‘Still an illegal substance,’ marijuana’s federal ban complicates things for cities, towns, vendors

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‘Still an illegal substance,’ marijuana’s federal ban complicates things for cities, towns, vendors

SPRINGFIELD — The billions of dollars in federal funding that flow into cities and towns won’t go where there’s pot.

Officials with federal agencies confirmed what local job and housing providers have said, that municipalities and vendors that receive federal money jeopardize that funding if they get involved with marijuana companies.

Because despite 30 states and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana in some form, federal law still prohibits marijuana.

Federal marijuana law not helping with Western Massachusetts economic development

That means, for example, that the $3 billion issued in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cannot be used for a marijuana-related purpose.

“No, they cannot use CDBG funds for medical marijuana or any kind of marijuana because federal law, it’s still an illegal substance under federal law, so that would not be an authorized use of CDBG funds,” said Rhonda Siciliano, spokeswoman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The same goes for HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides funding aimed at developing housing for low-income Americans, she said.

Peter A. Gagliardi, president and CEO of Way Finders, said the nonprofit developer of affordable housing has been advised to avoid leasing commercial space to marijuana companies in order to keep receiving millions of dollars in federal funds.

That funding includes housing tax credits administered by the Internal Revenue Service, he said. Spokesman Bruce Friedland said in an email the IRS declined to comment.

CareerPoint Executive Director David C. Gadaire told The Republican in July that the job referral and employment counselor is blocked from helping clients gain access to jobs at marijuana companies that have opened or are planning to open here.

Officials from the Massachusetts Employment Board spoke with the U.S. Department of Labor and advised CareerPoint recently to look the other way when marijuana jobs emerge, for fear of losing federal funding. CareerPoint’s yearly budget of $2.5 million to $2.7 million includes $1.2 million to $1.3 million in federal funds, Gadaire said.

A spokesman said the U.S. Department of Labor abides by all federal laws, presumably including the marijuana prohibition. But it remains unclear if the department will issue a policy specifying that organizations that work with the department or receive federal funding from it should avoid working with marijuana companies.

“The Department of Labor has to comply with all federal laws. The Employment and Training Administration has not issued any formal guidance on this issue,” department spokesman James Lally said.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance under the schedule of controlled substances. Such drugs have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Other Schedule 1 drugs are heroin and LSD.

The Department of Justice’s continued inclusion of marijuana as a Schedule 1, and thus banned, drug in the face of such broad legalization by states makes no sense to advocates.

“It’s unfortunate that some organizations out there that do have ties to the federal government cannot assist folks that are looking for jobs or housing because of cannabis and its illegality,” said Kamani Jefferson of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council.

The Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council is a nonprofit that works to ensure that the marijuana industry is safe for large and small markets and that the products available to consumers have variety and quality.

Continuing to ban marijuana shows the federal government is failing to heed the wishes of states and communities, Jefferson said.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

The federal government’s marijuana categorization also is contradicted by such specialists as Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Marion McNabb, a public health doctor and CEO and co-founder of the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (“C3RN”), of Somerville.

People no longer use marijuana only to get high, such specialists have said. Marijuana in various forms from smoking to lozenges to tinctures and body oils is taken to ease pain, depression, anxiety and insominia, according to research C3RN is doing with the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.

Grinspoon said at a panel discussion in May that the truth is that not a lot of options for pain relief are available. Chronic pain will strike most individuals at some point at a time people are living longer and the realization is spreading about opioid-addictions’ horrors.

“To me, cannabis is the obvious way to treat people’s chronic pain,” Grinspoon said.

This content was originally published here.