Justice

It Might Get Much Safer to Sell Marijuana

A new bill introduced last week, titled the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015, would make it so marijuana businesses no longer have to deal with duffel bags of cash in order to operate. A bipartisan group of senators from Oregon, Colorado, and Washington co-sponsored the bill -- including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, businesses that deal with marijuana in states where it is legal cannot put revenue in bank accounts. A bank that works with marijuana business could be prosecuted for doing so, therefore most banks have been denying those clients, with the exception of a select few.

Not being able to open a bank account is both inconvenient and dangerous for marijuana businesses. When a successful business that sees tons of medical and recreational clients every day only takes cash, there is a higher likelihood of that business being targeted for robbery. Many marijuana businesses have had to rely on large safes, expensive security equipment and armored car services.

Since there are no company bank accounts, marijuana businesses can't even issue checks to their employees and instead have to arduously count out exactly how much cash to pay each person every pay period. The banking issue also becomes a huge burden when these businesses have to pay their taxes, as many businesses will have to congregate at an IRS office carrying vast stacks of cash during tax season.

“By compelling Oregon business owners to operate on a cash-only basis, current federal laws are making marijuana businesses sitting ducks for violent crimes and perpetuating negative stereotypes. It is ridiculous to make any business owner carry duffel bags of cash just to pay their taxes,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement. “Our bill will finally force the federal government to respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other business.” The bill would not only affect Oregon businesses but also businesses across the nation.

Colorado's marijuana industry made around $700 million in marijuana sales last year. This means a lot of cash can end up floating around with no central, secure storage place. This bill would help change that and would inject a lot of money into local banks (and large banks). It would also allow banks to provide loans to marijuana businesses, which could invigorate the industry. The federal government had previously indicated it wouldn't be going after banks that work with marijuana businesses, but most banks are still waiting for a law to pass that makes it explicitly legal.