A House of Representatives vote made it far easier for marijuana banking from legal pot shops and medical marijuana providers to conduct business. The 236 to 186 vote blocked plans by Louisiana Republican Representative John Fleming to stop the Treasury Department from offering banks guidance on dealing with marijuana businesses.
In February, the Treasury Department began offering advice to banks related to dealing with marijuana businesses without violating federal money laundering laws. Possessing or consuming pot remains a federal crime, although it has now been decriminalized in many states. Multiple states now permit medical marijuana and recreational pot use. Federal money laundering statutes carry with them possible decades long prison sentences. Many banks in states where medical marijuana or recreational marijuana shops exist have still be reluctant to do business with the providers or establishments.
Because banks have not been eager to allow pot shops to open up business accounts, the businesses have been forced to keep large amounts of cash on hand.
Democratic Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter had this to say about marijuana banking issues:
“They are operating just in cash, which creates its own potential for crime, robbery, assault and battery. You cannot track the money. There is skimming and tax evasion. So the guidance by the Justice Department and the guidance by the Treasury Department is to bring this out into the open.”
The House of Representatives vote has been deemed largely symbolic since the Treasury Department has already been issuing guidance to banks. The vote yesterday afternoon does appear to indicate a loosening of the “anti-marijuana sentiment” in Congress.
Marijuana advocate Tom Angell had this to say about the longstanding marijuana prohibition stance in Washington, D.C.:
“Whereas the federal government once stood in the way of marijuana reform at every opportunity, the changing politics of this issue are such that more politicians are now working to accommodate popular state laws so that they can be implemented effectively.”
The marijuana banking vote in support of allowing the practice to continue unhindered included a coalition of all but seven House Democrats and dozens of Libertarian-leaning and moderate Republicans. The D.C. City Council was blocked from a decriminalizing marijuana plan, but was permitted to reduce the penalty for up to an ounce of pot possession to just a $25 fine.
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[Image Via WNY Media]