One of the most important pieces of cannabis-related legislation, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), has the chance to be included in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation in the United States. The House approved the inclusion in May when representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), and it will soon be the Senate’s turn.
The United States Senate has never approved legislation regarding banking services for cannabis businesses before. Many Senators may not have the spirit or understanding to make sure this legislation is enacted, so they need to hear from you, the constituents. Now is the time to contact your Senators. Tell them to support the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act. Click here to find the contact information for your state’s Senators, and send them an email telling them to support the SAFE BANKING Act. Don’t wait. It only takes a few minutes to voice your opinion. Your letter may be the one to sway the vote.
Are you unsure of what to write? Below is a great sample script from NORML that you can copy and paste into your email. You can also click here to be redirected to NORML’s website where all you have to do is enter your information and it will send your state’s Senators this exact email for you.
I urge you to support the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), HR 1595 / S. 1200, to allow state-licensed marijuana-related businesses to engage freely in relationships with banks and other financial institutions.
Presently, more than 30 states authorize the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis. ten states permit similar commercial activities and retail sales of marijuana to all adults. Yet, thousands of these licensed and regulated businesses do not have access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. This situation is untenable. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions.
Congress must move to change federal policy so that these growing number of state-compliant businesses, and their consumers, may operate in a manner that is similar to other legal commercial entities.
Allowing tightly regulated marijuana businesses the ability to access the banking system will help reduce the threat of crime, robbery, and assault in our communities and keep the cash out of cartels. I urge you to support and cosponsor The SAFE Banking Act.
Why is the SAFE Banking Act so important?
While cannabis remains federally illegal as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, 33 states and Washington D.C. have enacted laws legalizing the medical and/or recreational use of the plant. Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous of all substances, and they are described as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Methamphetamine and cocaine are categorized as Schedule II substances, meaning they are technically defined as being less dangerous and less addictive than marijuana.
The fact that cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are listed among the ranks of ‘most dangerous’ with heroin and methaqualone (Quaaludes) simply does not make sense when there are more than four million registered medical marijuana patients in the United States, and the majority of Americans are in favor of legalization. Nonetheless, financial institutions and insurance providers are federally regulated, so they simply cannot work with cannabis businesses at this time without risking their operating licenses or federal prosecution. The SAFE Banking Act would greatly improve this situation.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans in more than half of the United States are working within a state-regulated, legitimate industry which generates billions of dollars in tax revenue each year, yet these businesses are denied these imperative services. This is not right. It is not fair, and it needs to change.
This also means that cannabis businesses and their employees, which were deemed ‘essential’ like grocery stores and pharmacies in nearly every state in which they operate, were denied access to the federal Payment Protection Program (PPP).
Dangers of Cash Only Operations
When a business is denied access to regular banking services like processing debit and credit cards or writing checks, it leaves them vulnerable. Without a business bank account, state-regulated dispensaries, cultivators, and product producers are forced to operate only in cash. Having large amounts of cash on hand makes these businesses targets for armed robbery which on more than one occasion has resulted in the death of employees.
In the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, just handling cash is also potentially dangerous. While it is thought that the virus is most easily spread from person to person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that it is possible to catch it from handling infected items like cash.
Contact Your Senators
It is imperative that you communicate with your Senators. Without hearing from you, the people they represent, they may not know how many people support the SAFE Banking Act. If you want to write an email or make a quick call, click here to find the contact information for your state’s Senators. Many Senators are also active on Twitter, so Tweet at them if that is your preferred method of communication.
At a recent address to law enforcement officials about crime and drugs America’s new Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he was “determined that this country will not go backwards” and then preceded to make some of the most assbackwards statements about medical marijuana possible.
“We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’ There’s no excuse for this, it’s not recreational. Lives are at stake, and we’re not going to worry about being fashionable.”
He said, according to the Washington Post.
As if holding up the Reagan Drug War legacy like it was a golden era is not already backwards enough, he then dismissed what has been one of medical marijuana’s most promising modern day uses: opioid addiction.
“I’ve heard people say we could solve our heroin problem with marijuana,”
“How stupid is that? Give me a break!”
Well, stupid is as stupid does as someone used to say, and that’s some stupid shit Sessions. But if we are talking about actual science there is nothing that has become more clear recently than cannabis’s amazing ability to help individuals get off of not just heroin but also prescription opioid painkiller addiction, which is actually a more serious problem.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), powerful painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin are responsible for more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, but you are surely not going to hear Sessions and his new Drug War team going after them – even though that would be moving forwards instead of backwards.
Fortunately, for those of use that know anything about the miraculous benefits of cannabis, the future is looking pretty green despite Session’s claims that the mighty herb has been “hyped-up”.
First of all, cannabis is one of the most powerful painkillers in the world. According to a recent news release by the National Academy of Sciences, the treatment of chronic pain is one of the primary therapeutic uses of marijuana and it has been found to be effective for everything from mild lower back pain to severe multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms.
This is of course why medical marijuana users actually have a lower rate of using opioids and getting addicted in the first place. As a 2016 study in the Journal of Pain found; “cannabis use was associated with 64 percent lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain,”, meaning people are self-medicating with pot in order to avoid using dangerous prescription painkillers. This alone should be reason to make it widely available.
When it comes to actual heroin addiction, which is at an “alarming” 20 year high, according to a recent UN report, medical marijuana is the best way to actually move forward, despite Session’s infantile doublespeak.
According to a February 2017 press release from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York; “cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid in the marijuana plant devoid of rewarding properties, reduces the rewarding properties of opioid drugs and withdrawal symptoms.”
“Additionally, CBD directly reduces heroin-seeking behavior.”
The press release states, also adding that
“CBD’s strongest effects were on the reduction of the anxiety induced by heroin cues.”
CBD is of course an extremely abundant and medicinal compound that also happens to be non –psychoactive meaning that any Drug War argument against it falls flat on its face as there is simply no “high” behind it at all.
Moreover, a simple natural substance that not only reduces the withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin addiction but the cravings that make it so hard to break and doesn’t even alter your state of mind in the process only proves how far removed from reality Session’s statements really are. Cannabis is a miracle medicine that is here to help us with even our toughest problems, serious addiction included.
The only possible reason that the government would want to keep marijuana away from the public is because there is serious money involved (tens of billions of dollars annually) in the prescription opiate game, no matter how dangerous.
By pretending to protect patients by attacking a real medicine like cannabis, Sessions only reveals that he is just another corporate flunkie protecting the big business kingpens who control him and the rest of the White House at this point. But Mama Marijuana is coming for them too.
That multi-billion dollar prescription industry is facing off against a plant so powerful that you would have to be blind to not see how this is going to play out. Why would you take an expensive chemical drug for your pain that is both potentially dangerous and addictive when a completely safe and natural alternative is available?
Legal marijuana is now the fastest growing industry in the United States and that’s only going to increase velocity as more and more states pass laws for medical and recreational use. Check out the chart below from the Washington Post that shows that in states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, prescriptions for a wide class of pharmaceuticals have dropped significantly. The most dramatic drop being in, you guessed it, painkiller prescriptions where the average doctor is prescribing almost 2,000 less prescriptions for these synthetic opioids a year.
That’s punching big holes in the corporate bigwigs’ pockets.
It also explains why the largest adversaries to the legalization are the pharmaceutical companies themselves. In Arizona for example, the biggest campaign contributions to the anti prop 205 campaigns were from Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that produces painkillers. While 205, which would have legalized medical marijuana, was defeated, the margin was very small and the masses are already rallying for the next brawl. Its only a matter of time.
In fact, the latest poll out of Quinnipiac University shows that over 90 percent of Americans now support the medical use of marijuana, the highest number ever.
Despite the posturing, America is not going back to the Reagan era of waging war against medical plants that are actually solving problems that big corporations have only made worse – like opioid addiction. Jeff Sessions can stay stuck on stupid for as long as he wants because the tide has turned and the only thing better than see an idea whose time has come blossom into fruition is seeing an idea that was bad to begin with get swept away with the flotsam and the jetsam.
In a report released by the CDC on how to properly prescribe opioid painkillers, the authors advises doctors not to test patients for marijuana.
To qualify for a pain management regiment, many clinics in the United States test for illegal drugs to determine if a patient has a penchant for abuse. Some doctors ban patients who test positive THC, even if marijuana is legal in the state. The CDC’s new guidelines seek to avoid “inappropriate termination of care” as a result of a doctor’s personal biases.
“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear.”
The authors of the guidelines recognize the dangers of turning away patients in need of pain management, as the opioid epidemic helps patients to acquire painkillers outside of the healthcare system.
“Clinicians should not dismiss patients from care based on a urine drug test result because this could constitute patient abandonment and could have adverse consequences for patient safety, potentially including the patient obtaining opioids from alternative sources and the clinician missing opportunities to facilitate treatment for substance use disorder.”
In addition, the report also highlights the inconsistency of urine tests for THC. “…experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).”
Previously, Pain News Network reported on the inconsistencies of drug tests for THC as well as opioids. “One study found that 21% of POC tests for marijuana produced a false positive result. The test was also wrong 21% of the time when marijuana is not detected in a urine sample.” Another study also revealed that incorporating cannabis into pain management treatments does not increase risk of substance abuse.
While the CDC report does not suggest marijuana is an alternative to an opioid painkiller, despite a report indicating a reduction in opioid deaths in states with reformed marijuana legislation, it was released not long after Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plea to the CDC to study the effectiveness of marijuana for pain management.
In order to combat the growing opioid epidemic in the United States, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research and consider “the use, uptake and effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment in states where it is legal.”
This marks the latest in a series of requests that Warren and her colleagues have made to various US agencies asking for stronger efforts towards reducing prescription painkiller abuse.
In her letter, Warren asks the CDC’s director Dr. Thomas Friedan,
“to explore every opportunity and tool available to work with states and other federal agencies on ways to tackle the opioid epidemic and collect information about alternative pain relief options.”
Data supporting marijuana as an alternative to opioids is promising. A 2014 study cites a significant reduction in opioid overdoses in states with medical marijuana policies. Steps taken by the Obama Administration have eased slightly the barriers to cannabis research, but federal prohibition and DEA drug scheduling still criminalizes marijuana, putting states that have medical cannabis laws in a legal limbo.
The response to Warren’s calls for reform have been a rehashing of current policies, maintaining the federal government’s stance that marijuana is highly addictive, of no medicinal value and therefore a Schedule I substance. It is worth noting that methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II substance, highlighting the inconsistencies behind the DEA’s drug classifications.
In the US, opioid abuse has skyrocketed over the last fifteen years. Drug overdoses have increased by 137 percent since 2000, according to the CDC. More than 47,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses, compared to 33,000 from auto accidents. Although Americans account for 5 percent of the world’s population, they consume 75 percent of the world’s supply of prescription drugs.
In addition, sales of prescription opioids rose by 300 percent since 1999, indicating a major trend in physicians prescribing the drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has taken note, going so far as to manufacture drugs that combat the common side effects of long-term opioid use. Warren alluded to the escalation by requesting the CDC clarify their physician guidelines for treating pain.
The War on Drugs treated drug addiction as a criminal offense instead of a disease, resulting in overcrowded prisons and an annual $39.9 billion-dollar burden to taxpayers. This failure, coupled with the opioid epidemic, has caused a shift in attitudes towards substance abuse. Warren herself previously opposed cannabis legalization in 2011, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have reevaluated their positions amidst growing criticism of U.S. drug policy.
photo credit: elizabethwarren.com