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With recreational marijuana legalized in eight states and the District of Columbia, some 20 percent of Americans can or soon will be able to light up without worrying about legal problems later. Still, many of those who grow, process or sell the stuff are having trouble gaining access to banks and to laws open to other legal businesses in the United States. That’s because, while states have legalized marijuana, the federal government has not.
Sen. Ron Wyden and Portland-area Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Oregon Democrats, hope to change that, if not completely eliminate the current discrimination against the marijuana industry and those involved in it. On March 30, the pair introduced a trio of bills they’ve dubbed the “Path to Marijuana Reform.”
• The Small Business Tax Equity Act would end federal tax penalties on marijuana businesses and allow them to claim deductions and tax credits available to other small businesses.
• The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act would end the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s listing of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug as harmful as heroin or ecstasy.
• The Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act would remove the federal criminal and civil penalties that can be levied against individuals and marijuana businesses even if they’re abiding by state law.
It also would ensure access to research and advertising and set up ways a consumer could have a marijuana violation expunged from the record in states where weed is legal. That would give users access to public housing and financial aid for education. The bill also would ensure veterans could get medical marijuana.
Too, the measure would ensure those in the marijuana business have access to banking. As an April 2 article in The Bulletin noted, most banks will not deal with marijuana businesses or the people who work in them. That makes getting loans difficult and makes businesses more vulnerable to crime because they often have substantial amounts of cash around.
So far Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, has not taken a position on any of the three bills. He should, and he should support all three, for together they’re a sensible approach to what’s currently a difficult situation. Like it or not, marijuana is legal in this state, and this trio of bills would make life easier for the industry and those who support it.