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U.S.: National Poll Shows Majority Supports Legalizing Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A majority of American registered voters nationwide support the legalization of marijuana, according to the results of a new Quinnipiac Poll released on Monday.

Just more than half -- 54 percent -- said cannabis use should be made legal across the United States, while 41 percent said it should not, reports Nick Gass at Politico.

The results showed partisan polarization, with Democrats favoring legalizing 65 percent to 30 percent, and Republicans opposing legalization 62 percent to 36 percent. Independent voters backed legalization 61 percent to 36 percent, as did men (60 percent to 37 percent) and women, but just by 48 percent to 46 percent, within the margin of error.

Possession of cannabis is already legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, along with the District of Columbia, with a couple of dozen other states having decriminalized the herb.

Majorities of voters younger than 65 said they would support legalization, while 57 percent of those 65 and older said they would oppose it.

U.S.: Presidential Candidate Rubio Wants To Enforce Federal Law In Marijuana States

MarcoRubioScratchingHead[MotherJones]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Prospective candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination continued their baffling verbal assault on cannabis this week, as Florida Senator Marco Rubio joined Chris Christie in pledging a federal crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana.

Asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt if he would "enforce the federal drug laws and shut down the marijuana trade," Rubio answered: "I think, well, I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well…

"I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal," said Rubio, revealing his distressingly murky thought process around the subject.

"In addition to enforcing the rest of the Controlled Substances Act, U.S. Attorneys are still pursuing marijuana cases in Colorado and Washington, just not in a way that shuts down the state-legal industry," said Jacob Sullum at Reason. "Rubio apparently opposes that policy of prosecutorial forbearance."

U.S.: National Cannabis Industry Association Drops Tommy Chong As Spokesman

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Iconic stoner Tommy Chong has been dropped as a spokesman by pro-marijuana lobbying group the National Cannabis Industry Association.

According to NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith, the pot lobby is tired of the Cheech & Chong stoner jokes and wants to be taken seriously in Congress, reports Burgess Everett at Politico. The cannabis industry reportedly wants to move past the stoner stereotypes represented by Chong as it tries to remake itself as a "serious suits segment" of the economy.

Smith, in a Monday email sent to Chong's representatives and allies, said that after feedback from "allied members of Congress," the group decided Chong wasn't its best representative in D.C., particularly when it comes to influencing right-wing lawmakers.

"Having Tommy out in D.C. for the NCIA Lobby Days will detract from the overall message we aim for with the event, which is that cannabis business people are regular professionals and relatable to the generally conservative members of Congress we are looking to appeal to," Smith wrote. "We are here to break 'stoner' stereotypes rather than reinforce them."

U.S.: Senators Ask White House To Clarify Federal Marijuana Laws

Senators-PattyMurray,MariaCantwell,MarkUdall,MikeBennet(OmakChronicle)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Senate delegations from Colorado and Washington are seeking clarification from the Obama Administration on the regulations which will impact the legal marijuana trade in those two states.

Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington on Monday wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for "a clear, consistent and uniform interpretation and application" of federal marijuana laws in relation to their home states, reports Jonathan Topaz at Politico. The letter warns about the current uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis laws.

"We believe the federal government should support Colorado and Washington state's effort to establish a successful regulatory framework in a way that achieves greater certainty for local officials, citizens, and business owners" in the marijuana industry, the senators wrote.

The uncertainty regarding the implementation of federal cannabis laws "may undermine our states' ability to regulate the industry adequately," the senators said.

All four Democrats said they look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure lawful and successful implementation of marijuana legalization in their states.

U.S.: Banks Still Cautious About Marijuana Business Accounts

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Banking institutions say that while reassurances from Attorney General Eric Holder are nice, they are going to need more than a nod and a wink before providing banking services to marijuana businesses in states where recreational or medical cannabis is legal.

Atty. Gen. Holder made headlines last week when he said the Obama Administration plans to allow banks to make loans to or open accounts for marijuana businesses in states where they are legal, report Kate Davidson and Kevin Cirilli at Politico.com. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

Financial firms face a complex maze of anti-money-laundering rules enforced by federal bank regulators, and violations can be very risky for banks which do business with companies which are breaking federal laws.

One major problem for bankers is that the Justice Department directive isn't binding; there have been past examples of federal prosecutors who disagree with DOJ guidance ignoring its directives. If the next administration is more conservative, all the banks catering to cannabis businesses could once again be subject to federal prosecution. If a U.S. Attorney files criminal charges against a bank, it could lose its charter and be forced to close.

All this means that the risks still outweigh the rewards for banks when it comes to accepting marijuana money.

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