By Mark Goldfogel
Civics class in junior high school taught me that a democracy is a government that reflects the will of the people.
The majority of the people, not any individual’s ideology, is supposed to drive our country.
There are 24 states and the District of Columbia now in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, with Pennsylvania the latest state to support medical marijuana. Every poll shows a majority of support from the American public for medical cannabis.
There is also guidance from the Federal Government, adopted by seven major Federal Agencies on how to address banking for the Cannabis Industry. Banking and the Federal Government’s lack of leadership on this topic is the single most dangerous aspect to the Cannabis Industry — not cannabis itself!
Every politician I have met has agreed that it is outrageous that state-licensed cannabis growers and sellers are denied access to banking and must operate in an all cash environment.
Even the most ardent opponents of legal cannabis understand the damage that can be caused by forcing a legal, state licensed and regulated business to operate and pay all their bills and taxes in cash. One thing to consider: The trickle down effect of employees and vendors who are denied basic banking services and must also pay their bills and taxes in cash.
A failure to act on a real industry problem
Why has the banking problem not yet been solved?
I went to an event honoring Congressman Ed Perlmutter from the 7th Congressional District in Colorado in order to ask him that question. He agreed that there was no rational argument to deny state licensed businesses regulated banking. He authored a bill, the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, that would allow for highly regulated banking to occur. It is the common sense approach to solving the banking problem that we desperately need.
Congressman Perlmutter’s bill has boasts bipartisan sponsorship including Denny Heck (WA); Jim McDermott (WA); Earl Blumenauer (OR); Jared Polis (CO); Adam Smith (WA); Sam Farr (CA); Derek Kilmer (WA); James Moran (VA); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Michael Capuano (MA); Suzan DelBene (WA); Mike Coffman (CO); Diana DeGette (CO); Peter DeFazio (OR); Alan Lowenthal (CA); Chellie Pingree (ME); and Dana Rohrabacher (CA).
I have met many politicians and even a Federal Judge who has publicly stated that they would support the bill. However it has never reached a place where there can be discussion on the bill, let alone a vote. Why?
According to Congressman Perlmutter, elections have consequences and chairmen of Congressional committees yield immense power. Chairmen control the agenda in their respective committees, and unfortunately, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Republican Jeb Hensarling of Texas, has not allowed the marijuana banking bill to even get a hearing.
Why are two congressmen blocking the cannabis banking bill?
Rep. Perlmutter has tried to bypass the Financial Services Committee on several occasions but has been blocked by the Chairman of the Rules committee, Texas Republican Pete Sessions. My understanding is that two individual congressmen are blocking the bill from being heard or advancing — Rep. Hensarling, who is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Pete Sessions, who is chair of the Rules Committee.
Both are from Texas. Both hate cannabis. These are two individuals are forcing taxpaying, law-abiding citizens to risk their lives protecting cash that any other business has the right to put safely in a bank. Together, this dynamic Texas duo is denying money from state sanctioned cannabis businesses to flow transparently and safely without the obvious potential for diversion.
Rep. Hensarling has also said this is an issue for the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Controlled Substances Act. But the Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, has not helped to move this issue forward either.
Rep. Hensarling has stopped progress on marijuana banking by refusing to bring Rep. Perlmutter’s Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act up for a hearing in the Financial Services Committee. In order for legislation to reach the House floor for an up or down vote, it has to go through the Rules Committee — and Rep. Sessions has prevented this from happening.
Together, this dynamic Texas duo is keeping our country in danger by denying money from state sanctioned cannabis businesses to flow transparently and safely without the obvious potential for diversion.
Wanted: a little common sense
The cash and available cannabis at state-licensed dispensaries and grows is way too tempting. These representatives are stopping progress. In my opinion it will take at least one ugly robbery to get the attention of the American people and Congress.
Will a violent robbery move Congressmen Sessions and Hensarling to find a little common sense? Only time will tell.
If my junior high school teacher is correct, the will of the people must be heard. It would seem that our political system is being driven, not by the will of the people, but by the will of two committee chair members with a personal agenda and ideology.
That is not a democracy; that is a dictatorship.