A Washington congressman is campaigning for legislation that would allow “legitimate” marijuana businesses to use banks and credit unions for financial transactions.
“By prohibiting these legitimate marijuana businesses from using the financial system, they are forced to operate on a cash-only basis,” said Washington Democratic Rep. Denny Heck at a town hall in Olympia, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports.
“That makes it difficult for them to pay taxes, and it makes them difficult to audit,” he continued. “It also places employees and storefronts at risk for robbery and violent crime, as some retail locations may have thousands of dollars in cash at any given point in time.”
In July, Heck and Colorado Democratic Rep. Earl Perlmutter introduced the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, legislation that would allow marijuana shops and dispensaries that comply with state law to conduct business through banks and credit unions.
The bill has already garnered 25 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, welcomed Heck’s comments while blasting the Obama administration for preventing legal cannabis shops from using financial institutions.
“The feds have told banks not to business with dispensaries, making them cash-only businesses, and now the [Drug Enforcement Agency] is threatening armored car companies so that dispensaries have no safe way to pay their bills,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s like they want people getting robbed.”
“It’s the latest way in which the Obama administration tries to have it both ways by saying they’re not going to undermine state marijuana laws, then doing exactly that,” Riffle added.
While Heck believes the bill is “a piece of legislation everyone can support, regardless of one’s views on whether adult marijuana usage should be made legal,” he expressed skepticism that he and his colleagues can convince the federal government that any marijuana business is “legitimate.”
“While the odds of this legislation passing this Congress are slim, we will continue pressing forward with it,” he said.
But Riffle was much more optimistic. “There’s already a great deal of support for the bill, as evidenced by it’s 25 sponsors,” he said, “and support will only grow once licenses are issued in Washington and Colorado and this problem becomes more immediate.”
“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered, and everyone in Washington knows that,” he added. “Passage of this bill, or a broader one leaving marijuana policy up to the states, is a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”
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