By Darby Beck, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
WASHINGTON, DC – Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Ma lmrijuana Business Access to Banking Act today in a much-needed move to allow legitimate marijuana businesses to conduct legal financial operations.
While the move sounds like a minor regulatory matter, the lack of clear financial guidelines represents the single greatest obstacle to state-legal marijuana businesses operating safely and profitably. Currently, dispensaries and other businesses in states that have legalized medical marijuana or that allow adult use must operate cash-only businesses because banking services fall under federal, rather than state law.
“Right now, it’s the Wild West for marijuana businesses,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of LEAP. “Criminals know where the dispensaries are. They know the businesses are making thousands of dollars a day and that all of those transactions are in cash. It’s led to some horrific incidents, all courtesy of the federal government. They’re setting these businesses up to fail and, worse, they’re endangering people’s lives.”
Most dispensaries have had to hire expensive private security firms to set up elaborate safety systems and to accompany employees as the cash leaves the premises. Because of these precautions, many dispensaries, even those conducting large volume of sales, retain little profit. States are the other major losers in this scenario as the lack of accountability encourages the underreporting of taxes.
In the House, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) have introduced a similar bill, HR 2076.