No Banking on Pot

 

 


ADDITIONAL INFO:01.PotBanking.0316.mg – 03/17/2016 – MANDATORY CREDIT: MICHAEL GOULDING, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Banks won’t serve marijuana businesses, so a growing number of technology companies are offering solutions aimed at taking it from an industry stuck in the cash-only dark ages to one that doesn’t use cash at all. There are pot-specific digital coins that are catching on. There’s also a companies called the PayPal of pot and the Groupon of green.

 

Cannabis legalization seems to be gaining more ground. As 2018 opened, California is the latest state to allow legalized cannabis. To date we are up to 29 States and Washington D.C. that have legalized marijuana for medical usage as well as 8 states that have done it for both medical as well as recreational usages. The conundrum these states are facing is marijuana is not legal on the federal level yet which presents some serious challenges.

 

While the legalized marijuana movement seems to be growing in popularity, the simple fact is the Trump administration is silently waging their own war against it. Attorney General Sessions is making no bones about how much he is against the notion of legalizing pot nationwide. He has rolled back provisions that were made back in 2013 by the Obama administration, specifically an agreement called the Cole memo.  Sessions reasoning is he felt that the memo was not being adequately enforced and monitored.

For people unfamiliar with the Cole memo it was drafted in 2013 by Assistant Attorney General, James M. Cole.  This document was directed towards the states that have legalized marijuana. It provided a list of 8 terms that States had to abide by so that the Federal Government wouldn’t crack down on them for legalizing pot.

Prevention of distribution of marijuana to minors.

Revenue of marijuana sales were prohibited from going to any criminal entities, gangs, cartels etc.

Prevention of diversion marijuana from States that it is legal under state law in some to other states.

Prevention of marijuana used as a cover for trafficking illegal drugs or other illegal activity.

Prohibiting violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

Prevention of drugged driving get associated with marijuana usage.

Preventing growing of marijuana on public lands.

Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

 

Former President Obama offered each state the autonomy to determine if they wanted to legalize marijuana. The Cole memo was a brilliant move to help circumvent the constitution with a very savvy compromise. Under normal circumstances a state law could never supersede a federal law. Our founding fathers had incredible foresight and added the Supremacy Clause to the US constitution. One can view the clause in Article VI which is called the “Doctrine of Preemption”. In summary:  a federal law always overrides a state law when conflicts occur on the same subject.

 

This was a very cagey move by Sessions. It opens the door for federal prosecutors and police to go after and target businesses that sell marijuana. That includes all states that have legalized marijuana recreationally. We are looking at another war on drugs which will threaten the ability for this industry to expand. Sessions is being completely obtuse and ignoring what the electorate desires. A recent Gallup poll taken in October 2017 64% favor legalizing versus 34% against. That’s up from 60% October 2016 versus 39% against. It keeps trending up.

With this in mind it is seriously strikes fear in the entire marijuana industry from expanding their current businesses with so much unpredictability. They are already not receiving tax deductions like most businesses get because of their product. They are hamstrung by banks as well.

The Federal Government’s currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance. This class puts marijuana in jeopardy especially in light of the recent roll backs by the Feds. A Schedule 1 classification has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical usage and is considered to be most dangerous drugs on the entire drug schedule. A drug falling under that classification carries criminal charges attached to it.

 

With the dual problem of marijuana drug classification and it’s current illegal federal status, marijuana manufacturers and vendors have a unique problem other businesses don’t have to tangle with. They can’t just go to their local bank and open up a business account. Banks are federally regulated and have to abide by laws of the US government. If a bank handled monies from marijuana transactions it would be considered money laundering.

Currently states that have legalized marijuana have been dealing with all transactions strictly in cash.  As a result, it puts a huge target on all marijuana related industries since they have a great deal of cash on hand.  One way vendors are finding a loophole is using their private bank accounts as an option since personal accounts are under much less scrutiny then business accounts. This is not a great solution but rather a stop gap measure. State attorney’s general are begging Congress to work on legislation that will enable banks to legally work with cannabis companies.

It’s a very sensitive topic as the federal government has given advice how banks are able to work with these companies but currently no laws exist.  There are many benefits to passing legislation. First, it would define specifically what cannabis businesses can do thus eliminating gray areas. Secondly, it would take a huge burden off vendors.  An all cash business is virtually an invitation to criminals and the potential for money laundering. Thirdly, it would open billions of dollars in cash flow into the banking industry. This would also be beneficial to law enforcement. One of Attorney General Sessions biggest arguments for rescinding the Cole memo was inadequate enforcement. With the banking industry’s full participation, law enforcement would benefit greatly from the ability to trace things much more concisely. It’s a win for everyone.

Personally, I think our representatives are behind the eight ball here. We need to raise our voices and be heard. Legislation to make marijuana legal is a no brainer.  The time has come.  Get in touch with your congressman and let them know your feelings. It’s clear our federal government is at war with marijuana. Marijuana has health purposes. It’s a natural product, it’s safe, has minimal side effects and will bring in major tax dollars. Don’t let this movement go up in smoke.

 

I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower –

                                 Willie Nelson

 

Sources:

Chicago Tribune “U.S. law sought to allow banking for legal pot”

Vox: “The Trump Administration’s new war on Marijuana, explained”

 

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  • mm

    I am a True crime buff, animal advocate, rabid Chicago Cubs fan, blogger and part of I literary can’t even podcast

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