By Veronica Morgan
In a bipartisan effort, Colorado Senators, Michael Bennet-D, and Cory Gardner-R, have introduced a bill that would protect banks who serve legal (state sanctioned) marijuana businesses. Previously, Colorado banks had limitations, placed on them by the Treasury Department.
Aaron Smith is the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The legal marijuana industry is worth nearly $3 billion nationwide.” Smith explained, “We shouldn’t be forced to carry that around in duffel bags.”
Cannabis has historically been a cash business. With legalization, the laws need to be updated to protect banking services, making them available to legitimate business entities. Dispensaries and collectives that were reliant on cash have become targets for robberies.
Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, supports the bill, claiming public safety must be a duty of the federal government. Since 2012, when Colorado voters legalized cannabis, the logistics of legal marijuana have yet to be fully addressed.
“Whether you are for or against legalization, you have to recognize that having marijuana businesses handling huge amounts of cash, with nowhere to deposit the money, is a public safety concern that Congress has to tackle,” asserts Michael Collins who is a policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance. Collins also explained there is no way to track taxes on a strictly cash business.
The bipartisan bill introduced on Thursday prevents criminal prosecution, forfeiture of assets, and liability for banks that serve state sanctioned marijuana businesses. The new guidelines would give banking institutions a clear picture of how to proceed. Previous guidelines laid down by the Treasury Department were vague and onerous, which inhibited banks from successfully working with the industry.
As a bipartisan bill, the legislation will (hopefully) be easier to pass.