NORML Canada: October 2015 Newsletter

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Greetings Cannabis Law Reform Community

In this month’s newsletter:

1. Canadians Choose Trudeau and Legal Marijuana In Historic Election

2. U.S. Federal Reserve Unable to Endorse Marijuana Legalization in Colorado

3. Vancouver Grants First Stage Licenses to Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

4. US Federal Reserve Blocks Cannabis Banking

Canadians Choose Trudeau and Legal Marijuana In Historic Election

Liberals to Legalize

Canadians voted on October 19 and elected Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada with a majority for the next four years. While Trudeau’s message resonated strongly with the Canadian middle class, it also appears to have resonated strongly with Canadians tired of our draconic marijuana laws.

For Canadians who wanted to change our marijuana laws, Trudeau was the only clear choice. This is why NORML Canada, a usually non-partisan marijuana legalization advocacy group, dropped its electoral neutrality and endorsed the Liberals for the first time since its founding in 1978.

There are pressing questions, including the status of Canadians currently facing criminal charges, or those who could in the near future. In addition, Canadians need a solution to the propagation of local medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as a decision on a pending trial that will decide whether or not medically approved patients have a right to grow their own medicine at home.

NORML Canada President John Conroy QC, Vice President Professor Alan Young, Executive Director Craig Jones PhD, along with other dedicated NORML Canada volunteers will continue to encourage the Liberals to ensure reasonable access for all adults and for children with health care recommendation for medical access.

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U.S. Federal Reserve Unable to Endorse Marijuana Legalization in Colorado

Feds say no cannabis money in bankLegal marijuana businesses in Colorado still face cash management issues as they are unable to access general banking services. A Colorado Credit Union eager to be the solutions provider to the Colorado marijuana industry is having their efforts stalled at the Federal level. The Federal Reserve is unable to approve Fourth Corner Credit Union’s application because the focus of its services would be to serve a clientele whose business is illegal at the Federal level.

The Federal law governs the activities of the Federal Reserve and thus it cannot handle the proceeds of illegal activity. Marijuana remains a federally banned Schedule 1 substance.

The move is a contradiction on the part of the U.S. government as last year it issued guidance for banks looking to do business with legal marijuana businesses in states where it is legal. The move also comes at a time when governments around the world are softening their stances on marijuana policies.

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Vancouver Grants First Stage Licenses to Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Vancouver dispensaries The city of Vancouver has decided to give the go ahead to eleven dispensaries, constituting six per cent of applicants. There were a total of 176 applications and most were denied based on the new municipal regulations that dispensaries be located at least 300 metres from schools, recreation centres, or other dispensaries.

Thirty of the dispensaries that did not receive first application approval will now move to a secondary, competitive licensing stage as their only issue is being too close to another dispensary. Each of those dispensaries will be asked to make their case based on a number of criteria, including previous police contact and community complaints.

Dispensaries that have been denied licenses have until April 2, 2016 to either close down or move, according to the notices sent out by Vancouver City Hall. Two dispensaries that did not apply for a license have been asked to close down immediately or risk facing fines or legal action.

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US Federal Reserve Blocks Cannabis Banking

No banking for cannabis moneyThe US banking regulator, the Federal Reserve, has recently said it will not permit banks that accept money from cannabis sales to use the national banking system because cannabis remains illegal pursuant to federal law. This also prevents banks from using electronic transactions. Almost all banks which are federally-regulated have refused to open accounts for cannabis businesses. Legal cannabis has become an all-cash industry in the US. In 2014 the Treasury Department had set up rules governing how banks could receive proceeds from cannabis sales. The Department of Justice had also tried to create a roadmap to bring the money into the system. US banks are in need of new revenue streams. However, without the Federal Reserve on board, banks such as Fourth Corner are prevented from bringing cannabis money into the banking system.

The new development appeared in filings in a court case involving the Federal Reserve and the Fourth Corner Credit Union in Denver. The Fourth Corner had applied for a Master Account which would have allowed it to take on the new cannabis businesses in Colorado while interacting with other banks. The Fourth Corner had been set up to serve Colorado’s cannabis industry. It is not yet opened for business as it cannot practically function without approval from the Federal Reserve. The Fourth Corner has filed a law suit in federal court in Denver seeking equal access to the financial system.

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Help end cannabis prohibition in Canada by donating to NORML Canada. Please stay tuned to NORML Canada’s social media and YouTube channel in order to see videos of our National Conference and the fascinating discussions prompted by our series of panel discussions on the legalization debate.

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NORML Canada – norml.ca

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