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Editorial: Denny Heck right to support banking law changes for marijuana
Legitimate marijuana businesses should not be barred from banking services.
Seattle Times Editorial
ALLOWING cannabis businesses to use the banking system is an urgent matter for 20 medical-marijuana states and a special concern to Washington and Colorado, whose voters have endorsed legalization for general adult use.
U.S. Reps. Denny Heck, D-Wash., and Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., of the House Financial Services Committee are preparing a bill that would allow marijuana producers and retailers to use the banking system.
Marijuana is still listed as an illegal Schedule 1 substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Eventually, that must change; it conflicts with what the states are doing, what the people want and with common sense. But this might not happen for some years, and in the meantime, the conflict of law creates a problem.
Under federal law, a bank that serves a marijuana business can be charged with laundering drug money and aiding and abetting a federal crime. The entrepreneurs of cannabis have accepted this sort of risk, but bankers are refusing to serve the dispensaries.
This pushes dispensaries onto a cash basis for retail transactions, the purchase of inventory and the payment of wages. It denies them loans. And the use of cash invites the evasion of taxes and labor law.
Most of all, it makes dispensaries a target for robbery.
The rest of Washington’s congressional delegation should support Heck’s bill. The issue is not about whether to legalize marijuana. That already has been decided by the voters. The need now is to bring cannabis into a system of law, taxes and public safety.
These are businesses whose product, sold by the gram, has a retail value of $4,000 or $5,000 a pound. Legal businesses need banking services. Let the underground deal in cash.