Tag: David Joyce

Bipartisan Congressional Pushback Against White House Firing Staffers for Cannabis

For good reason, many (all?) drug policy reformers were wary of Joe Biden as a presidential candidate as he had a long history of out-of-touch pro-Drug War policy positions throughout his political career, namely the disastrous 1994 Crime Bill that helped usher in an era of mass incarceration. However, Biden seemed to evolve on the campaign trail and, while not nearly good enough, his stance on cannabis was a step in the right direction from previous presidents. With 2/3 of the entire electorate supporting legalization and a supermajority of more than 80% of his own party on board, yes, there’s no reason that President Biden shouldn’t be in favor of legislation to repeal cannabis prohibition, but Reefer Madness can be difficult for some to fully shake. Then-candidate Joe Biden tweeted, “There is a lot of talk out there on where I stand when it comes to our marijuana laws,” including this graphic laying out his “evolved” positions:

Again, there’s really no excuse to oppose ending federal cannabis prohibition, but Biden’s positions do mark an improvement from previous presidents. As advocates, we must always strive towards our ultimate goal, but we can still make note of the positive baby steps along the way. While the Biden White House’s stance on cannabis for government employees is actually an improvement from previous administrations, a bipartisan group of legislators are rightfully demanding that he do better, highlighted by Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer penning a letter to President Biden signed by 30 members of Congress that stated:

“While we work to deschedule cannabis legislatively, your administration should act within its power to stop legitimizing unfair cannabis laws. You have previously expressed your commitment to decriminalizing cannabis in acknowledgement that a cannabis conviction or even the stigma of cannabis use can ruin lives and prevent people from voting, gaining employment, and contributing to society. You can meet this moment and help end our failed punitive policy of cannabis prohibition.”

The lawmakers added, “The existing policies have been applied in inconsistent and unfair ways. Those in the upper ranks of your administration won’t face consequences for their cannabis use, and nor should they, but the same standard should be applied across the administration. Repercussions for cannabis use have always been unequal and those with the most power have always faced the fewest consequences. We ask that you don’t allow that pattern to continue within your administration.”

Republican David Joyce from Ohio, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, sent his own letter to President Biden, stating:

I respectfully request that your administration discontinue punishment of staff for being honest about their prior cannabis use and reinstate otherwise qualified individuals to their posts. Moving forward, I encourage your administration to focus its efforts within cannabis on establishing an effective federal regulatory framework which recognizes that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate. I stand ready and willing to work with you in this regard.

While it often seems like the cannabis community takes a step back each time we take a couple of steps forward, we are definitely making progress and even setbacks provide opportunities to build upon our success. Whether it’s President Biden’s out-of-touch staffer cannabis policy or the ridiculous Reefer Madness nonsense spouted by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, we are presented with opportunities to point out defects with current law and make important steps forward towards true freedom and equality.

IRS Commissioner Agrees that Cannabis Businesses Need Banking Services

The lack of banking services for cannabis businesses is a national embarrassment at this point. The cannabis industry has been deemed essential during the COVID pandemic, supporting jobs and generating record-breaking tax revenues each and every quarter. Billions upon billions of dollars are flowing into retailers’ cash registers, but all too often, state-regulated companies are without bank accounts or are forced to jump through unnecessary regulatory hurdles and pay arbitrary fees just for the “privilege” of keeping an account.

The cannabis companies’ inability to maintain bank accounts impacts all of the other vendors and businesses that the industry must interact with, creating inefficiencies that shouldn’t exist. People associated with the cannabis industry, such as lawyers, consultants, and property managers have lost bank accounts as well. On top of the burdens and extra costs, the prohibition on banking creates a danger, including for state and federal workers who have to handle the ever-increasing mounds of cash that are used to pay local, state, and federal taxes.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig testified before the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, detailing how his agency would prefer that state-legal cannabis businesses had access to banking services that would allow electronic deposits, as Marijuana Moment reported:

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who serves as a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said that barring marijuana companies from traditional financial services is “inefficient for business and the IRS alike, obviously, not to mention ample opportunity for fraud and abuse it creates, as well as potential for criminal acts as far as robbing and stealing from those.”

Rettig replied that “the IRS would prefer direct deposits moreso than receiving actual cash payments.”

“It’s a security issue for the IRS. It’s a security issue for our employees in our taxpayer assistance centers, [which] is actually where we receive these payments,” he said. “We created special facilities in the tax to receive the payments. Then we similarly have to transport the payments themselves.”

Reefer Madness prohibition policies have hurt too many people for far too long, even years after states have passed legalization laws and 2/3 of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition. Prohibitionists that claim they support public safety and health are actually endangering more people. Our nation claims to support entrepreneurship and small businesses, but federal prohibition is stifling hard-working Americans and strangling mom-and-pops while multinational corporations with deep pockets can ride out these regulatory obstacles while buying up the little guys. It’s a small miracle that locally-owned craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf are able to survive and even thrive under these circumstances. It’s past time that Uncle Sam legalize cannabis, but let’s at least get the SAFE Banking Act signed into law on our march towards freedom and equality.