A new bill introduced into the U.S. Senate aims to offer protection for financial institutions that want to conduct business with marijuana dispensaries.
Since marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, banks have been incredibly reluctant to enter into business relations for fear of running afoul of federal regulators and laws concerning money laundering, Marijuana.com reports.
Support for marijuana continues to build in Congress. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug, and this legislation, backed by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Washington, would prohibit regulators from cracking down on banks in the form of terminated FDIC insurance, asset seizure and prosecution for money laundering. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act also prevents prosecutors from joining into the fray, so long as industry complies with state law.
“It is ridiculous to make any business owner carry duffle bags of cash just to pay their taxes,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, a sponsor of the bill, said in a press release. “Our bill will finally force the federal government to respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other business.”
A corresponding House bill was filed in April.
Despite financial guidance released by the Obama administration last year to ease some of the tensions, financial institutions remain wary. Currently, many businesses in the marijuana industry have to rely on cash-only transactions, meaning they’re at a much greater risk for robbery and other crimes.
“If you’re an employee or a store owner you can’t put money in the bank, but if you’re a municipality collecting tax you can collect the tax, you can put it in the bank and you can spend it. This is insane,” GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado told Politico. “It solves a public safety issue, it clarifies a regulatory nightmare and it clears up a pretty blatant hypocrisy.”
The House has historically been more willing to entertain marijuana legislation, but the bill introduced earlier this year in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker rapidly gained momentum, but has since stalled following serious opposition. The legislation, if passed, would legalize marijuana on the federal level for states that have approved the drug. (RELATED: Republican Senator Joins Rand Paul, Signs Medical Marijuana Bill)
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