Medical Marijuana State VS Federal Law

Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states in America with some revolving round the user growing his or her own crop whilst others allow marijuana dispensaries. These dispensaries are having a hard time due to a conflict between federal law and state law creating a grey area. This has led to banks which have accounts nationwide being unsure and unwilling to allow marijuana dispensaries to even have a checking account.


Most banks when medical marijuana legalisation originally became law in a state were willing to provide accounts for marijuana growers but the number of banks providing services for marijuana growers has been in rapid decline. This is down to the DEA threatening banks that provide banking accounts for marijuana growers. One such bank is the Bank of America who got a DEA alert advising them that marijuana, medical or otherwise is illegal under federal law and could open them up to the possibility of liability.


Many critics of marijuana dispensaries claim that they are hotspot for crime despite statistics that prove otherwise. As the Los Angeles Police Chief says “Banks are more likely to get robbed that medical marijuana dispensaries”, the claim that dispensaries are some kind of hot spot for crime is absolutely ridiculous. If anything the DEA’s threat to banks and their unwillingness to provide banking services to marijuana dispensaries will inevitably lead to dispensaries becoming hot spots for robberies as it will mean that dispensary owners will have to do business with cash thus increasing the risk of robberies and burglaries.


It’s also amusing that the federal government seems to crack down on banks supplying banking facilities to marijuana dispensaries yet when it comes to states raising taxes from the selling of marijuana there seems to be no problem. For instance in California $200 million worth of medical marijuana are taxed so when it’s raising money for the state the federal government does not really seem to care that it is coming from a source that is illegal under federal law.


The conflict of state law and federal law is creating this grey area where the banks are afraid of providing accounts for marijuana growers. Many of these banks see marijuana growers as a very small group but with a big risk associated with them. For instance in 2009 the DEA shut down at least 2 dispensaries in California despite the fact that they were technically legal by Californian law. This is due to marijuana under federal law being illegal and it is down to a question of law supremacy. Under George Bush over 40 dispensaries were raided despite the fact that they were legal in those states it was because federally they are illegal.


This creates a sense of unknown amongst growers and the banks who were willing to provide accounts for these growers. This problem goes further than just the growers and banks though it also has a big impact on those who are legally on marijuana for medical reasons such as Robert Jones. Robert Jones is a cancer patient in Las Vegas he is legally allowed to have marijuana under the Nevada Medical Marijuana Program (NMMP) yet he almost lost his home after being notified that his feudal funded rent subsidy is being revoked because he is a Medical marijuana user. It was only thanks to a last minute local county commission vote which rescind the notice.


The fact that technically someone who is legally allowed to use marijuana in a state can still be considered to be violating federal law is appalling. The federal government seems to use its power to stamp its authority and to make state laws seem irrelevant. Such as proposition 19 in California which if passed would of allowed recreational use of marijuana. The federal government warned against it with the US General attorney Eric Holder promising to “vigorously enforce” federal marijuana laws even if proposition 19 was passed.


The situation for legal marijuana dispensaries has not gotten better either especially with a recent memo by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole saying that people “who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities" are in breach of federal laws and could potentially be prosecuted regardless of state laws.


The federal government’s staunch opposition to the state legalization of medical marijuana has been negative and scaremongering in nature for a long time. In 1997 when California first passed a proposition to make medical marijuana legal the federal government tried to scare doctors from recommending it to their patients with Attorney General Janet Reno saying that doctors who prescribe marijuana could potentially lose the privilege of writing prescriptions and be prosecuted for federal crimes.


The federal government may think that marijuana has no medical use and “is not considered modern medicine” but countless articles, reports and studies prove otherwise. It’s time the federal government stops leaving ill people in limbo and allow the states to decide once and for all whether it should be legal or illegal in their state. If marijuana growing is legal in a state the DEA should not exert any pressure on banks to not provide financial tools to these growers.