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U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES MARIJUANA BANKING

A new measure has been approved by the U.S. Senate Committee that would allow banking institutions to offer financial services to marijuana businesses. State-legalized marijuana businesses will soon be able to operate as a traditional business with a traditional banking system. Thus far, banking services have not been available to a majority of marijuana businesses due to marijuana's illegal federal status.

Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon is the author of the amendment, Marijuana Policy Project reports. The amendment prevents the spending of funds that prohibit and penalize banks/financial institutions that provide banking services to state-legal marijuana-related businesses. Given that most banking institutions fear federal penalties and prosecution, very few have even attempted to work with marijuana-related businesses.

Marijuana Policy Project's federal policies director, Robert Capecchi said, "More than half of the U.S. population lives in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal for adult or medical use. Millions of marijuana consumers are relying on licensed and regulated businesses to provide them with safe and legal access to marijuana."

Capecchi continued by saying, "Current federal policy all but ensures marijuana businesses operate on a cash-only basis, which raises safety concerns for their employees and the surrounding communities. This measure should ease the financial institutions' concerns about opening accounts for those state-legal businesses."

There are still more steps before the amendment becomes law. A full Senate approval must come first. Following that, the House must include proper language in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. The final step is a Presidential signature.

ARIZONA CONGRESSMAN PUBLICLY ENDORSES MARIJUANA

Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego announced today that he is endorsing the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, an initiative poised for the November ballot.

The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana, establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol, and enact a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. A majority of the tax revenue would be directed to Arizona schools and public education programs.

"Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals," said Rep. Gallego. "We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses that are subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes."

Gallego, a Democrat who represents Arizona's 7th congressional district (comprising of central and south Phoenix as well as western Maricopa County communities), announced his endorsement at a news conference on Tuesday, June 21 on the House Lawn of the Arizona State Capitol. He was joined by leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) in Arizona, a group that is supporting the initiative.

"I am proud to support this initiative, as it represents a far more sensible approach to marijuana for our state," mentioned Gallego. "It will make Arizona communities safer, while also generating some much-needed tax revenue for our schools."

The campaign is wrapping up its petition drive in support of the initiative and will be submitting its signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office prior to the July 7 deadline.

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