Saturday, January 27, 2018
On the campaign trail, Trump said the issue of marijuana legalization should be "up to the states," continuing the policy under President Obama. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama's policy and gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases, even where its legal under state law. The action has made banks afraid to take marijuana cash, which can be prosecuted as money laundering, which incurs stiff criminal penalties. Yet, the U.S. government is the largest launderer of marijuana cash in the nation. They make a profit by snatching up to 70% of marijuana shop revenues, instead of the usual 30% tax. It does this by branding marijuana businesses criminal enterprises who cannot deduct their expenses when filing their taxes. The IRS takes the money as taxes, turning it into "clean" money. It is not an unwitting accomplice to the crime. Estimates are that marijuana business owners in the U.S. will pay $2.8 billion in taxes to the feds in 2018.
Institutions, individuals, and other governments who aid and abet the practice of money laundering can be indicted and convicted, even if they may be unaware of the original source of the money. If the government itself is profiting handsomely from this laundered money, the question arises whether money laundering should even be a crime.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. Under federal law, however, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, a "deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse". Possession remains a punishable offense.
The herb has been shown to have significant therapeutic value for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, lung disease, anxiety, muscle spasms, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis pain. The community of Americans who rely on legal medical marijuana was estimated to be 2.6 million people in 2016 and includes a variety of mainstream constituency groups like veterans, senior citizens, cancer survivors and parents of epileptic children. Unlike patented pharmaceuticals, which are now the leading cause of death from drug overdose, there have been no recorded deaths from marijuana overdose in the U.S. By comparison, alcohol causes 30,000 deaths annually, and prescription drugs taken as directed are estimated to kill 100,000 Americans per year.
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