Controlling Minds through Bank Accounts

A recent New York Times article, “The First Bank of Bud,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/business/marijuana-industry-in-colorado-eager-for-its-own-bank-waits-on-the-fed.html?src=xps) detailed efforts to create the nation’s first credit-union meant specifically for marijuana dispensaries. Because of federal money-laundering laws, risk-averse banks continue to refuse access to financial services which are necessary for the long-time survival of the cannabis industry.

In 2013 the US Justice department issued the “Cole Memo”, a legal memorandum stating that “in certain cases” it would be acceptable for banks to accept deposits from state-approved dispensaries. This attempt by federal officials to allow banks room to maneuver, lacked clear protections against money-laundering laws, leading banks to refuse to accept deposits from many businesses, deemed a risk, in the multi billion dollar cannabis industry. As a result the legal industry must operate as a purely cash business.

Payrolls, business costs, taxes, are all paid in cash, an extremely dangerous situation that invites robbery, violence, tax evasion and other criminal activity. But these are not the only threats to society; the sporadic enforcement of federal laws creates havoc, uncertainty, and sets a poor precedent for the future changes in law. In states where reforms of cannabis laws have been passed, the intended protections of legitimate, free, and regulated markets are jeopardized. This climate of uncertainty and fear undermines the spirit of law and justice, as well as cherished constitutional freedoms.

In the wake of the “Cole Memo”, financial institutions conducted expanded reviews of bank accounts to identify perceived risks. This included businesses having nothing to do with sales of marijuana, such as the bank account of NC NORML. For three years after the incorporation of NORML of North Carolina, which occurred in 2010, Bank of America provided us with necessary services to pursue our mission. So it came as a surprise when our bank account was closed, due to the “nature of our business, and it’s associated risk.”

Even though we are not a marijuana retail business, it was the topic of our social and political advocacy which was deemed “unacceptable”. The state chapter adheres strictly to all federal and state laws, is wholly volunteer based, and like other social welfare organizations, such as Tea Party groups, the Sierra Club, or the Cato Institute, our work is vital to the democratic process. Our mission is to educate the public about the economic benefits of industrial hemp, the medical benefits of cannabis, and the social benefits of legalized recreational marijuana. If these activities are “unacceptable”, or “risky”, what about the activities of the National Rifle Association or the March of Dimes? Would American citizens stand for such blatant interference in the civic life of our nation?

The right to express political and social beliefs, as well as the right to peaceably assemble for social action, is paramount to the survival of our nation. The refusal of financial institutions to provide bank accounts to dispensaries, or to nonprofit advocacy groups, is a tactic intended to influence public debate and to prevent those organizations from thriving over the long-term. Such actions are not only attempts to stifle our message, our actions, and our political beliefs, they are attempts to influence the political process and to deprive the American public of making informed decisions. In the future these methods could expand to any issue, be they matters of foreign diplomacy, war, health care, security, or privacy.

A bank is chartered to accept deposits, make loans, and facilitate financial transactions, not engage in political maneuvering. The need for sound financial services is greatest when new industries are emerging. Thus, financial institutions deserve clarifications and protections from the Federal Reserve, Congress, the judiciary, and the Executive Branch. Guidelines and memos from federal agencies are not sufficient. Whether they instruct federal prosecutors to not go after medical marijuana distributors in states where such activities are legal, such as the 2009 “Ogden Memo”, or provide vague protections for establishing bank accounts, Federal law must protect and accommodate banking, financial, and agricultural industries where states have pursued marijuana reform. This will require comprehensive legislation passed by both houses of Congress and approved by the President.

In order for such momentous action to occur, there is much work to be done. NC NORML is working to further the goal of Federal Legalization through political and social efforts in the state of North Carolina, as are other chapters throughout the country. If you agree that we can prevent needless violence, provide cutting edge medical care, and reduce the harm to communities resulting from the failed War on Drugs, then please get involved. Contact your state Representatives and Senators, contact your U.S. Representatives and Senators, contact President Obama. Reach out to local officials and demand accountability. Without your voice, without your support, people will continue to suffer and face imprisonment. Our society will pay the price if citizens are unwilling to participate in the democratic process. Get involved. Go to http://www.ncnorml.org/getinvolved.htm.

Call for Cannabis Banking Legislation

Federal legislation is needed to specifically allow banks to open accounts for cannabis related businesses. A recent New York Times article, “The First Bank of Bud,” detailed efforts to create the nation’s first credit-union meant specifically for marijuana dispensaries. Because of federal money-laundering laws, risk-averse banks continue to refuse access to financial services which are necessary for the long-time survival of the cannabis industry.

In 2013 the US Justice department issued the “Cole Memo”, a legal memorandum stating that “in certain cases” it would be acceptable for banks to accept deposits from state-approved dispensaries.  This attempt by federal officials to allow banks room to maneuver, lacked clear protections against money-laundering laws, leading banks to refuse to accept deposits from many businesses, deemed a risk, in the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry. As a result the legal industry must operate as a purely cash business.

Payrolls, business costs, taxes, are all paid in cash, an extremely dangerous situation that invites robbery, violence, tax evasion and other criminal activity. But these are not the only threats to society; the sporadic enforcement of federal laws creates havoc, uncertainty, and sets a poor precedent for the future changes in law. In states where reforms of cannabis laws have been passed, the intended protections of legitimate, free, and regulated markets are jeopardized. This climate of uncertainty and fear undermines the spirit of law and justice, as well as cherished constitutional freedoms.

In the wake of the “Cole Memo”, financial institutions conducted expanded reviews of bank accounts to identify perceived risks.  This included businesses having nothing to do with sales of marijuana, such as the bank account of NC NORML. For three years after the incorporation of NORML of North Carolina, which occurred in 2010, Bank of America provided us with necessary services to pursue our mission. So it came as a surprise when our bank account was closed, due to the “nature of our business, and it’s associated risk.”

Even though we are not a marijuana retail business, it was the topic of our social and political advocacy which was deemed “unacceptable”. The state chapter adheres strictly to all federal and state laws, is wholly volunteer based, and like other social welfare organizations, such as Tea Party groups, the Sierra Club, or the Cato Institute, our work is vital to the democratic process. Our mission is to educate the public about the economic benefits of industrial hemp, the medical benefits of cannabis, and the social benefits of legalized recreational marijuana. If these activities are “unacceptable”, or “risky”, what about the activities of the National Rifle Association or the March of Dimes? Would American citizens stand for such blatant interference in the civic life of our nation?

The right to express political and social beliefs, as well as the right to peaceably assemble for social action, is paramount to the survival of our nation.  The refusal of financial institutions to provide bank accounts to dispensaries, or to nonprofit advocacy groups, is a tactic intended to influence public debate and to prevent those organizations from thriving over the long-term.  Such actions are not only attempts to stifle our message, our actions, and our political beliefs, they are attempts to influence the political process and to deprive the American public of making informed decisions. In the future these methods could expand to any issue, be they matters of foreign diplomacy, war, health care, security, or privacy.

A bank is chartered to accept deposits, make loans, and facilitate financial transactions, not engage in political maneuvering. The need for sound financial services is greatest when new industries are emerging. Thus, financial institutions deserve clarifications and protections from the Federal Reserve, Congress, the judiciary, and the Executive Branch.  Guidelines and memos from federal agencies are not sufficient. Whether they instruct federal prosecutors to not go after medical marijuana distributors in states where such activities are legal, such as the 2009 “Ogden Memo”, or provide vague protections for establishing bank accounts, federal law must protect and accommodate banking, financial, and agricultural industries where states have pursued marijuana reform. This will require comprehensive legislation passed by both houses of Congress and approved by the President.

In order for such momentous action to occur, there is much work to be done. NC NORML is working to further the goal of federal legalization through political and social efforts in the state of North Carolina, as are other chapters throughout the country. If you agree that we can prevent needless violence, provide cutting edge medical care, and reduce the harm to communities resulting from the failed War on Drugs, then please get involved. Contact your state Representatives and Senators, contact your U.S. Representatives and Senators, contact President Obama. Reach out to local officials and demand accountability.  Without your voice, without your support, people will continue to suffer and face imprisonment. Our society will pay the price if citizens are unwilling to participate in the democratic process.  Get involved.

If you don’t agree with the current cannabis laws, we ask that you do your part to change them. Go to http://www.ncnorml.org/getinvolved.htm.

CANCELLED – Legislative Rally for Medical Marijuana (February 17, 2015)

The legislative rally for House Bill 78 has been cancelled due to snow and ice.

It was originally scheduled for February 17, 2015 at 10am.

The new date is Thursday, March 19th.

The original article describing the event was published here.

http://ncnorml.com/2015/01/28/legislative-rally-for-medical-marijuana-in-raleigh-february-17-2015/

Support for Medical Marijuana Surges for Third Year – North Carolina, 2015

Nearly seven out of ten North Carolinians support a doctor’s right to prescribe marijuana to patients in need.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey – conducted in January of 2015 – 69% of the state is now in favor of legalizing medicinal cannabis for card carrying patients. This polling data shows a 6% increase each year since 2013.

The 2015 poll also showed 21% of the state is opposed and 10% undecided. Opposition to medical marijuana dropped 7% and the number of those who are undecided rose 3% since 2014 (63/30/7%). This trend suggests that, given time, people tend to realize the benefits of legal medical cannabis far outweigh the risks. These numbers improved significantly since 2013 (58/33/9%).

Those randomly selected for the survey were asked, “Do you think doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana, or not?”

The survey was conducted the weekend before House Bill 78 – Enact Medical Cannabis Act was introduced by Representative Kelly Alexander. There are currently nine co-sponsors of the bill. It would protect people with severe diseases and specific medical conditions. The new law would create a regulated growing and distribution system of medical cannabis and associated products. This system is designed to be both safe and reliable.

A presentation and panel discussion will be held at the Legislative Building on February 17, 2015 with members of various activist groups attending (including NORML) from across the state.

This legislation is seen as a reasonable alternative to the CBD-only law that has helped zero families with  qualifying needs for the medicine.

Federally, cannabis has been a Schedule I controlled substance since 1970. Schedule I substances are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no medical value.

Fewer than 10 percent of those who try marijuana ever meet the clinical criteria for dependence, while 32% of tobacco users and 15 percent of alcohol users do. There have been no deaths from marijuana overdose or chronic use according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Cancer Institute (the U.S. government’s branch of cancer research) now recognizes marijuana has cancer cell killing properties.
### -February 14, 2015

Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet

Aaron King recently risked his long-time dream of a career teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After receiving his purple belt, Aaron’s first major employer was a gym for people who “Want to Train like a UFC athlete.” Like other athletes who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, King was unable to put himself out in public long enough to teach martial arts1 without the medicine that works best for him – cannabis. This is why he wanted to share his experiences and help others through founding  NORML Athletics.

On January 12th, Aaron was fired.  The email notifying Aaron of his termination from UFC stated:
After conducting some research I came across a post on your Facebook page that is in conflict with our Communication Policy at the gym. On November 12, 2014, there was a post … with your picture attached, describing your involvement with NORML Athletics, an organization that supports the use of cannabis “as a vehicle towards athletic self-improvement.” Your position as Founder of NORML Athletics could jeopardize our relationships with members, schools, PTAs, corporate clients and our insurance carriers.

This Communication Policy is meant to balance business interests with freedom of speech online. Recognizing a diversity of staff, it explicitly forbids “drug use or illegal activity; derogatory statements towards any race, sexual orientation, gender or religion; sexually explicit language, sexual activity; and inappropriate or sexually explicit pictures.” The policy even provides a helpful “guiding principle”:

Is this communication something that someone else would find appropriate or acceptable in a face-to-face meeting?” or “Is this something you would be comfortable saying out loud to the intended recipient of your communication in front of the intended recipient, intended recipient’s parents, the coaching staff, the owners, or other coaches.”

King’s termination was due to a political interpretation of the Communications Policy, not for explicit “drug use” – he did not fail a drug test. A reasonable person would not see this as a violation of the spirit of the policy. Had King instead voiced his position on gay marriage, it would be perfectly acceptable and he would remain in his position as an instructor.

The issue of marijuana reform affects all Americans, not just people who use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. It affects disadvantaged and privileged youth, minorities, the workforce, economic and health policies, our prison system, and how every member of the public interacts with law enforcement. Several of the central themes listed in the Declaration of Independence speak to the very ideas of civil liberty and self-government that our society holds in the highest esteem.  Yet our supporters, people of every background, are afraid to act as a cohesive political group due to the very nature of the topic in question. If we are to succeed as a movement, we must all risk our very livelihoods, reputations, and honor, or we will fail to affect our collective “Safety and Happiness.”

This is how the Gay Rights movement began. “Crimes Against Nature”, laws on the books of several states making certain sexual activity criminal, were only ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003. Gay citizens were marginalized, violently attacked, suppressed by law enforcement and acts of government. They were discriminated against, fired from jobs. Eventually, by demanding rights, the gay rights movement has become extremely successful, and is on the cusp of legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country. Can a similar strategy work for marijuana reform?

Over 100 million Americans have tried marijuana, and over 5% of the total population regularly use marijuana. Although four states have fully legalized recreational use, and 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) have medical marijuana (source: www.norml.org/marijuana). In contrast, only 3.8% of the total population identifies as a member of the LGBT community, according to the 2010 US Census, and thirty-three states have legalized gay marriage in some form (source: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United_States).

NC NORML needs people with experience in business, law, academia, law enforcement, and politics. And we need all of our supporters, whether they are marijuana users or not, to participate in our operations. But people are scared to participate. Look at what happened to Aaron King. For exercising his right to freedom of speech he was fired! How many other people fear volunteering or donating to NC NORML because they are frightened the exact same thing will happen to them?

Resistance to social change, to the reform of marijuana laws, hurts all Americans. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated a right to self-government and to the existence of “certain unalienable rights”. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” must be respected by governments; when “Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People … to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  This idea demands individuals take action to solve modern social problems.  By creating NORML Athletics, King sought to advance the social status of cannabis using athletes, to challenge social and medical stereotypes, and to encourage others with similar experiences to political action.

If the community of marijuana users, as well as non-using supporters, wants to effect change, they must stand for their beliefs as others have. If supporters are unwilling to participate in the political process, if they are unwilling to engage friends, family members, and neighbors about their beliefs, if they refuse to donate time and funds, if they cannot organize themselves into a coherent political force, marijuana will continue to be illegal. People will continue to be sent to prison. Patients of many illnesses will not get treatment.  The War on Drugs will continue unabated. Marijuana users will continue to be ostracized and eliminated from society.  Social change requires the vanguard assume risk. Without leaders to stand up boldly, as a community, we cannot become the change we seek.

If you do not agree with the laws, we ask that you do your part to change them today www.ncnorml.org/getinvolved.htm
Alex Bumgardner

Who Represents Me in North Carolina’s State Congress?

In North Carolina to pass a medical marijuana bill or legalize industrial hemp, we must persuade our representatives and senators in the General Assembly. Voters do not have the option of gathering enough signatures to put a referendum or initiative on the ballot. Instead we are dependent on our lawmakers to introduce these bills and to pass them with their counterparts in state Congress.

So to be effective North Carolina NORML encourages people to contact their representative and State Senator to find out how they stand on the issue of legalizing cannabis to varying degrees. Today most of North Carolina’s General Assembly feels that drugs are bad, marijuana is a drug, and therefore marijuana is bad. End of discussion. We need to reach out to each of them individually and engage them in this conversation with humility and compassion.

The first step is to know who your representatives are. Use this simple guide to find out today.

Go to the North Carolina General Assembly’s website
www.ncleg.net

Find your representative in the House
Click on House.
Click on House Member List.
Locate your county and district. This will provide your Representative.
Click on your Representative’s name. This will provide the Representative’s contact information.

Find your senator
Click on Senate.
Click on Senate Members List.
Locate your county and district. This will provide your Senator.
Click on your Senator’s name. This will provide the Senator’s contact information.

Now you know. The next step is to contact them politely by phone and by hand written letter. Ask them their stance on medical marijuana, industrial hemp, and full legalization.

When you make contact with them, and you know how they stand on these issues, let us know through Facebook or email.

Info@ncnorml.org