The Cannabis Industry And Credit Unions – Need Meets Philosophy

As credit union professionals, we pride ourselves on doing what is right, not just what everyone else is doing. The backbone of the credit union movement is service to all segments of society including those that are underserved and unbanked. It’s not our only mission, but it is one of the key factors that make credit unions different from other financial institutions, especially banks. If credit unions turn their backs on those that need their help, it is a disservice to those that built the movement by serving all those in need.

Credit unions have an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to cannabis banking. With a number of states voters approving the use of medical and recreational marijuana, there is an urgent need for financial services for this entire industry. However, federal laws make it difficult, if not impossible, for cannabis businesses to open checking accounts, wire funds, access lines of credit or maintain payroll accounts. This is where credit unions enter the picture.

The Need for Leadership

There have been a number of credit unions that have entered the cannabis arena, but one CEO and her credit union have been leaders in this field. Sundie Seefried and the board at Partner Colorado Credit Union set up a program to offer financial services to Colorado’s cannabis industry. Their Safe Harbor Private Banking offers services to law-abiding cannabis companies those companies that do proper due diligence, document all transactions and obey the law. Sundie and her board deserve special mention as pioneers in this field. Being among the first to do something is never easy and often brings scrutiny, but Partner Colorado is a leader when the industry needs one.

Credit unions should be at the forefront of the cannabis issue. It is no longer a moral question eight states plus the District of Columbia now allow recreational use while another 28 states have approved medical programs. Whether one agrees with the concept of legalized marijuana is not important. Credit unions and their boards ought to examine why they are not serving this industry. The genie is out of the bottle and will not be returned. Not having a financial services option results in large sums of cash on the street. This forces the cannabis industry to pay its bills, employees, suppliers and taxes in cash. Where there is this much cash, crime may soon follow.

Policy makers and regulators need to provide leadership on this issue. Congress and the financial regulators, including the NCUA, have to work to bring stability and safety to this marketplace.

The Need for Due Diligence

For credit unions seeking to enter this market, client knowledge is a requirement. This is one of the hallmarks of the movement. A credit union must be very familiar with the cannabis-dispensing member know the business owner, know the member, know how they operate, and know whether the business properly mitigates risk and complies with rules on money tracking. The cannabis business owner has to be able to show the credit union and regulator that their money is legitimate. There are compliance programs that can track money from the time it comes into the dispensary to the time that it is deposited in the credit union. This type of tracking system is essential for credit unions that want to remain compliant with all regulations.

There are other questions that a credit union should ask: How does the business monitor for theft? What are the steps that are taken when a theft is discovered? How does the business prevent leakage of the product? Are licenses monitored on a regular basis? How is the business protecting itself?

The Need for Speed

Even if credit unions were among the first to serve this emerging industry, we can’t kid ourselves when it becomes more commonplace, the bankers will attempt to swoop in and dominate the market. Large banks already understand the profit potential of cannabis but they want credit unions to serve as the regulatory and legal guinea pig. Credit unions that can successfully serve this industry now will reap the benefits later when banks enter the market. One of the statements that Seefried heard from a client spoke volumes: I didn’t know what a credit union was, but if this is what a credit union is, I really like credit unions.

Let’s allow everyone to really like their credit union.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: The Cannabis Industry And Credit Unions – Need Meets Philosophy
Author: Geoff Bacino
Contact: Credit Union Times
Photo Credit: None Found
Website: Credit Union Times

Jeff Sessions' Alternative Facts On Marijuana And Legalization

Attorney General Jeff Sessions became the second member of the Trump administration in less than a week to provide alternative facts and backward analysis when it comes to marijuana.

Yesterday, in a meeting with reporters, Sessions spoke out against marijuana legalization and implied that its leading to more violence. Im dubious about marijuana. Im not sure were going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana sold at every corner grocery store.

"Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think, said Sessions. "You can’t sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that."

Ironically, Sessions comments are actually an argument for legalization. There is some violence associated with the illicit marijuana trade but its caused by prohibition and the absence of legal regulation, not the marijuana plant itself.

Prohibiting marijuana is what makes it worth so much money. And theres no legal mechanism for resolving disputes in the unregulated, multi-billion dollar marijuana trade which inevitably leads to violence. When we had alcohol prohibition, we had Al Capone and shootouts in the street.

Now that alcohol is legal, no one is murdered over a beer deal gone wrong. Likewise, the eight states that have approved legal regulation of marijuana are taking profits away from the illicit market and reducing the violence associated with it.

Those states have also created tens of thousands of tax-paying jobs, added hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue, implemented rigorous oversight of marijuana production and distribution, and drastically reduced marijuana arrests, which have saddled tens of millions of people disproportionately Black and Latino with criminal records. At the same time, marijuana legalization has not led to more youth marijuana use, traffic fatalities, or crime. (For more on this, see the Drug Policy Alliances latest status report on marijuana legalization.)

Sessions statements follow Press Secretary Sean Spicers comments last week indicating that the Justice Department will crack down on legal regulation of marijuana. When asked about whether the federal government will take action in states that have legalized marijuana, Spicer replied, I do think youll see greater enforcement. The Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into [the issue]. I believe they are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.

Spicer also provided a stunningly ass-backwards analysis when he implied that legalizing marijuana was contributing to our countrys opioid problem. When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.

As it turns out, the notion of marijuana as a gateway to other illicit drugs has been rejected by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. Legally regulating marijuana separates it from markets in other illegal drugs. And ample evidence shows that people are substituting marijuana for opioids to manage different types of pain, with remarkably lower rates of fatal overdose in states that allow medical marijuana. (For more on this, check out DPAs fact sheet on marijuana and opiates.)

Sessions and Spicer are out of step with the American public when it comes to marijuana policy. A poll last week found that a majority 59 percent of U.S. voters believe that marijuana use should be made legal in the U.S. Even more importantly, 71 percent agree the government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that decide to legally regulate marijuana including a majority of Republicans and older voters.

Sessions and Spicer should remember what their boss said on the campaign trail: In terms of marijuana legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Jeff Sessions’ "Alternative Facts" On Marijuana And Legalization
Author: Tony Newman
Contact: Drug Policy Alliance
Photo Credit: Bill Clark
Website: Drug Policy Alliance

NJ: Court Rules – Insurance Company Must Cover Medical Cannabis Treatment

A judge in New Jersey ruled that a mans insurance company must pay for the cost of his medical cannabis treatment. This may establish an important precedent in the medical industry.

Andrew Watson, who lives in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, enrolled in the states medical cannabis program in 2014. He sought financial reimbursement for the purchase of medicinal cannabis over a term of three months.

Watson suffered from chronic neuropathic pain in his left hand. His condition was consistent with New Jerseys list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. He was injured on the job. His initial workers compensation claim was denied.

During the hearing, a psychiatrist/neurologist testified on Watsons behalf. The expert stated that medical marijuana would allow Watson to reduce his prescription opiate use. This would lower risk of addiction and dangerous side effects. The court established that Watsons cannabis usage is indeed medicinal and that his insurance company should cover his claim.

The presiding judge, Ingrid L. French, stated:

The evidence presented in these proceedings show that the petitioners trial use of medicinal marijuana has been successful. While the court is sensitive to the controversy surrounding the medicinal use of marijuana, whether or not it should be prescribed for a patient in a state where it is legal to prescribe it is a medical decision that is within the boundaries of the laws in the state.

Opioids Versus Medical Cannabis

Opioids, such as methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin), have been responsible for over 183,000 deaths during the last 15 years. Their misuse, abuse and addiction are rampant in the United States. In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids. On any given day, 1000 people on average are treated in emergency situations for the misuse of these drugs.

As of early 2017, medical cannabis is legal in 28 states. More doctors and patient are likely to choose cannabis over mainstream prescription drugs to treat ailments such as pain. Pain management is a perfect contender for cannabis treatment, considering existing pharmaceutical solutions are quite addictive and out-right dangerous.

Judge French called Watsons choice to use medical cannabis as cautious, mature, and exceptionally conscientious. Many believe that medical cannabis can benefit both patients and insurance companies because treatment is less costly than pharmaceutical options.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Court Rules – Insurance Company Must Cover Medical Cannabis Treatment
Author: Staff
Contact: Conscious Life News
Photo Credit: None Found
Website: Conscious Life News

Cannabis Culture Pot Shop Is Back In Business One Day After Police Raid

The Cannabis Culture marijuana dispensary on Bank Street that was raided by police on Thursday reopened Friday morning.

The shop was back in business by 10:30 a.m., according to two people working at nearby businesses on Bank Street near James Street.

The Cannabis Culture franchise first opened two weeks ago.

Police arrested five men at the shop Thursday morning and charged each of them with five counts of possessing a Schedule II substance for the purpose of trafficking (marijuana, THC oil, THC shatter, hashish and CBD oil) and one count of possessing the proceeds of crime under $5,000.

The Ottawa raid was conducted at the same time as a project co-ordinated by Toronto police called Operation Gator that targeted Cannabis Culture outlets in Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver. Police executed 11 search warrants on seven Cannabis Culture outlets as well as private homes as part of that project.

A spokesperson for Cannabis Culture said Thursday night that the raided shops would reopen as soon as possible.

In Ottawa, customers were heading back into the shop by 10:30 a.m.

The Vancouver Cannabis Culture HQ that was raided Thursday was back open by the end of the day.

The couple that founded Cannabis Culture, activists Marc and Jodie Emery, were to appear in a Toronto court Friday morning for a bail hearing. They were arrested Wednesday night at the Toronto airport on their way to Spain. They have been charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, trafficking a Schedule II substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking a schedule II substance, and possessing the proceeds of crime.

Marc Emery was also charged with a fail-to-comply recognizance. He was arrested in Montreal in December after six Cannabis Culture shops were raided in that that city.

During the Montreal raid, Marc Emery was charged with with drug trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy. He was released after posting a $5,000 bond and was prohibited from consuming cannabis, entering places that produce or sell cannabis, or communicating with anyone linked to Cannabis Culture operations in Montreal.

The Montreal shops were only open for a day before police closed them down, but one has re-opened as a head shop.

The Emerys have vowed to open pot shops across the country that sell marijuana to anyone over age 19. Most of the shops, including the one in Ottawa, are franchise operations.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Cannabis Culture Pot Shop Is Back In Business One Day After Police Raid
Author: Staff
Contact: 1-613-596-3664
Photo Credit: None Found
Website: Ottawa Citizen

A Republican Just Introduced A Bill To End The Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

You’d struggle to find an industry with a faster and more consistent long-term growth rate than the legal marijuana industry.

According to cannabis research firm ArcView, sales of legal weed in North America rose by 34% to $6.9 billion in 2016, and based on estimates from investment firm Cowen & Co., U.S. legal sales could reach $50 billion by 2026. For added context, ArcView estimates that North American black market sales totaled $46.4 billion last year.

Marijuana’s phenomenal growth rate comes on the heels of rapidly changing consumer opinions toward the substance, as well as an influx of investing dollars and government interest that wants a piece of the "pot pie," so to speak.

In the year before California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis for compassionate use, only 25% of respondents in Gallup’s marijuana poll wanted to see it legalized nationally. In 2016, the same survey yielded an all-time high of 60% of respondents that would like to see it legalized.

Likewise, rapid growth in the industry is attracting venture capitalists, as well as state governments that envision marijuana opening up new revenue channels. For instance, the passage of Prop 64 (recreational marijuana initiative) in California is expected to add, at minimum, $1 billion in extra tax and licensing revenue per year. Considering California’s penchant for running a budget deficit, this added revenue should be a welcome sight for state legislators.

Pot’s schedule 1 status is holding the industry back
But at the end of the day, pot remains a schedule 1 drug at the federal level, meaning it’s deemed to have no medically beneficial qualities, and is therefore illegal. This scheduling means a mountain of obstacles for medical and recreational weed companies alike.

As an example, marijuana companies are often unable to open a checking account or obtain a line of credit with financial institutions because they’re selling a federally illegal substance. It’s not that banks don’t want to deal with pot companies, as there would be a presumed massive growth opportunity available to the currently underbanked industry. It’s that banks ultimately answer to the federal government, and at the federal level marijuana is still illegal. Thus, allowing cannabis companies to open a checking account or borrow money could be construed as money laundering and expose any and all financial institutions participating to be fined. Plus, it also means marijuana businesses have to deal in cash, which can be a major security concern.

Another good example is corporate income tax. Marijuana businesses are severely hampered by U.S. Tax Code 280E, which disallows businesses that sell a federal illicit substance from taking normal business deductions. This essentially means pot businesses are paying tax on their gross profits instead of net profits, which leaves less money left over for hiring and business expansion.

Congressional lawmakers have repeatedly opined that they’d need more conclusive benefit and risk data from clinical studies to merit any sort of scheduling change on marijuana, but the Catch-22 is that its restrictive schedule 1 status makes running these needed studies practically impossible.

Surprise! A Republican lawmakers want to reschedule marijuana
However, this Catch-22 may soon come to an end if Republican Tom Garret of Virginia gets his way. On Feb. 27, Garrett introduced the "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017," which would take marijuana off the federally controlled substances list, placing it on par with the alcohol and tobacco industries.

Here’s what Garrett had to say:

I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crime disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.

This step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia. In the coming weeks, I anticipate introducing legislation aimed at growing the hemp industry in Virginia, something that is long overdue.
There are, in particular, two unique aspects about this bill.

First, it was introduced by a Republican! Polling has shown that only two groups oppose the nationwide legalization of marijuana: 1) Seniors by a narrow margin, and 2) Republicans! In fact, of the 22 states that haven’t legalized medical marijuana yet, a good number of them are led by Republicans. The fact that a Republican lawmaker is suggesting that marijuana be federally decriminalized and rescheduled should tell you just how far things have come for the industry over the past two decades.

Secondly, unlike the similar legislation that Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced in 2015, Garrett’s bill already has co-sponsors. Considering how strong the public’s support for marijuana is, Garrett’s bill may actually have a shot at working its way through Congress and at least being voted upon.

Don’t get your hopes up just yet
While Garrett’s bill would seem to be a step in the right direction based on the desires of the public, it’s still far too early to pop the champagne and celebrate.

Donald Trump, who during his campaign suggested that he would support state’s rights once in office, has apparently backed off that approach. White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently noted that the federal government could be looking to step up enforcement of recreational marijuana in the months and years to come. No details were given as to how extensive this increase in federal enforcement would be, nor when exactly it might begin.

Also, Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is clearly no fan of marijuana. While in the Senate, Sessions could arguably have been described as the most ardent opponent of pot. Though Sessions commented that he would follow the president’s policies on marijuana during his confirmation hearings, it’s pretty evident based on his past views that he doesn’t support the expansion of marijuana in any form.

This essentially means that cannabis is continuing to fight an uphill battle, which isn’t good news for businesses or investors who want to invest in these businesses. The industry’s growth is clearly undeniable, but until there’s a clearer path forward to decriminalization, investors would be wise to keep their distance.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: A Republican Just Introduced A Bill To End The Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana
Author: Sean Williams
Contact: (402) 475-4200
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Website: Lincoln Journal Star