It’s Time To Get Over the Prejudice Against Marijuana!

At NORML we were once again reminded this past week of the pervasive prejudice against marijuana, and marijuana smokers, that remains in the general American culture. Yes, a majority of Americans now oppose marijuana prohibition and favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. But there remain numerous obstacles and penalties that continue to deny fair and equal treatment to marijuana smokers, and those who are associated with marijuana.

I have previously written about the urgent need to protect responsible marijuana smokers from job discrimination (requiring a showing of impairment on the job before an employee can be terminated); from unfair child custody laws (requiring a showing of abuse or neglect before removing minor children from the custody of their marijuana smoking parents); and unfair DUID laws (requiring a showing of impairment before charging a marijuana smoker with driving under the influence of drugs). These are three areas of the law where we will continue to fight for fair and equal treatment for marijuana smokers.

More Subtle Biases

But today I want to discuss another, more subtle bias that can unfairly impact those of us who support full legalization. These involve the refusal of banks and credit card processing companies to offer their services to businesses and non-profits that are somehow connected to the newly emerging legal marijuana industry in several states.

Initially I presumed these problems were unique to those who actually held licenses to commercially cultivate or sell marijuana. Most of us are familiar with the enormous challenges these banking and financial limitations cause for those who have invested their time and resources to start a new business legal under state law. Today, most are forced to operate on a cash-only basis; no bank accounts or credit cards allowed.

The Obama administration has reassured the banking and related industries that they will not be penalized by the feds for providing necessary and usual business services to those businesses operating legally under state law. But the banking industry realizes this policy could be reversed under another, less marijuana-friendly president, and largely has refused to budge until particular provisions of federal law, which they feel put them in legal jeopardy, have been changed.

Proposed Federal Reforms Pending

There are serious efforts underway in Congress to fix these banking problems, and support is clearly growing among the members. HR 2076/S 1726, The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015, sponsored by a bi-partisan group of legislators, would fully protect financial institutions providing services to legitimate marijuana business. Many observers, myself included, expect this area of federal reform will be the first to be approved by the Congress, among the several federal marijuana proposals pending. (You can register your support for these measures from the NORML website.

NORML has been supportive of these reforms, believing they are necessary for the newly legal marijuana industry, and because it is in the best interest of consumers that the legitimate industry operate in a transparent manner, as other industries do.

Suddenly, NORML Loses Credit Card Services

But now we have a more personal reason to fight for this change. NORML has abruptly lost our ability to accept credit or debit card donations on our website. Without advance notice, NORML was notified by registered mail this past week that the company that processes our debit and credit card donations, TransFirst, had decided, apparently based on their review of our website, that we no longer qualify as a client, and they immediately ceased processing our credit card traffic. As with many non-profits, we depend to a large degree on donations from our website to fund our organization, so this (hopefully temporary) glitch presents a serious threat to the organization.

NORML is a not-for-profit public-interest lobby that represents the interests of responsible marijuana smokers. We do not grow or sell marijuana, nor do we have any financial interests in the marijuana industry. Nonetheless, when I asked TransFirst what rule we had violated, they said we were part of the “marijuana industry.”

Our advocacy is First Amendment-protected activity; marijuana legalization is our policy goal, and we work every day to nudge the country a little closer to that policy.

But now, when someone with the TransFirst financial services corporation decided to visit our website, and discovered that we are a pro-legalization lobby, we are suddenly found to be unsuitable as a client. We are denied the same business services routinely provided to tens of thousands of other non-profits, many of whom also focus on controversial social issues, simply because we have a website that promotes the legalization of marijuana!

We are working now to identify another company that will not be frightened by our political views, that will step in to provide these necessary services. And unlike most of those in the legal marijuana industry, at NORML we have never had problems finding banks willing to handle our accounts. For that, I suppose, we should be grateful.

But that is not what I am feeling right now. I am angry that some mid-level executive at TransFirst was able and willing to disrupt our work at NORML based on the content of the advocacy on our website. That represents a totally unnecessary act (there is no theory under federal law that would penalize a company for providing financial services to NORML), and one that smacks of an anti-marijuana prejudice that is reminiscent of the days of “reefer madness.” We are being penalized for our political views.

It is time for all of us to stand-up and say, loudly and clearly, “Get over it. There is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana and it’s time we began treating people who smoke, and corporations that work in and around the marijuana industry, in a fair manner.”

It is time we, as a society, overcome our anti-marijuana prejudices, once and for all.

32 thoughts

  1. Ok, I’ll be sure to cease doing business with TransFirst, and I will let them know why.

  2. Yes Finally But Not Completly Cannibus Is Accepted As Medicone By Four Smart State People And Will Change More States But Dat Movie Reefer Madness Put Society Over The Bridge ?Let’s Fix Bridge For People Who MEED Medical Cannibus especially Children??????

  3. Founding Father of the United States Thomas Jefferson said, “If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”

  4. Great quote Todd. The only laws in the US more costic and inhumane than our food and drug policy would have to be our special districting for mosquito control exposed by John Oliver on the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. Middle managers, ghost governments and colluded beurocracies are enemies of freedom wherever rules are made and broken.

    Does anyone else smell the sweet terpene fragrance of a lawsuit? Perhaps TransFirst could have argued cutting credit services to NORML PAC, by categorizing the for-profit lobby as part of the “marijuana industry,” but cutting services to NORML Foundation, a registered non-for-profit organization with stated bias that it is “part of the marijuana industry,” implying profit, means that NORML Foundation needs to calculate the lost revenue adding up and sue TransFirst for damages. Oh, and violation of 1st amendment rights; that should add up to a healthy award. File it in Federal court. Find another credit service. We’ll donate for that!

  5. I think the solution is more support from citizens and not letting up educating them that the social stigmas associated with cannabis simply aren’t true, many successful people find it a healthier choice and the fact that it is actually good for some because of its healing properties. Only then will the anti propaganda by big pharma, big alcohol and the private prison lobbying and anti ads be seen through as malicious and self serving. Awareness is the answer.

    1. @Steve, That is a great way to help more people get over the prejudice against marijuana.

      More support from citizens who are knowledgeably encouraged to defend our Constitution, could restore our access to the versatile cannabis plant by calling for the government to respect the Necessary and Proper clause, the Ninth Amendment, and the Tenth Amendment, which are literally assaulted by the existing federal definition of marijuana.

      A specific reform of the definition of marijuana that the federal government uses, can work to end such stigmas when more people defend the Constitution by calling for it. The enforcers of that definition won’t call for it, many in the “marijuana industry” won’t call for it, and most of the Establishment won’t either. It must be demanded by the people who want to realize the benefits of cannabis and end the problems caused by that definition.

      This year is a good time to get educated about marijuana reform. The points supporting this specific reform are listed in the comments here:

  6. Desperate petty attempts that if were reversed on the prohibition party would call for incarceration.

    NORML once Medical Cannabis is 50 state legal on a federal level, is it likely that there will be a influx of litigation against Department’s, Agencies, or businesses?

    Beyond the pettiness it seems like this is criminal! Especially if their actions lead to someone not getting the medicine they need.

    1. I’ve been saying that some of the actions by authority abusing prohibitionists that are intentionally causing harm to people are war crimes. If priests and athletes are held responsible for their actions why not bureaucrats, politicians, and LEOs?

  7. It seems clear to me that this is a deliberate attempt to violate NORML’s first amendment rights. Is there any possibility for NORML to recover damages?

    [Editor’s note: Violations of the First Amendment are almost exclusively the domain of governments. Meaning that a citizen possess no inherent First Amendment right to do business with a private company if the company does not want to do business with a person, company or organization (the private company, generally speaking, can be sued for violating the rights of so-called ‘protected classes’, i.e., gender, age, race, religion, etc…).

    NORML’s ‘speech’ vis-a-vis what credit card processing companies are willing or not to work with it is not part of the currently recognized protected classes.]

    1. To the editor:
      Point taken about First Amendment rights.
      But there’s still a path to justice:
      The bottom line is that TransFirst made a statement that termination of credit services was based upon NORML, including NORML Foundation’s association with “the marijuana industry.” They could have just terminated services without an explanation and left themselves less exposed to a civil suit for compensation due to negligence per se, deceptive practices, breach of contract and implied warranties.
      Dig up any recorded statements you can. Call every executive and record their statements,(recording yourself of course, just for fun),

      And since you won’t be going the First Amendment route, perhaps it would be better to sue TransFirst locally instead of Federally at first, using Georgia’s Peachtree NORML to pursue and petition the State Attorney General’s office:

      Fair Business Practices Act
      (O.C.G.A. Sections 10-1-390 et seq.)

      “Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act prohibits unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the marketplace. This law applies to consumer transactions involving the sale, lease or rental of goods, services or property mainly for personal, family or household purposes. The Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit will pursue a case of this nature whenever the Attorney General determines there is a substantial public interest.”

      Georgia’s Fair Business and Practices Act contains two provisions that qualify as violations that NORML may take in interest;

      1). Making false or misleading statements about another business or its products or services.

      2).Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised (example: using “bait-and-switch” tactics)

  8. Aren’t they violating the constitution somewhere? Drag them into court for this…publicly even. Watch TSS stock prices fall when they’re plastered all over CNN and the AP.

  9. Sounds like typical corporate horseshit to me. “The Man” sucks. (By “The Man” I mean corporate america at large, and the ideologies that drive it.)

    I know “The Man” ain’t here to serve society; ask any CEO: they’re here to make a profit. Duh. Who said anything about social responsibility, or doing good in the world? Puh-leeze. That’s a lie for the marketeers to sell. (Don’t feel bad, I fell for it, too. It’s your job, that’s where they have you. Your employer is golden… or at least, has the gold!)

    Look, The Man is malicious! That’s why we have to keep spelling it out for him: “No, you can’t discriminate based on race. No, you can’t discriminate based on gender. No, you can’t discriminate based on religion. Or age. Or…” We’re talking about a complete and total failure to grasp the concept!

    Why such personal resentment on my part? Drug tests. It’s not the biggest issue (I think the state stealing children from parents is number one, that’s totally horrifying,) but every drug test I’ve ever taken out of economic desperation was for me something emotionally akin to rape — like an involuntary finger fuck — particulary when a nurse is feeling my balls to make sure I’m not wearing a prosthetic. I have a sense of shame to this day for allowing that to happen, but I was desparate for work and had few other options at that time. I don’t think I can ever forgive “The Man” for that.

    So I’m not surprised at NORML’s credit card issues with “The Man.” But we’ll keep fighting back, and we’ll keep looking those bastards right in the eye, because we know damn well we’re not doing anything wrong by our association with cannabis.

    1. I felt exactly the same way about drug testing, that I should never be forced or coerced to disrobe or be touched without my free consent. Anything else amounts to feeling raped. If I had a partner that demanded sex, it would feel the same way. I left my last job with a full-blown case of ptsd, and having the ever-present threat of drug testing was part of it. I once wrote on an employee satisfaction survey that I am not a piece of livestock in reference to random drug testing. I’m against even pre-employment drug testing for the same reasons.

  10. NORML doesn’t own any of the companies producing or vending cannabis products, I’m thinking, so are only advocates of cannabis, a lobby organization if you will. What’s next? High Times, MPP, DPA and every other magazine and advocacy group is going to lose its ability to accept credit cards? I should hope not!

    TransFirst, you’re at the top of the shit list. Don’t expect the cannabis community to send any business your way after the feds have legalized cannabis banking. I think you should change your minds, and make good on things with NORML.

  11. Just in case that didn’t post:

    Georgia’s Fair Business and Practices Act contains two provisions that qualify as violations that NORML may take in interest;

    1). Making false or misleading statements about another business or its products or services.

    2).Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised (example: using “bait-and-switch” tactics)

    Even if there isn’t a settlement involved, NORML cannot stand idly by as our consumer rights are violated and discriminated. It’s time to let the Georgia Attorney General’s office know who they work for.

  12. 1. the problem is; the weed industry wants HONEST, LEGAL, BANKING.
    (you give them $1,000 , and they credit your account with $1,000)

    they will not do that.
    they want to do MONEY LAUNDERING.
    (you give them $1,000 , and they credit your account with $800 , and keep the rest)

    WHY shouldn’t the banks get their cut of the MARIJUANA drug money ??

    after all,
    have been doing this with the COCAINE MONEY,

    a. most of the bills in circulation have TRACES OF COCAINE on them.
    b. cocaine is a concentrated store of wealth; i saw a program on TV, years ago, that said that; for every ton of cocaine that is smuggled in, 3 to 5 tons of MONEY must be smuggled out !!
    and a ton of paper money, takes up much more space than a ton of cocaine.

    (that is why the cocaine dealers do not like ten dollar bills, they take up too much space, and weigh too much)

    SO, to avoid this problem of too much money to smuggle, they decided it was easier, and better, to just let the banks take their cut.

    2. re; (a private company, can be sued for violating the rights of ‘protected classes’, i.e., gender, age, race, religion, etc…).

    though it does not get mentioned much,
    there ARE, religions based on marijuana use.
    the rastifarians are one, and there are others.
    one officially recognised, non-rasta church is in hawaii.

    if you SINCERELY belive that GOD created this wonderfull plant, which is medically efficatious,
    and highly usefull for industrial uses,
    to be used and enjoyed by US,
    HIS children, you are most of the way there.

    just be sure to thank GOD, for it,
    when you smoke it,
    and you are at the level of religious use.
    and therefore, a ‘protected class’.

    marijuana is also in the BIBLE; it is called KANEH BOSM, or ‘sweet smelling cane’.
    (and in some versions of the bible, it is mis-translated as ‘calmus’.)

    it is an ingredient in the ‘holy anointing oil’.

  13. re; religious use of marijuana; please put a new ‘tab’ at the top of your HOMEpage, where it says; ‘about’, ‘news’, ‘legal’, ‘blog’, ‘donate’, ‘take action’, ect.

    let it say; ‘RELIGIOUS USE’.

    let it link to information on the historical religious use,

    and to LOCATION / CONTACT info for ALL of the available churches…

    and open ONE church, (at least, to start),
    in all 4 of the states with recreational legal use.
    (EACH person of the congregation brings their own supply, for their own personal use, so there is no ‘distribution’.
    people with economic problems, that cannot afford their own, can sit in, for the ‘contact high’)

    also, open churches for medical users with cards, only,
    in the medical use states.
    (at least, ONE, per medical use state, to start)

    if they are not shut down,
    and if they turn a profit,
    you can open more churches.
    (donations are accepted, but nothing is ever sold, though, you put some in insence burners, for all to breathe)

    people will be able to smoke OPENLY, amongst other smokers, totally GUILT FREE.
    and the churches will be a place for smokers to build new friendships with their fellow smokers.

    in my opinion, if you want to end the prejudice, and be more accepted, or at least tolerated, you need to accept and embrace this aspect of the marijuana culture.

    i.e., when the gays demanded that they were no longer to be discriminated against, by churches, and be allowed to attend church, and recieve the eucharist, instead of being kicked out, and ridiculed, they gained respect and acceptance.

    that led to the right to get married.

    asserting that they were not evil, and that they wanted to be able to worship, worked for them.

    1. Proud 2 be; very interesting posts. Along the lines of what Ive been posting here for years; but here’s the problem; NORML isnt really registered as a church for tax purposes.
      Believe me, opening a religious tax haven for NORML members JUST to piss off dumb some greedy executives at TransFirst would be as Hilarious as when John Oliver opened up his own church tax haven on Last Week Tonight:

      Ok, albeit a douche move for Rastafarians who really DO believe cannabis a religious sacrament, the relevence of a church of cannabis is profoundly spiritual in its implications, yet limited in its implementation and membership.

      Incidentally, you should read “Early Diffusions and Folk History of Hemp” written by the late anthropologist Sulah Benet concerning the etymology of the word cannabis from the ancient hebrew word for the healing oils, kanneh bosem. There’s some fascinating history there that got lost in translation.

      Alas, religion may not be the way to go about this; Not that we didn’t all think about it though, (John Oliver you sly devil you..)

      But honestly, we are talking to some of the best most dedicated lawyers in this nation, trying to give them advice as if they need it. Being a NORML lawyer during continuing legal marijuana crisis must be like working at a neighborhood Deli where everybody is trying to tell you how to fix their sandwhich while the Soup Nazi is trying to purchase the management. God Bless you NORML lawyers!

      1. it’s funny,
        isn’t it,
        how people hear,
        whatever they want to hear,
        when it was NEVER said;

        1. NORML isnt really registered as a church for tax purposes.

        -i knew that, they will have to fill out a few legal papers.
        so what ?
        they allready have a legal team / staff.

        2. Believe me, opening a religious tax haven…

        -NORML is allready ‘not-for-profit’.
        they do not need a ‘tax haven’.

        3. for NORML members…

        -the churches will be open to all.
        (but it will surely gain new members for NORML.)

        4. JUST to piss off dumb some greedy executives at TransFirst…

        -the purpose of the churches,
        (as i specifically stated),
        is to end the prejudice,
        gain respect,
        and to be more accepted,
        or at least tolerated,
        and to advance the cause.

        and (implied) prevent this problem, from recurring,
        in the future.

        the necessary paperwork,
        for this,
        will obviously take a few months.

        re; the relevence of a church of cannabis is profoundly spiritual in its implications,
        yet limited in its implementation and…

        -i said, start small, then expand as needed.

        re; limited in its membership.

        -membership could easily be in the millions. (eventually)

        i would certainly drive one hour,
        each way,
        at least once a month,
        to attend such a church.

        and i would absolutely donate to it.

        and reccomend it to others.

      2. Well may the Herb of Wisdom bless your enthusiasm, Proud 2 B, but if you try and use a non for profit like a church without properly registering your organization, the IRS will be called by your competitors. Here is a link to define various tax categories;

        All Abrahamic Religions are cannabinoid deficient. We need weed to heal our spiritual conflicts and remind us we evolved with the same plant from the same mother.

        However, Im just not sure if its NORML’s mission statement to register and represent a religious tax haven, even if it means we get to perform marijuana-induced exorcism on our Congressman, for which I am there! I’m all there!

        The question at hand is if TransFirst broke the law when executive decision was made to deny NORML Foundation, a registered non for profit, credit services based on NORML “being part of the marijuana industry,” which has a simple legal solution; we all petition the Attorney General of Georgia to sanction TransFirst for violating Georgia’s Fair Business and Practices Act.

  14. I would check your contract with TransFirst financial – they probably have a clause that allows them to terminate their contract with you at any time. If pushed they will undoubtedly hide behind this.

  15. Hi I have chronic pain I used to use pain killers I don’t no more I use marijuana in stead and it helps relieve the chronic pain I have on a daily bases from budging disc and deteiraiting disc in my spine.also it helps with my anxiety panic attacks I get,it doesn’t have the side effects like pain killers.please legalize it for medical use it’s less addictive then opioids the side affects is a lot less harmless.

  16. Keith! You hit the nail on the head with the word predjudice. That truly is the only reason it has been so hard to legalize a relatively benign party drug that has a myriad of medical utility.

    Almost everything our Govt has ever said about cannabis (the Govt renamed it to marijuana) has been lies based on predjudice and extreme ignorance. I really wish that Hilary Clinton would open her eyes to the cannabis phenomena sweeping this nation and realize that more study, while important, shouldn’t stop them from ending the massive arrests and incarceration.

    The laws, without any doubt whatsoever, hurt the lives of millions of good Americans every year. It might be true that some lives are harmed because of abuse, but they are few and should be treated medically. Why can’t someone seemingly intelligent, like Hilary, understand something so simple.

    Trump thinks he’s so smart and brags about it all the time but in fact he truly seems quite clueless!

    1. re; Almost everything our Govt has ever said about cannabis has been lies based on predjudice and extreme ignorance. I really wish that Hilary Clinton would open her eyes…

      Why can’t someone seemingly intelligent, like Hilary, understand something so simple ?

      to Don M; sorry, but, you are giving the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to PSYCOS.

      PSYCOS that make money off private, for-profit prisons, by locking you up.

      PSYCOS that make money, by killing you, slowly, with alcohol, tobacco, rediculously overpriced presctiption drugs, (which have less efficacy than marijuana), and with admitted ‘side effects’, that include death.

      PSYCOS that make money, by killing you, slowly, with the pollution created by oil, (drilling for oil, the burning of oil, and oil spills), coal, ‘natural’ gas, and the water pollution from fracking for it, nookleer, gasoline and diesel.
      (all of which can be replaced, CHEAPER and CLEANER, by marijuana / hemp)

      PSYCOS that keep themselves safe from you, by turning ‘peace officers’ (what police used to be) into militarized ‘enforcers’.
      (enforcers that NEVER arrest the PSYCOS, no matter how many laws the PSYCOS break)

      PSYCOS that keep themselves safe from you, by sending you to die, in UNNECESSARY wars.

      these PSYCOS, know all about marijuana.

      these PSYCOS, made marijuana illegal,
      NOT because it was bad,
      but BECAUSE they KNEW how GOOD it is.

      legal marijuana is only bad, FOR THEM !!

      legal marijuana, limits their PROFITS.

      legal marijuana, limits their POWER.

      p.s. most PSYCOS, are, highly intelligent.

  17. why are people proud to be conservative? conservative = prejudice Let people be who they want if it hurts no one. Sounds like transfirst needs to get over themselves. They’re not all that.

  18. Why not consider support via checks?

    [Editor’s note: It’s not that NORML and NORML Foundation have not always historically accepted checks (along with credit/debit cards, NORML accepts checks, money orders, stock and in-kind donations), it’s simply that technology and custom have led many, possibly most, consumers to use credit/debit cards rather than write checks.

    Prior to 1995, 80% of the membership dues/product sales/donations came from checks. By 2005, it was a 50/50 split. Today, very likely because of the Internet and ‘e-commerce’, 80% or more of the revenue is derived from the processing credit/debit cards.

    While troubling and disruptive in the short term, the regular processing of online donations and via ‘swipe’ devices on mobile phones will soon resume as numerous credit processing companies have contacted the organization after reading about the incident, some from the cannabis industry in states where prohibition has ended, offering to contract for services with the organizations.]

  19. Its going to get a lot worse than better. We did to find some way to hurt the american anti cannabis. Make them pay.Wedid buying clubs.Show where the money is.

  20. It’s such an overwhelming project – just to list all the ways that our reformers and advocates are oppressed.

    The end goal will always have to have been formal, criminal prosecutions, of Prohibitionists.

    It always seems like it’s two steps forward, one step back. Leviathan is so onerous.

  21. A few of us are old enough to remember advocating against “the establishment”. Seems to me the time was around the anti-Vietnam war protests in the late 60s early 70s. At that time average Americans despised us anti-establishment and anti-war Americans. Hippies became known as less human than police, bankers and preachers. Not actually worthy of respect.

    It’s the same crappola now. The rampant bigotry and unbridled hatred towards our “marijuana industry” is a carry-over from mankinds’ meanness to fellow man. There’s no logic involved.

    I spend a great deal of time in silent meditation attempting to see the path that leads away from peoples’ wrongs and imposed tortures.

    In todays’ state of world affairs, marijuana usage is a basic human right. It always has been an ally to lean against when meanness rises in popularity.

  22. Submitting to a drug test in order to procure employment is having your prospective employee agree to being treated like a criminal just to appease your insurance carrier. What kind of lessons are the employees taking away from this treatment? Is seeking employment a criminal activity? Are only the unemployed criminals?

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