One of the major barriers for newly legal recreational marijuana businesses in Colorado and Washington, and medical marijuana businesses elsewhere, has been lack of easy access to financial services. The businesses might be legal at the state level, as Jacob Sullum has noted, but federal regulators have left it very much up in the air as to whether banks can accept money openly connected to the marijuana trade.
Even more fun, the Internal Revenue Service then penalizes marijuana businesses for not paying taxes through an electronic system that requires access to a bank account.
Perhaps there's some relief in sight, though. The House of Representatives today told the Treasury Department to keep its hands off banks that take mariuana-related money.
Courtesy of the Drug Policy Alliance:
In a historic vote today the U.S. House passed a bipartisan amendment by Representatives Heck (D-WA), Perlmutter (D-CO), Lee (D-CA) and Rohrabacher (R-CA) preventing the Treasury Department from spending any funding to penalize financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. The amendment passed 231 to 192.
In May, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from undermining state medical marijuana laws and passed two amendments prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp laws.
That earlier measure, attempting to rein-in the DEA, may or may not live up to its billing. Its wording prevents federal narcs from interefering with state law, but the feds may deny they're doing anything of the sort even while kicking in doors and hauling people in for engaging in locally legal activities. Maybe they're just enforcing federal policy. Government officials just love those sorts of word games.
The House measure still must win Senate approval, too, which is not guaranteed. Still, the move is in line with shifting public opinion. Americans in general, and younger Americans in particular, increasingly support legalizing marijuana.
See Reason TV on the joys of trying to run a marijuana business legally: