Week 6: Cannabis Is Federally Classified as a Schedule 1 Drug

Benjamin Tran, 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

This week, I felt very privileged to have the opportunity to research the cannabis market this week for State Treasurer John Chiang, who is assisting the establishment of a state bank for the regulated cannabis market. To one of my friends, they would probably say that since its legalization in California, all forms are cannabis are now legal. However, the policy implications are very different and not nearly that simple. With legalized cannabis comes the arduous process of setting up a regulated market that California has not been doing so great with. Before legalization, medical marijuana and the black market were already established systems that the regulated markets must catch up to. I got to investigate why California’s regulated markets were failing at proving to be the preferable alternative to the black market.

One is the issue that the Treasurer is working on. Federally, cannabis is a schedule one drug and since banks are federally regulated, banks can lose their licenses if they handle money from cannabis businesses. This means that cannabis businesses are doing business purely in cash. In an age of unprecedented conveniences such as two-day shipping, smartphones, and online transactions, being able to use your credit card is an expected norm. It is inconvenient for both customers and distributors. A state bank is an option for relief for the regulated market and a step towards making it more competitive. The center of our political discussions on topics such as cannabis legalization tend to be shallow and missing necessary information. To truly grasp these issues requires a much deeper understanding than people are generally willing to lend.

CAUSE has been teaching us the importance of networking and building relations. I appreciated that over the weekend, I had the flexibility to go to Washington D.C., where I had interned last summer. I attended the OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates National Convention to help as a cohort leader. Similar to CAUSE’s CLA that has class of interns, OCA does as well. As a cohort leader, I helped to manage one group of interns to help the convention run smoother. It was great to connect with old friends, maintain contacts, and apply the new networking skills I had learned.

Our ability to have the time and resources to understand complex issues in depth is a privilege, and I greatly value the opportunities I’ve had to do so through this summer.