Cuz Congress don’t have enough problems. On top of the government shutdown and the fact that they’re going to have to figure out just how racist they want to be with the future of the DREAMer deal, now they got a bunch of states asking them to figure out a way to let the country’s many billion dollar legal cannabis industry use the nation’s banks.
A motley crew 19 Attorneys General from U.S. states and territories signed a letter this month, asking Congress to create a legal exemption for banks dealing with legal marijuana businesses. The letter came from representatives of Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, as reported by Entrepreneur.
It is, of course, illegal at the federal level to do banking business with the cannabis industry, as cannabis is illegal at the federal level, and that means that banks which do business with cannabis businesses are technically conducting illegal activity.
But what these states and districts and territories is suggesting is: maybe that shouldn’t be illegal. Because the legal cannabis industry was worth $6.7 billion in 2016 and it’s projected to hit $20 billion by 2021. “Yet,” the AG team writes in their letter, “those revenues often exist outside of the regulated banking space. Businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis.”
Their argument, and hopefully it’s considered a good one by Congressional leaders such as Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, is not that the government should ease up regulations on poor cannabis businesses, but that allowing for legal banking will actually make them easier to track, regulate, and tax.
“The grey market makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation purposes, contributes to a public safety threat as cash intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of large swaths of finances across the nation,” the letter reads.
While moderate, but problematic protections for banks were put in place years ago, even those have been rescinded under Trump’s appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various
states, with state input, while protecting the interests of the federal government,” the letter concludes. “This includes a banking system for marijuana-related businesses that is both responsive and effective in meeting the demands of our economy. We look forward to working with you as you move forward in this process and lending our voice and expertise as you develop legislation.”
Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot