Warren makes her argument by pointing out that there are benefits to letting marijuana-based businesses move away from a cash-only model.
It’s part of a wider effort by Warren and others to bring the burgeoning $7 billion marijuana industry in from a fiscal limbo she said forces many shops to rely solely on cash, making them tempting targets for criminals. Warren said recently,
“You make sure that people are really paying their taxes. You know that the money is not being diverted to some kind of criminal enterprise. And it’s just a plain old safety issue. You don’t want people walking in with guns and masks and saying, ‘Give me all your cash.’”
Warren, however, said fewer than 3 percent of the nation’s 11,954 federally regulated banks and credit unions are serving the cannabis industry.
Sam Kamin is a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation. He states,
“The stumbling block over and over again is the federal illegality.”
The federal government has placed marijuana into the same class of drugs as heroin, LSD, and peyote. It seems no matter how many studies there are that prove the safety and benefits of cannabis, politicians choose to view it with a blind eye.
During the presidential campaign, Trump said states should be allowed to legalize marijuana and has expressed support for medicinal use. Trump sounded more skeptical about recreational use. States hope that the Republican Party will transition marijuana into a more appropriate category.
Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care, one of the nation’s largest providers of medical marijuana products, said it’s up to marijuana businesses to make sure their financial house is in order. Vita said,
“It’s not just as simple as asking the banks to open their doors. The industry also needs to develop a set of standards that are acceptable to the banks.”
Two years ago, the U.S. Department of the Treasury gave banks permission to do business with legal marijuana under certain conditions. Since then, the number of banks and credit unions willing to handle pot money rose from 51 in 2014 to 301 in 2016.
A spokesman for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said the agency is reviewing the letter.