In a recent opinion piece published in The Sun, Mara Sheldon promotes the congressional Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act for the marijuana industry.  

Yet, Sheldon, who has lobbied in Washington for the industry, neglects to point out what is missing from that legislation and why these omissions matter.

Those fighting for SAFE Banking claim it’s all about access to traditional banking services and reducing dispensary robberies. 

Yet the industry right now can get loans, banking services and use electronic payment methods. This includes accepting debit cards with added cash back option, transactions made as easily today in a dispensary as a grocery store.

In fact, just in Colorado the marijuana industry has generated over $13.8 billion in product sales without any national banking legislation.

So, if the marijuana industry wants to be transparent, it should acknowledge SAFE Banking is about much more.

It’s about adding billions of dollars to the value of big marijuana businesses while giving them access to Wall Street funding and the world’s most lucrative capital markets. Just follow the money, including the millions spent on lobbying by those looking to profit substantially from the SAFE Banking Act’s passage. Last year, marijuana industry lobbying spending set a new annual record for the sector at $5.4 million.

This year, the SAFE Banking Act’s most incessant promoter, former Colorado U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, said immediately after he left office that he planned to join the push for the SAFE Banking Act in his new role at a big D.C. law firm. 

So why aren’t those lobbying the hardest willing to make the industry more accountable in exchange for this financial windfall when the stakes are so high? 

Today’s ultra-high-THC concentrates, which have little in common with what many consider to be “marijuana”, present a growing risk to America’s youth. 

Colorado mandated state warnings about concentrates say their use may lead to “1) psychotic symptoms and/or psychotic disorder; 2) mental health symptoms/problems; 3) cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (uncontrolled and repetitive vomiting); 4) cannabis use disorder/dependence, including physical and psychological dependence.”

“There is moderate evidence that individuals who use marijuana with THC concentration greater than 10% are more likely than non-users to be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia,” the warning says.  

THC-infused (and kid-friendly) drinks, candies, and other appealingly sweet foods are still permitted to deceptively mimic everyday products, even when there’s been a 1375% increase in accidental child ingestions. Even today’s buds and flowers have been bioengineered to reach unprecedentedly high THC levels that have been linked to serious risks and harms.

These vastly different THC innovations have created tremendous confusion, particularly for young people, who remain at greatest risk because their brains are still developing until they are 25 years old. 

The impacts are already devastating. THC is the number one substance found in toxicology reports of young people who die by suicide ages 10-24. Half of Colorado high schoolers who report using marijuana say they are inhaling today’s ultra-high THC resin – a process known as dabbing – at a rate more than twice that of adult marijuana users.  

Colorado has a mental health crisis among teens and young adults and high-potency THC delivered in new ways, like dabbing, is a contributing factor

Young adults ages 18–25, who have ridden the wave of increased marijuana sales, marketing, and surge in dispensaries and marijuana businesses, report among the highest levels of marijuana use. In 2020, 32.1% reported past 30 day marijuana use, with 16.7% reporting daily or near daily use. 

Colorado’s 51% one-year increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities is an alarming reminder that all Coloradans are impacted by these issues. 

The industry feels powerful with its army of lobbyists and to date hasn’t been willing to adopt basic youth protections out of concern it might limit sales. Ensuring there are adequate safeguards for kids should be a pillar of any SAFE Banking Act or national marijuana legislation. 

Colorado’s congressional delegation and Gov. Jared Polis can provide much-needed leadership to ensure the interests of kids are prioritized in this discussion. 

We can do better for kids, who have only one chance to grow up.  

Diane Carlson, of Englewood, is co-founder and policy director for One Chance to Grow Up.

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Diane Carlson, of Englewood, is co-founder and policy director for One Chance to Grow Up.