“We’re Waiting for the Smoke to Clear”
On Election night, two states — Colorado and Washington — passed historic measures to legalize using and selling small amounts of recreational pot, effectively challenging the federal law that classifies the drug as an illegal narcotic.
In Colorado, adults 21 and older will now be able to legally buy and possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow as many as six plants. In Washington, the measure authorized the state liquor control board to regulate and tax the drug.
This would apply not only to state residents, but visitors, too. Tourists won’t be able to pack their weed along with their bags to go back home, but as long as out-of-state tourists purchase and use the drug while in Colorado or Washington, they won’t violate any marijuana laws.
Colorado’s measure specifically bans public use of the drug. But guidelines for commercial sales are still to be worked out. The state’s 536 medical marijuana dispensaries are banned from allowing on-site consumption, meaning patients have to take the drug home with them. But lawmakers could set different rules for recreational marijuana shops, including the possibility of marijuana cafes.
Another marijuana measure, which would legalize the practice for medicinal purposes only, also passed in Massachusetts on Tuesday. 18 states plus Washington, D.C., now have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana in some form.
While it may take some time for the remainder of the country to follow suit, there has been much debate over the costs and benefits of legalizing the drug. With state coffers running low, some wonder if it makes sense economically to flip arrests, fines and expensive incarceration into jobs, tax revenue and small businesses.
But don’t fire up the bong quite yet. The future of legal marijuana is hazy.
This is all assuming the recreational marijuana measures will take effect at all. That was very much in doubt Friday as the states awaited word on possible lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice asserting federal
supremacy over drug law. Despite state voter referendums, marijuana is
still illegal under federal law.
The Feds don’t like it one bit– as evidenced by their recent efforts cracking down on medical marijuana growers and dispensaries in California while being legally permitted under state law. They’ve tossed people into jail and court, gone after landlords, and threatened publicly elected officials with lawsuits.
They have also vowed to pull FDIC protection for banks doing business with the ‘industry’, including processing credit card transactions. One thing legal
marijuana producers and distributors can’t do is use the bank.
These businesses have resorted to becoming cash-only businesses, fraught with frustrations and danger due to the Fed’s intervention. Not only is it dangerous to have so much cash in one place, it’s also next to impossible to pay employees, bills, and taxes. It’s an effective technique as many dispensaries have shut down as a result.
“Banks are afraid of losing their FDIC protection,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, owner of Denver Relief, one of the oldest medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver. “Therefore, we can’t open a bank account.”
Wherever the federal government stretches its long arm of the law, strings can be pulled for intimidation and persuasive compliance. The issue, we believe, will be tangled up, thwarted, and stymied by the Feds for the foreseeable future– just as we’ve seen happen in the Emerald Triangle and throughout California.
We expect the issue to be heard eventually in the Supreme Court– long before any Presidential administration or the DEA takes the bold and risky move of changing their longstanding policy and stance otherwise.
In addition to the CNBC talking heads yakking above an oddly curious 4:20 minutes, there’s more about tourists and tourism lighting up here.
(Posted by Skippy Massey)