Marijuana banking

WeedThumbnailWashington Initiative 502 (I-502) appeared on ballots in November of 2012 along with Colorado’s Amendment 64. With the goal of defining and legalizing cannabis, they passed marginally with 56 percent  and 55 percent voter approval respectively.

The three guidelines for  Schedule I are: the drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, the drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. I think that cannabis is falsely classified through miseducation.  It contradicts all three of the guidelines and does not belong in the same list as methamphetamine and dangerous hallucinogenics.

Businesses dealing with Marijuana are having trouble filing taxes and opening accounts because banks fear prosecution from the federal government.  In order to pay off taxes businesses frequently bring large bags of cash to the state which can be dangerous. Some improvise by creating obscure companies that don’t disclose their method of income.

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) recently released a set of guidelines in a memo for banks in order to ease banking firms. Banks will need to submit reports to the federal government with marijuana license verification and suspicious activity. I think this is a great opportunity to add some transparency in the cannabis economy but I hope the government will be careful with its guidelines. Because marijuana companies that choose to open bank accounts will have license reports given to the federal government, any sort of federal prosecution will be immediately on file when such information was still undisclosed.

Allowing marijuana companies to deal with banks will allow supposedly secure business transactions and it possibly will be able to add further convenience to consumers as well. Businesses will potentially be able to accept credit and debit cards for purchases and employees could receive their paycheck in direct deposit. I-502 will require fingerprint identification for marijuana purchases which has potential as an e-wallet for payment convenience.

The government released the banking guidelines while emphasizing on transparency, security, and convenience but I’m concerned at the cost of these proposals for marijuana businesses and individuals alike. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a memo last September, detailing that marijuana licensees are not a high priority but said there were no guarantees. FinCEN’s memo suggests that marijuana companies need particular scrutiny because of their potential use as illegal company fronts by organizations like drug cartels.

With recent disclosures that the government is unable to follow its own guidelines like with the NSA, I’m concerned with the safety of my information. Marijuana legalization is already a difficult issue that is covering a whole lot of gray area in politics at the moment and releasing information any further than the State level is one more thread of prosecution to the federal government.

I’m not sure whether to use I or one for the controlled substances. You can find the US code here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/812

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