Banks don't want to hold marijuana industry's stash

Sam Walsh, left, a budtender, and facility manager David Martinez set up marijuana products as the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary prepares to open for retail sales on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. 

Several states have legalized marijuana, even though the federal government still considers it an illegal drug. Well, a problem is banks are reluctant -- in most cases unwilling -- to do business with the marijuana industry.

Banks worry doing that could subject them to prosecution from the feds, for racketeering or money laundering or aiding and abetting criminal activity.

"The banks have come to the conclusion that the risks are just too great," says Robert Rowe, senior counsel for the American Bankers Association. "Marijuana is still illegal as far as federal law is concerned, and banks are subject to federal law."

Not having access to banks is hard for growers and dispensaries in states where pot is legal.

"You know, it is hard to buy things, it is hard to pay your employees, it is hard to really go about business," says Bill Piper, with the Drug Policy Alliance.

On top of that, it isn't safe when all your business is done in cash. Attorney Genreal Eric Holder made that point yesterday, at an event at the University of Virginia. He said the government is working on new guidance. Dan Riffle, with the Marijuana Policy Project, hopes it will be comprehensive.

"Well, there is a big legal distinction -- for banks, especially, between we're not going to prosecute this crime and we don't consider this a crime."

After all, the Justice Department could reverse a decision not to prosecute banks at any time.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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Banks hold the money made by Big Pharma with no problem.
No one seems to want to talk about the thousands who die annually from prescription drug errors and mixups.
No one talks about all those nosocomial infections patients die from in hospitals or the thousands who die from iatrogenic(doctor induced) diseases. The #3 killer of Americans according to the AMA's own medical journals are DOCTORS. Banks take their money.
Banks talk their money.
Personally I'm not a fan of legalizing marijuana. There are enough drugs in the food supply and environment. However from what I have found is that no one has died from pot since records have been kept since 1968 by the Feds.

Do not alcohol, aluminum, aspartame, caffeine, canola, chlorine, fluoride, cow's milk, malathion, mercury, nitrites, Nutrasweet, Neotame, tobacco, sucralose, sugar and vaccinations constitute biological and chemical warfare against us.

I guess it all comes down to what society decides what is considering "legal" and "illegal". Legal drugs kill more than the illegal ones.

WA state has a unique opportunity to finance cannabis sales through the creation of a state bank long advocated by financial reform activists and the present availability of the former Federal Reserve building in Seattle. The former Federal Reserve building has a huge vault (why now obsolete for the feds) and is conveniently located in downtown Seattle. It appears the Liquor Control Board which is responsible for implementing Initiative 502, is deliberately slow and uncreative in its implementation of the law.

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