition of 46 mostly GOP moderates and libertarian-tilting Republicans joined with all but seven Democrats to beat back Fleming’s attempt to block the Treasury guidance.
Marijuana decriminalization begins tomorrow in Washington DC, with a mere $25 fine for possession of up to one ounce. At midnight, the 60-day Congressional review period on DC’s law expires and decriminalization will radically change how police deal with citizens. Under new orders set to take effect Thursday, police can no longer take action upon simply smelling the odor of marijuana. Nor can they demand that a person found in possession of up to one ounce produce identification. An attempt by Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland to attach an amendment forbidding the District from implementing the decriminalization law was soundly criticized by the Obama Administration yesterday, noting how that would prevent police from writing the decrim tickets and prevent the courts from enforcing the $25 fine.
Author and blogger Andrew Sullivan will give the keynote address at an international marijuana conference in Portland this fall. The International Cannabis Business Conference will be held Sept. 13 and 14 at the Oregon Convention Center. Sullivan, who wrote “Here Comes the Groom: A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage” and “Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality” has written about legalizing marijuana. Four years ago, he published “The Cannabis Closet: First Hand Accounts Of The Marijuana Mainstream,” a collection of testimonials from his readers. “His brand of conservatism has led him to become one of the most articulate advocates for ending cannabis prohibition today,” organizers Anthony Johnson and Alex Rogers said in an email announcing Sullivan’s appearance. The conference, which costs $499 to attend, is expected to draw marijuana industry representatives from the West Coast, according to Rogers.
Illinois patients could start using medical marijuana in early 2015. On Tuesday, lawmakers who make up the obscure but powerful Joint Committee on Administrative Rules are meeting in Chicago to discuss the rules that would implement the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. If the committee has no objections, the rules can officially be put to use and the process to begin registering patients, dispensers and growers can begin. Patients who are approved by the state are expected to be able to start using medical marijuana early next year, said Bob Morgan, the state’s medical marijuana program coordinator and a lawyer for the Illinois Department of Public Health. People with debilitating medical conditions seeking to use medical marijuana will be able to apply for a registry identification card beginning in September, Morgan said, though the application process will be staggered. Patients with last names starting with A through L will start applying in September, while those names beginning with M through Z must wait until November.