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NORML and Texas chapters face financial discrimination

Given marijuana’s federal legal status, banks and other financial institutions have been unwilling to do business with those involved in the cannabis industry.

What about those non-profit organizations who are simply advocating for changing marijuana laws though?

Several of those organizations have faced adversity from financial institutions as well, even though what they do is 100 percent in compliance with the law.

Keith Stroup released a blog post announcing that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) had their credit card transaction processing services cut off abruptly simply for being associated with marijuana.

“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.”

He added, “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’.”

Concluding, “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.”

Organizations here in Texas have faced issues as well.

Shaun McAlister, the Executive Director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of NORML, tried to open an account at the credit union he already banked at but was denied.

“We were initially denied by a nervous bank manager,” he says. However after some phone calls and a sit down, the bank opened an account and they have remained with the credit union ever since.

Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018
Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018

NORML of Waco originally had an account with Chase for several years but the account was abruptly closed. Board members had to hit up nearly every bank in town over the course of nearly a year before Wells Fargo would set up a checking account for the non-profit organization.

The organization’s director Clif Deuvall stated, “these are the type of obstacles that obstruct NORML’s ability to participate in commerce, and its ability to operate effectively and efficiently as a non-profit organization.”

Given the volunteer-oriented nature of these organizations, people must make time to deal with these issues along with their usual duties, on top of holding down jobs and enjoying a personal life.

Many NORML groups around Texas have faced discrimination in trying to secure meeting spots at places such as a libraries where other non-profits regularly meet.

Texas NORML Executive Director Jax Finkel says they were once rejected by a vendor simply for having the word marijuana in their name.

“Chapters in Texas have faced many adversities in getting their non profits running and maintaining them. Many chapters take months just to be able to get a bank account based on the false impression that NORML deals with the sale of the actual cannabis plant, which is 100% unfounded as we are 501c4 educational non profits focused on cannabis law reform,” Finkel says. She adds, “This delay in opening an account can hold up accepting memberships and moving forward with plans because of lack of funding.”

For those directly involved in the cannabis industry though, they have to operate as cash only businesses, which makes them prime targets for thieves.

Until congress acts to either amend banking regulations, or legalize marijuana, this will be an ongoing issue as financial institutions refuse to get involved with any operations which could expose them to federal prosecution, and are otherwise afraid to be involved with legal cannabis advocacy organizations despite their actions being entirely legal.

Stay up to date with the latest cannabis news from a Texas perspective by following the Texas Cannabis Report social media pages.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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