Editorial: Get behind marijuana banking law

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Washington, D.C.-, May 18, 2017 | comments

No matter where one stands on the legality of marijuana, or whether marijuana businesses should operate in your community, the safety of those businesses and the people who operate them is important.

Without access to banking services, due to the fact that federal law still criminalizes the drug, dispensaries deal almost entirely in cash.

Automatic teller machines in the lobby of marijuana retail establishments allow banks to collect service fees for those who want to withdraw cash to buy the product, but the person on the other side of the counter can't put that cash back into an account and write checks for wages, rent and other necessities.

This makes them prime targets for robberies, threatening the safety of dispensary employees, customers and the public in general. Last summer, a security guard was killed during an armed robbery of a dispensary in Aurora.

Dispensaries need the protection that comes from staying away from cash — such as accepting credit cards, checks or direct deposit. Fearing penalties from federal regulators, banks are hesitant to issue cards to dispensaries, as they are to accept deposits from them.

Eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana; and 29 states have legalized its medical use. The solution for this problem has to come out of Washington, D.C., and we hope it comes soon.


The Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2017, introduced by Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the House and supported by Reps. Mike Coffman and Jared Polis, would make it illegal for any federal bank regulator to "prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a depository institution from providing financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or to a State or political subdivision of a State that exercises jurisdiction over cannabis-related legitimate businesses."

In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Republicans Cory Gardner and Rand Paul, and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, among others.

This broad spectrum of support is evidence of the need for this practical piece of legislation. If it's something that both Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren can get behind, the rest of Congress needs to follow.

Content originally published by the Reporter Herald on May 18, 2017.
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