In an attempt to make banking more accessible to the cannabis industry, a group of bipartisan lawmakers have submitted a bill aimed at preventing federal prosecutors from interfering in dealings linking financial institutions to marijuana-related businesses.
Earlier this week, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with several other Democratic and Republican supporters, introduced the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015, a measure designed to open up the banking industry to companies specializing in the sales of cannabis. The proposal would eliminate the potential for banks to be shot down in flames of federal prosecution due to concerns pertaining to money laundering.
“Forcing businessmen and businesswomen who are operating legally under Oregon state law to shuttle around gym bags full of cash is an invitation to crime and malfeasance. That must end,” Merkley said in a statement.
In 2014, the Department of Justice got together with the U.S. Treasury to hash out expectations for those members of the banking industry willing to fraternize with the cannabis commerce. However, this was not good enough for most inside the financial world because the government’s guidance didn’t change the fact that there was no concrete law on the books to stop bank executives from going to jail.
To make matters worse, the financial institutions that are working with weed – mostly small credit unions – have all employed price gouging tactics to counteract the risk that comes with being associated with money generated from the sales of a Schedule I controlled substance.
“The people of Oregon have spoken and the federal government should make sure that legal marijuana businesses can operate properly within our banking system.” Merkley said. “It’s time to let banks serve these legal businesses without fearing devastating reprisals from the federal government.”
Although Congress will likely snuff this bill at the jugular, some lawmakers believe an attitude adjustment is coming to Capitol Hill.
“Now, does it have a chance? I think there’s a lot of work that has to be done to give it that chance, but I also think that in 10 years most every other state in the country is going to be facing this question,” Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, told Politico. “People are coming on board and people are starting to realize we have a policy that’s kind of out of step.”
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who supports the marijuana banking bill, claims that Congressional leaders will be forced to move on pot legislation soon because states are going to continue legalizing recreational cannabis markets.
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