Bipartisan Senate effort would finally allow marijuana businesses to bank

By Oscar Pascual |

Marijuana business owners might finally be allowed to use banks instead of stuffing money under mattresses or investing in ornate glass.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Thursday introduced the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015, which will ensure that legally-operated marijuana businesses will have full access to federal banking services, reports Aljazeera America.

Despite the growing number of states with legal or medical marijuana laws in place, marijuana is still considered an illegal substance under federal law, making any bank willing to work with marijuana businesses an open target for prosecution. The absence of banking has led to an industry that relies heavily on cash, making it difficult for marijuana business owners to collect taxes, as well as leaving them vulnerable to robberies.

The banking problem is an issue for both Democrats and Republicans, as Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Rand Paul (R-KY) were all instrumental in introducing the bill.

“If you’re an employee or a store owner you can’t put money in the bank, but if you’re a municipality collecting tax you can collect the tax, you can put it in the bank and you can spend it. This is insane,” said Sen. Gardner in an interview with Politico. “It solves a public safety issue, it clarifies a regulatory nightmare and it clears up a pretty blatant hypocrisy.”

The marijuana industry’s lack of banking has also led to even further criminal behavior such as money laundering. Some businesses owners are now resorting to investing in expensive glass pieces, since they are also integral to the pot industry as well as being federally legal.

“The legal marijuana industry is worth nearly $3 billion nationwide,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, in a statement. “We shouldn’t be forced to carry that around in duffel bags.”

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