The latest pot-favoring move follows the decision by the Obama administration in August to not prosecute legal dealers who met eight requirements, including not selling to minors — even though marijuana was and still is illegal under federal law.
Under the Friday rules issued by Obama’s Treasury Department, “the administration went a step further by laying out a path for banks to bring marijuana commerce out of the shadows and into the mainstream financial system … a move that could further legitimize the burgeoning industry,” the Washington Post said.
Now, for the first time, “legal distributors will be able to secure loans and set up checking and saving accounts with major banks that have largely steered clear of those businesses,” the Post said, explaining that the “decision eliminates a key hurdle facing marijuana sellers, who can now legally conduct business in 20 states and the District (of Columbia).”
In what was described as separate guidance, the Obama Justice Department “directed U.S. attorneys not to go after banks that do business with legal marijuana dispensers as long as the dealers adhere to” the guidelines issued last August.
But, the Post reported, federal officials said the latest decision was not “a change in the law itself. Marijuana was still illegal, as far as the federal government was concerned, in all 50 states. Instead, it was just a declaration that the Justice Department had bigger things to worry about.” Obviously, there’s no need to change laws when they can be nullified by this imperial president’s wave of his scepter.
There was a dissenting voice, for what it’s worth. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said both marijuana trafficking and banking of pot sale proceeds violate federal law. “Only Congress can change these laws,” he said. “The administration can’t change the law with a memo.” Again, no need to change the law. Just don’t enforce it and issue a rule that nullifies it. The question is: Will Congress do anything about it?
Consistent with the “follow the money” principle, the Post said “Financial firms could be handsomely rewarded for banking legal marijuana business.” The legal pot industry in this country is expected to hit $2.34 billion in sales this year, according to ArcView Market Research, an investment group promoting marijuana.
Meanwhile, some leading epilepsy physicians warn that more studies are needed on medical marijuana, legalized in many states and proposed in Georgia and other states. The director of the epilepsy center at New York University and a colleague point out that evidence is lacking for both the efficacy and safety of marijuana. They say the issue is of special significance for children, “for whom there is good evidence that marijuana use can increase the risk of serious psychiatric disorders and long-term cognitive problems.” More on this later.