Dear Senator. Paypal. Courage. Adult Use – Game on!
Selected bites of fresh cannabis news sliced from the headlines, with a legislative flavor and sweet Ohio twist. Sources are linked.
Twas the Monday after Christmas. What was the first message in my inbox? Hint: it came from Paypal. Did it wish me a happy new year? Acknowledge my donation to the MidOhio Foodbank the night before? No, it read, “You can no longer do business with Paypal.” What??? Well, folks, this is the price you pay for being vocal about marijuana and the third time a financial institution has forced the closure of one of my accounts, the third time being the metaphoric charm. Yes, all accounts were spotless. Not. One. Issue. Ever.
The last time this happened in 2019, I penned a long article on the subject, telling the public my own story while dissecting the banking system’s approach toward cannabis. This time, I’m taking the issue to Congress, as you will see in my open letter below. It will be sent personally to members of the U.S. Senate, where the intransigence lies. In essence, banking proves that cannabis must be removed (not rescheduled) from the Controlled Substances Act.
· If you’d like to support my complaint, you can contact the U.S. Senate here. The Area Code is 202 and prefix is 224 followed by the four digits on the list. This list also shows office buildings and suite numbers for postal mail to zipcode 20510.
· Want to learn more about cannabis and banking? Read the Q & A “State of Cannabanking 2022” here.
· Are you facing force closure of a financial account because of cannabis? Tips on what to do are here.
If high prices make you mad, if you’re wary of the wealthy or concerned about social justice, you’ll find that this angst emanates in part from the feds and the laws that govern the financial system. These regulations were born in past decades from a flurry of anti-drug bills. Every SAR, every red flag and every force closure add a layer of cost to cannabis and to the lives that are made better by it.
The treatment of cannabis clients by the financial system may be unfair. It may sound cruel. It may seem wasteful. It can be deadly, and it is surely unamerican. Sadly, in 2022, that’s the state of banking in this country’s fastest growing legal industry.
The third time is the charm, the old saying goes. This “charm” inspired me to contact someone who could make a difference. The subject: Banking.
My name is Mary Jane Borden. I’m a wife and mother from Westerville, Ohio. I grew up in the shadow of the poverty that characterized the Ohio River Valley in the 1960s. I consequently gained a social conscience and determination to help alleviate the suffering of my fellow human beings. Specifically, I have been an advocate for medical marijuana for more than 40 years.
In fact, I am one of 18 authors who contributed to Courage in Cannabis, a groundbreaking collection of short stories that earned the best-selling Amazon Rank of #1 New Release. These stories tell inspiring tales of pain, sacrifice, heartbreak and victory. Like the physician who treated her epileptic son with CBD, or the disabled Black woman who replaced opiates with cannabis, or the good Catholic who eschewed alcoholism with marijuana, or the Sickle Cell Anemia patient whose utilization keeps him out of the hospital. These books can be ordered on the Courage in Cannabis website at courageincannabis.com, or online via Amazon.com at a very nominal price.
That’s the genesis of this letter. On the Monday after Christmas, the first message in my inbox came from Paypal acknowledging a $25 payment that had been put on temporary hold. Next email – seconds later – was an acknowledgement that someone had purchased a Courage in Cannabis book. One minute after that, Paypal informed me in the subject line, “You can no longer do business with PayPal.” What? I had this account for 20 years. My last transaction, the day before, donated $300 to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Logging into my account, I found a message that read, “Your account access is permanently limited. After a review, we’ve decided to permanently limit your account due to potential risk. You’ll not be able to conduct any further business using PayPal.” They made a determination like this in one measly minute?
But I knew what happened. It had occurred before. In 2018, Huntington Bank forced the closure of my personal checking account that I opened 42 years earlier on the day after my husband and I were married. This account paid for baby clothes, little league fees, college tuition and so much more. Like the Paypal account, never one overdraft, bounced check, or unbalanced statement. Not. One. Ever.
In both situations, I had little recourse. Sure, I called customer service, but all I received was the runaround, smoke and mirrors. Like the bank, the Paypal rep refused to say why this happened. What about the $23.64 credit? (Paypal, of course, collected their $1.36 transaction fee.) How did it land on Paypal? Unknown. I never gave anyone my account number, nor authorized a purchase. Silence. Can it be refunded? Only after 180 days to minimize the “risk” to PayPal. Can I open another Paypal account? No, I’m banned for life.
I realize that Paypal is a private company. I understand and appreciate that it has terms of service. But neither Paypal, Huntington Bank nor National City Back force closed any of my accounts because of untoward financial transactions. No, they did this because, essentially, the federal government told them to, or importantly, threatened them to.
I have conducted a detailed analysis of this banking problem. It stems from a 50-year cumulative raft of federal laws designed to prevent money laundering but instead, like so many good intentions, snares honest, hardworking, honorable individuals like me. Sadly, I’m not alone.
Please allow this letter to illustrate why passage of the Safe Banking Act in some form is so essential. Trapped in the snare of arcane banking laws are people like doctor, the disabled, the devout, the indigenous, and wives and mothers. Some could be rendered unable to survive in this online era without a checking or payment processor. The inability to build wealth translates into joblessness and homelessness. Healthcare becomes out of reach. And all of this because a plant has been historically misplaced in a legal quagmire. Only Congress can fix this injustice.
I realize that you have many important issues on your plates. Yours is indeed a difficult job. But please keep your promises and pass legislation to fix this banking problem, whether through a standalone bill, or through removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. It’s time to end prohibition and give America’s fastest growing industry a chance to function like every other marketplace in the United States.
Thank you for listening to my story and those being told by the authors in Courage in Cannabis. I welcome your replies and hopefully, quick action.
(Here’s this letter in PDF format.)
· House bills = 41 and Senate bills = 15, for a Total of 56. See Federal Cannabis Legislation Table.
· Safe Banking Act (H.R. 1996/S. 910). This Act passed the House on 4/19/21 and was subsequently introduced in the Senate. In December, it was attached as Amendment 97 to the National Defense Authorization Act that approves appropriations for national defense. The unrelated Safe Banking Act would prohibit federal regulators from penalizing financial institutions that provide services to cannabis businesses. The amendment, however, was excluded from the final version of the appropriations bill. On 1/28/22, Safe Banking Act sponsor U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter filed another amendment to the unrelated bill, America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521). It would in President Biden’s words, “reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China.” Rep. Perlmutter is not seeking reelection.
· MORE Act 2021. (H.R.3618) This adult use bill, introduced once before by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on 9/30/21 by 26-15, but no actions have occurred since then. Co-sponsors did increase to 105. Here is Rep. Nadler’s statement to mark the occasion.
· Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). On 7/14/21, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a Discussion Draft of a U.S. Senate bill to fully legalize cannabis. Here is the full language of the bill. Here is a summary of key points of interest. Here is an analysis from the Tax Foundation that includes state level tax rates on adult use cannabis. Although there has been no recent movement on the proposed bill, Senator Schumer continues to tweet favorably about it.
· States Reform Act (H.R. 5977). Introduced by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) on 11/15/21, will “amend the Controlled Substances Act regarding marihuana,” by specifically striking “marihuana” and “Tetrahydrocannabinols, except for tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.” Grandfathers in state cannabis licensees. The corporate giant Amazon has endorsed this bill. Here is its text.
Ohio See Ohio Cannabis Legislation Table.
· Initiated Statute Ballot Initiative – Game on! The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (RMLA) on 12/20/21 submitted 206,943 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. On 1/3/22, that office determined only 119,825 were valid. On 1/13/22, the coalition turned in another 29,918 signatures, more than double the amount needed. Altogether, the Secretary of State has determined that the campaign submitted 136,729 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters, 3,842 more than the 132,887 required. The measure now goes before the Ohio General Assembly that has four months to enact it as Chapter 3780 of the Ohio Revised Code. The new law would, “authorize and regulate cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, home grow, and use of adult use cannabis by adults at least twenty-one years of age (‘adult use consumers’).” If the legislature fails to act or amends the current text, the campaign can collect another 132,887 signatures to place adult use cannabis on the fall ballot (11/8/22). Here is the initiative’s searchable text in PDF format. And here is one-page bulleted key point list of the proposed statute’s provisions.
· H.B. 60. Introduced by Representatives Juanita Brent (D-134) and Bill Seitz (R-30) on 2/3/21 with the short title “Authorize medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder.” A fifth testimony hearing was held on 1/25/22, after which the bill was voted out of the Health Committee. Read an autistic patient’s compelling testimony here. Read the bill’s legislative text here, its analysis here and its fiscal notes here. Add your name to a Change.org petition in support of cannabis and autism (H.B. 60) here.
· H.B. 203. Introduced by Senator Nathan H. Manning (R-13) on 6/23/21 with the short title “Regards operating a vehicle under the influence of marihuana.” Bill would raise urine and blood levels for being “under the influence” of marijuana. No cosponsors. First hearing held on 9/21/21 as Sponsor testimony. Here is the bill analysis and here is the bill’s text.
· H.B. 356. Introduced by Representatives Mike Loychik (R-63) and Adam C. Bird (R-66) on 6/21/21 with the short title “Regards drug offenses and treatment.” Changes marijuana possession penalties from felonies to misdemeanors and bars judges from ordering drivers license suspensions connected to possession offenses. Sponsor hearing held on 11/10/21. Here is the bill’s text and here is its analysis.
· H.B. 382. Introduced by Representative Casey Weinstein (D-37) on 8/2/21, with the short title, “Allow cultivation, possession of marijuana; levy a tax.” This legislation represents the first time that a legal framework for adult cannabis use has been proposed to the Ohio General Assembly. Here is the bill’s text and here is a key point analysis. Referred to the House Finance Committee on 9/21/21.
· H.B. 498. Introduced by Representatives Jamie Callendar (R-61) and Ron Ferguson (R-96) on 12/7/21 with the short title “Ohio Adult Use Act; levy a tax.” Per their statehouse press release, would dovetail with H.R. 3105, a federal bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce in May. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the OAUA would “build on the state’s existing medical marijuana program,” include a 10% tax on sales, permit adult possession of 5 ounces, and allow home grow of six plants. The bill has no cosponsors and no activity since introduction.
· S.B. 25. Introduced by Ohio Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-2) on 1/26/21 with the short title “Enact Relapse Reduction Act regarding drug tests and trafficking.” The bill would increase penalties for drug activity near a drug treatment center or recovering addict, and for defrauding drug tests. Passed by Senate on 9/15/21 with a 29 to 1 vote. Here is the passed version, here is the bill analysis, and here are the fiscal notes. The bill proceeded to the Ohio House where it received a Proponent Testimony hearing on 10/12/21.
· S.B. 261. Introduced by Ohio Senator Stephen Huffman (R-5) on 11/9/21, with the short title “Revise the medical marijuana law.” With six co-sponsors, passed the Senate on 12/15/21. Among other provisions, the bill would enlarge cultivation areas, add qualifying medical conditions, increase number of forms, raise THC level, create a division of marijuana control, and remove the pharmacy board. Here is the bill’s language. Mary Jane’s Guide to SB 261 is here. This is the bill analysis by the Legislative Services Commission. Here and here are opponent testimonies for use in opposition research. Senator Huffman championed HB 523, Ohio’s medical marijuana law as representative in the Ohio House.
· Sensible Decrim. This productive collaboration among Bill Schmitt, Jr., the Sensible Movement Coalition and NORML Appalachia have collected thousands of signatures to place decriminalization initiatives on the ballot. As a result, marijuana decriminalization of up to 200 grams with no fines or time now covers 2,199,834 Ohioans in 29 Ohio cities, or 28% of Ohio’s adult population. This number will increase by almost 30,000 if decrim passes in Kent, Ohio, where a recount found sufficient signatures to place the measure on the ballot in the upcoming November, 8th election. NORML Appalachia is targeting McArthur, Laurelville and Shawnee for its next signature drives.
OMMCP (Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program)
· OMMCP by the Numbers. As of January 24, 2022: 406,511 total physician recommendations; 237,613 total registered patients; 215,410 total unique purchasers; 130,641 active patients; 26,915 caregivers; 15,759 veterans; 17,321 with indigent status; 636 recommending physicians; 28 operating cultivators; 57 operating dispensaries; 37 operating processors; and 3 operating testing laboratories. Total sales since inception: 78,632 lbs. of plant material; 7,014,697 manufactured product units; and $690.1 million in product sales. The average price of plant material for 1/10 oz (or 2.83 grams) is $26.97. During January 2022 alone, $4.1 million of plant material has been sold. Here is a table of total products sold by form since May 2021. Here is historical sales since the program’s inception.
· Current list of cultivators (as of 1/11/22). Since the last Guide in December, GTI Ohio in Toledo has joined the list of operational Level 1 cultivators. An easy-to-read list in alphabetical order by cultivator name is here.
· New dispensaries. On 9/15/21, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced that it will add 73 new dispensaries, increasing the total number from the initial 58 to a total of 130. Two hundred companies submitted applications. On 1/27/22, the Ohio Lottery Commission held a drawing to select the winners, which will be announced the week of 1/31/22. List of applicants is here. Excellent coverage of the expansion and its challenges is here. From News5 in Cleveland, “an awarded dispensary license can be worth between $3-6 million depending on the state and the cannabis market even before the dispensary opens. Once it starts doing business … some operations can make $3-5 million annually. Bigger operations can pull in $10-20 million every year selling medical marijuana.”
· Sublingual (under the tongue). The Board of Pharmacy approved sublingual as an acceptable means of oral administration. Days’ supply will match edible amounts.
· New qualifying conditions. Every year beginning on November 1st and ending on December 31st, the State Medical Board of Ohio opens a period during which the public may submit petitions to add new qualifying medical conditions to the OMMCP. The board received nine petitions. Minus duplicates, the conditions include degenerative disc disease, bipolar disorder, insomnia, opioid use disorder and Gilbert’s syndrome.
· Wave Goodbye to the Tier System. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy recently passed a resolution eliminate the Tier 1 and 2 system for plant material potency. Effective January 3rd, the official 90-day supply reverted to the logical nine ounces. Here is an updated table.
Mary Jane’s Library
Find the Source Tables for Mary Jane’s Guide in this one easy-to-use list. Documents are in PDF format.
Tales from the Bizarre
Is there anyone more bizarre than U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)? You know, the guy with the rolled-up sleeves who lost his jacket. The former wrestler/lawyer who was never a lawyer. The far right rep from the heavily gerrymandered “duck” district. Guess what? He’s totally anti cannabis. In a letter to a constituent, Jordan wrote, “Marijuana is therefore properly listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.” [Forget safe banking.] And, “Reports show that almost any adult who enters a medical marijuana facility complaining of a headache can leave with marijuana.” [Really? He clearly doesn’t understand the program in his home state.] And, “As the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, I fully support efforts to keep marijuana illegal.” [He’s a member of the “Freedom” Caucus?] An analysis by the Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked Jordan at number 202 on the list most effective Republican House members – out of 205 – third from last. Even so, he stands next in line to become Republican Speaker of the House. Think he’d pass pro cannabis laws? Be afraid. Be very afraid. The good news is that only 8% of Americans think like Jordan. That combined with redistricting and his wrestling record (with sensible cannabis policies, of course) may well remove this jacketless from Congress. He will then return to bizarro world from whence he came.
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