U.S. Representative Charlie Crist announced two major wins for medical marijuana patients across the country. As a member of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, Crist secured these important provisions in the annual Financial Services funding bill (H.R. 264), 1) preserving federal employment opportunities for Veterans and others using medical marijuana, and 2) increasing legal marijuana businesses’ access to banks, making growing a business easier and safer.
“Voters across the country are saying yes to legalization. It’s time for the federal government to catch up with the will of the people,” said Crist. “For folks from all walks of life, veterans, seniors, people facing chronic pain or disabilities, cannabis is an incredible source of relief – and that legal commerce is providing an economic boost to our communities. You shouldn’t lose your job if you need cannabis to live a healthy, normal life, and companies shouldn’t be at risk of operating a cash-only business in this day and age.”
“We’re proud to support the efforts by Congressman Crist to ensure that the successful cannabis reform efforts in Florida and around the nation are able to be implemented in a smooth and sensible manner,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “The prospect of responsible adults being denied federal employment opportunities is counterproductive and disproportionately impacts the veterans community. It is our hope that the final appropriations package maintain these provisions to give certainty to the increasing number of states that are ending the failed War on Cannabis.”
“The Veterans Cannabis Coalition would like to thank Congressman Crist and his office of their continued leadership and faithful representation of the millions of veterans who use cannabis medicinally to treat their service-connected injuries and conditions. As veterans make up 1/3 of the federal workforce, the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under States Law Act would directly support veteran health by preventing the punishment or discrimination of veterans and all other civil servants who choose to use cannabis instead of toxic and addictive pharmaceuticals. Employment and effective medicines are essential to everyone’s health, especially veterans who often suffer for lack of federally legal alternatives to the ‘combat cocktail’ of opioids, sedatives, and psychotropic drugs that are regularly prescribed,” said Veterans Cannabis Coalition Founder & CEO, Eric Goepel. “In 2019, according to polling, more than 93% of the country is in favor of medicinal cannabis access and over 60% of citizens–including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents–support full legalization. Forty-seven states have already passed laws in direct violation of the Controlled Substances Act, permitting either medicinal or adult-use of cannabis. Despite this unprecedented popular support, few in Congress are working to end the hypocrisy and inconsistency in federal law and dismantle the inequities of prohibition. We count Congressman Crist among those who have demonstrated that they understand the gravity of continuing the federal war on cannabis in the face of a historic rate and number of suicides and overdoses across every community. Furthermore, he has have made an active and concerted effort to address these issues by introducing and supporting a range of reform efforts.”
“The Weed for Warriors and its veteran community are very thankful for Representative Crist’s efforts on cannabis access,” said Weed for Warriors President, Sean Kiernan. “Disabled Veterans in the federal workforce need a safer alternative to the pharmaceutical answer which comes with a long litany of FDA stated side-effects like addiction, overdose, and suicidal inclinations. Cannabis offers that safer alternative as it is showing correlation with lower overdose and suicide rates in states that have legalized cannabis.”
“Allowing state-legal cannabis businesses to access financial services is a commonsense reform that will improve public safety and accountability, and federals employees should be able to exercise the rights afforded them under state laws regarding cannabis consumption. We applaud Rep. Crist for making sure these issues are part of the Appropriations discussion,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “At a time when more voters support cannabis policy reform nationally than ever before, it is vital that we start getting our federal policies more in line with what is happening in an increasing number of states around the country.”
“This bill and report language advances two crucial and fundamental issues impacting regulated and lawful cannabis industry stakeholders – ensuring banking services for cannabis industry businesses and access to patients who are seeking medical cannabis as a treatment,” said Saphira Galoob, Principal and CEO of The Liaison Group.
Provision 1 – Inclusion of language protecting Federal employees using medical marijuana in conjunction with their state law:
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, and 47 states have some form of legalized cannabis. Yet because it is still a “Schedule 1” drug under federal law, federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if use is in compliance with state law. This conflict between state and federal laws limits treatment options and federal employment opportunities, particularly impacting veterans who comprise approximately one-third of the federal workforce and for whom medical cannabis is often used to treat chronic pain and PTSD. In March, Congressman Crist introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (H.R. 1687) aimed at tackling this issue.
Provision 2 – Inclusion of language allowing financial institutions to provide banking services to cannabis businesses in conjunction with state law:
Even in states that have legalized cannabis, since it is a “Schedule 1” drug, banks are liable for financial crimes if they provide services to cannabis companies. As a result, legal cannabis businesses operate as “cash-only” in the U.S. This puts them and their employees at great risk for being robbed, and, from a regulatory standpoint, all cash operations are difficult to track for taxation purposes and to prevent money laundering schemes. H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Rep. Crist, would give legally operating marijuana-related businesses access to the banking system by barring federal regulators from taking action against financial institutions who provide these services to cannabis businesses.