Apr 292015

Marijuana businesses could open bank accounts under legislation unveiled in the House today. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act introduced late Tuesday by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) would provide banks with so-called “safe harbor,” so they can offer accounts to marijuana businesses without the threat of federal retaliation. “First and foremost, this is an issue of public safety,” Perlmutter said. “Not only are the proprietors at risk, but the employees and customers are also at risk of serious and violent crimes.” Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C., but banks are still prohibited from dealing with pot shops in those states. In addition to Perlmutter, Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) and 16 other lawmakers are backing the legislation. “Forcing businesses into cash-only territory is a dangerous step away from legitimacy, transparency, and regulation and a huge step towards crime, tax evasion, and access to minors,” Heck said.

A legislative panel gave its full backing to legislation yesterday that proposes authorizing legal dispensaries for medical marijuana in Louisiana. If the bill becomes law, medical marijuana would not be available in a smokable form. It would also be restricted for use by patients suffering from glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The Louisiana Legislature legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1991, but there’s no mechanism in current law that allows for the legal dispensing of the drug. Doctors can legally prescribe it, patients can legally use it, but they don’t have a middleman. Senate Bill 143, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, gives legal authority to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to set rules regulating a tightly constrained dispensary system. Mills negotiated with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association to get his bill in a posture that allowed the sheriffs to take a neutral stance on it.

As the Nebraska Legislature waits to begin first-round debate on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, Gov. Pete Ricketts sent a message Tuesday that signaled his intent if it passes. In a column headlined “Marijuana is a dangerous drug,” Ricketts said the medicinal virtues of marijuana are still much debated. Ricketts called legalization for any purpose a risky proposition. “Marijuana remains a federally banned controlled substance whose medicinal value has not been tested,” Ricketts said. The governor also attempted to tie K2, so-called synthetic marijuana tied to recent overdoses in Lincoln and Bellevue, into the discussion of medical marijuana. Yesterday, six Nebraskans met with Ricketts and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Acierno for half an hour to plead their cases. They have children with severe epilepsy, a husband who died of brain cancer or they themselves suffer from multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

The three largest Ohio branches of the union representing nearly 70,000 retail workers, today endorsed the ResponsibleOhio initiative to legalize marijuana. “The executive board of these locals, which are made up of rank-and-file members, made a decision to support this proposal because we want to make sure that we have good jobs in the new legal marijuana industry,” said Laurie Couch, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers. The majority of the local members work in retail stores, Couch said, including Kroger, Meijer and CVS, as well as in food packing and processing. The endorsement follows Monday’s nod from Dr. O’Dell Owens, the president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. If passed, the proposal would create a Marijuana Control Commission that would license 10 farms around the state – which the investors have already purchased – to grow the crop. Another 1,100 licenses would be issued for testing laboratories, manufacturing facilities and retail outlets.

More than 63 percent of the Michiganders who responded to a recent University of Michigan survey said that medical marijuana use is OK for adults, but 80 percent of the nearly 2,200 polled said it’s not OK to use around children. The U-M Mott Children’s Hospital Poll on National Health, which was administered during November and December 2014, showed that even though four out of five people said medical marijuana should not be used by adults around kids, 36 percent of the respondents said children should be permitted to use marijuana for medical purposes. In Michigan, more than 150 children under the age of 18 are on the state medical marijuana registry. Ten percent of respondents in the Mott poll either have a medical marijuana card or know someone who does, while 7 percent either use marijuana when children are present or know someone who does.