Another step in the right direction here in the U.S. as the Obama Administration has issued new law-enforcement guidelines aimed at encouraging banks to start doing business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers. Bravo! Bout time. Although marijuana distribution remains illegal under federal law, the administration recognizes the massive revenue amassed by the marijuana industry, and while these guidelines seek to protect public safety, they are also likely intended keep tabs on the gajillions funneling into ganja dispensaries.
As it now stands, marijuana suppliers must deal strictly in cash—to purchase inventory, pay employees and conduct sales, requiring elaborate and expensive security measures and putting them at risk of robbery. Yes you think having stockpiles of cash lying around might attract some undesirables like street thugs, drug cartels and terrorist organizations? Uh…. And purely cash-based businesses make accounting for Uncle Sam far more difficult—I mean, the tax man needs to get a piece of the action too, right?
The new guidelines, which make sense on many levels, are not without potential problems. To begin with, many in the banking industry fear prosecution for dealing with technically illegal businesses. Says American Bankers Association attorney, Rob Rowe, “Compliance by a bank will still require extensive resources to monitor any of these businesses, and it’s unlikely the benefits would exceed the costs.”
That could be true, although I suspect the banking industry just wants to protect it’s own arse. The Justice Department has said that the administration was planning ways to accommodate marijuana businesses so they would not always be dealing in cash. Said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder,
“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,”
Uhhh…yah! However, a separate memorandum from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) laid out the due diligence that banks should carry out, both before working with a marijuana business and during the relationship. That means banks would have to check state licenses, understand the normal activity for the business and monitor for suspicious activity…and they would not be immune from state laws: As more states allow marijuana distribution either medically or recreationally, a number still do not, and they regulate the drug strictly (still a Schedule 1 substance, meaning no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse). So wire transfers entering states where marijuana is illegal could put banks at risk of money-laundering.
Yes…still a complicated issue stemming from our historically Puritanical perspective on cannabis use. Oh well, nothing worth doing comes easy. In my opinion, doing whatever it takes to change our archaic laws regarding marijuana sales/distribution is wisdom. I’ve written extensively on the subject, and to me it’s a real no-brainer: tax revenue, strengthening the economy, and a bunch of smiling people walking around…duh! And next we need to remove marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. Under this grouping, marijuana is restricted from scientific research. Now does that seem appropriate, worthwhile or wise? Enough people report physical and psychological benefits from the substance to warrant study. Freakin’ duh!
I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the value in the national marijuana trade. Federal authorities say they believe the new guidance will get more marijuana money into the banking system. A win-win-win-win, as far as I can see.
Those most likely to open their doors to marijuana businesses first would be “probably some of the smaller or medium banks rather than some of the largest ones in this country,” a FinCEN official said.
“The amount of money in this business is significant,” the official said.
No s#%&! Decriminalize it.