Today, state lawmakers, clergy, and representatives of public health and safety organizations hosted a press conference urging Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal to join a growing chorus of voices across the nation calling on members of the United States Senate to halt efforts to extend banking and investment access to the marijuana industry amid a national marijuana vaping crisis.
“On top of the many hazards to public health and safety, banking access will only allow Big Marijuana to further exploit disadvantaged communities,” said Abu Edwards, Director of State Affairs for Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action. “By and large, we have no idea as to the long term effects of today’s super strength marijuana on public health. But the latest innovation of the pot industry is now proving to have fatal consequences. We should not reward this industry and allow these harms to continue.”
Notably, despite pressure from Governor Ned Lamont, efforts to legalize marijuana in Connecticut failed in the most recent session thanks to the courageous work of Senator Tony Hwang, Representative Vincent Candelora, and and other lawmakers as well as groups such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana Connecticut (CT SAM).
“I took a hard look at the negative effects marijuana legalization would have on our state and chose to oppose expanding it here; the vaping crisis has only emboldened my opposition,” said State Representative Vincent Candelora. “As the number of victims continues to grow and researchers continue to struggle to identify the root cause of the crisis, we call on Senators Murphy and Blumenthal to oppose any bill rewarding the industry at the center of it.”
The press conference highlighted the concerns with allowing the marijuana industry banking access. The ongoing marijuana vaping crisis, now responsible for over 2,000 cases of illness and at least 39 deaths, was chief among these concerns. Notably, at least two deaths and numerous cases of the illness have been linked to the purchase of “legal” marijuana products.
In addition to rewarding the industry at the center of this health crisis with billions of dollars in investment and further legitimacy, banking access also presents a unique opportunity for organized crime and criminal cartels to be able to run massive money laundering schemes. For this reason, this push for banking access is opposed by former Drug Enforcement Agency Administrators and White House Drug Czars.
“Our CT SAM coalition has fought since day one against this industry, and our fight has never been more important than it is now,” said Bo Huhn, a spokesman for CT SAM. “While Senators Murphy and Blumenthal are co-sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, which should actually be known as the VAPE Banking Act, we have faith they will act in the best interest of health and safety and oppose this bill.”