A recent article in the Watertown Daily Times reiterated to readers that Mary Jane is an abysmal traveling companion.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminds travelers that the possession and transportation of marijuana across the international border remains illegal under federal law. Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in Canada and in many U.S. states, including New York, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or facilitation remain illegal under U.S. law,” according to the story published on January 19. “Requirements for international travelers wishing to enter the United States are governed and enforced in accordance with federal law, which supersedes state laws. Therefore, crossing the border or arriving at a US port of entry in violation of this law may result in denial of admission, seizure, fines, arrest, and vehicle detention in lieu of payment.
A motorist found out the hard way that the authorities were serious.
“A 24-year-old Canadian was arrested [Jan. 20] for alleged possession of 11 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of approximately $24,000 while attempting to cross the border at the Massena port of entry. In a news release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said officers at the port of entry encountered a New York-registered passenger vehicle driven by the Canadian. They said that upon primary inspection, they received a notification from the National Crime Information Center that the license plates on the vehicle were invalid,” an article in the Times reported on January 21. “Officers conducted a preliminary search of the vehicle and reportedly discovered 11 vacuum-sealed packages in the trunk. The vehicle was then escorted to a secondary area for further examination. Officials said a thorough physical examination of the trunk revealed the wrappers contained a green leafy substance that tested positive for marijuana properties. The driver was arrested and processed by United States Customs and Border Protection officers. After processing, the driver and the marijuana were turned over to the New York State Police. They said the driver was facing a felony charge of first-degree criminal possession of cannabis and a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle while registration was suspended.
This presents a conundrum for residents of Canada and New York. The use of medical cannabis and recreational marijuana is legal throughout the Great White North and the Empire State. So why shouldn’t people be allowed to commute between these two jurisdictions with the substance?
Reefer Madness – that’s why! Responding to misguided and very outdated fears voiced by voters, US lawmakers have not budged an inch toward decriminalizing the use or possession of marijuana.
The most they’ve done in recent years has been to consider the Safe and Fair Banking Act, a measure allowing financial institutions to transact with medical cannabis or recreational marijuana companies. Under federal law, this would amount to money laundering.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, in the same category as heroin and a more serious class than cocaine or methamphetamine. While this does not prevent states from enacting their own laws, such treatment interferes with how local businesses conduct business. Because the banks are federally chartered, they cannot accept deposits from companies that sell cannabis or marijuana.
Therefore, marijuana dispensaries and medical cannabis facilities must find creative ways to circumvent the problem of money laundering. They only take money from customers as accepting checks or credit cards would violate this provision of their charters.
As businesses that only use cash, this creates a dangerous situation. These companies are sitting ducks for criminals looking to make easy money. In some cases, thieves only need a gun, a mask, and a getaway car.
It is also very inconvenient for the staff members of these companies. They are often paid in cash or as independent contractors.
Being paid cash by a company is risky if it’s your only job. How would you account for your income if the IRS requires you to review your finances?
Issuance of Form 1099s to freelancers is also problematic. Some states have regulations on how many hours independent contractors can work at a business and where they can work to warrant a Form 1099. If a government employment agency finds that an individual or business has violated these rules, she can wreak havoc.
The SAFE Banking Act was supposed to solve this problem. It prohibits regulators from taking punitive action against financial institutions for dealing with legitimate cannabis/marijuana businesses.
But despite being proposed several times over the past few years, the bill has come to nothing. As modest and practical as that is, even that seems to be beyond the realm of possibility for DC lawmakers.
So the federal government remains stuck in a rut when it comes to pot. It is a remnant of the hysteria perpetuated at the beginning of the 20th century, steeped in sectarianism.
“After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, a wave of Mexican immigrants flocked to the southwestern United States and helped popularize the recreational use of the drug. Cannabis in Spanish was called “marihuana” or “mariguana » («marijuana‘ is anglicized bastardization). As the drug became more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants. Anti-drug activists began to warn of the pervasive ‘marijuana menace’, describing the terrible crimes attributed to the drug and the Mexicans who used it,” according to a January 5, 2018 article published by KQED, a San Francisco-based public and rationing television station. “Widespread unemployment and poverty during the Great Depression heightened resentment and fear among immigrants and minorities and fueled concerns about perceived drug ills associated with them. A wave of pseudo-research has linked drug use to violence, crime, and other socially deviant behaviors. Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the newly created Federal Narcotics Bureau, insisted that marijuana led to “madness, criminality and death”. By 1931, 29 states had banned it.
“The debut of ‘Reefer Madness’ in 1936, one of a series of anti-marijuana propaganda films released at the time, helped fuel hysteria about the drug. Originally titled” Tell Your Children,” the film centers on a series of hyperbolic events that occur when innocent high school kids are tricked into trying marijuana – from a hit-and-run accident to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape , hallucinations and a rapid descent into madness.Following a sinister national propaganda campaign against the “weed”, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the first time the drug was regulated and taxed The law effectively criminalized marijuana, prohibiting its possession and sale and limiting it to those who paid excise tax for certain permitted medical and industrial uses.
Although recreational marijuana was approved by the state legislature last year, many communities in upstate New York are collapsing to ban cannabis dispensaries. They are eager to withhold the tax revenue it would create for them.
But it seems that the many liquor stores found in those same municipalities are just fine. I guess it’s socially and morally more acceptable to be a drunk than a stoner — how enlightened we are!
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor of the Watertown Daily Times. Readers can call him at 315-661-2369 or email [email protected] They can also follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.