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WA Officials Ask Federal Government to Modify Banking Laws for Pot Industry

WA AG Bob Ferguson asking for federal banking changes on pot
(Washington state Attorney General’s Office)

It seems nearly every few weeks, another issue is raised over the legalization of pot in Washington state.

Since Washington voters passed Initiative 502 legalizing recreational marijuana,  it hasn’t turned out to be a simple as proponents said it would be.

Among the thorny issues that have arisen:

  • Local and regional zoning laws concerning where pot stores will be located. Unless many are changed, there won’t be anywhere to locate the stores in many communities.
  • Dealing with two different tax and regulatory systems, one from the medical marijuana system already in place, and the new one planned for the state stores.
  • Having to wait for months to see what the official federal legal response would be towards WA (and Colorado),  if the states would be sued over the conflict with federal laws.  Pot is still illegal on the federal level.

Now Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have told the Senate Judiciary Committee unless there are changes made to laws governing our financial system, the pot industry would operate on a cash-only basis.   Doing so would make the it far more difficult for the state to audit the books of the state-run stores, make them a far greater target for theft and burglary, and create other public safety challenges.

One of the issues the supporters of legal marijuana largely failed to inform voters (or completely overlooked) is that federally regulated banks can be penalized for accepting drug money – even if it’s legal at the state level!

Banks can be penalized for accepting such funds, and they can be very large fines.

Ferguson and Inslee were set to submit four pages of testimony and information Tuesday to the Senate Committee.   The changes they’ve asked for include:

 ”the federal Department of Justice could advise banking regulators that it isn’t going to prosecute banks for handling legal pot money; or, Congress could also pass a law allowing banks to accepts deposits from a legal pot business.” (from the Seattle Times Political Blog).

Such delays have already pushed the planned opening of WA pot stores from December 1st. of this year, to March 2014.   No word if these latest developments will cause another few months or longer to be added to the timetable.

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