Should marijuana sellers be allowed to use the nation’s banking system to sell a drug that is still illegal at the federal level? This question has recently been set before a federal judge in a marijuana banking case, which is testing the government’s stated goal of addressing the cash-only nature of an industry that is only quasi-legal.
A federal judge is now weighing the argument of a Colorado-chartered bank, which contends that pot sellers should be able to access the national banking system. Although Fourth Corner Credit Union has been created in Colorado to serve the marijuana industry, many pot shop owners still struggle with unwieldy bank regulations regarding the acceptance of funds from pot sales. Thus, owners are often driven to pay taxes and bills in cash.
Despite this obvious problem, the U.S. Federal Reserve is arguing that pot money simply can’t be allowed into the federal banking system as long as marijuana is considered an illegal substance. The Reserve has also stated that there are currently several relevant bills that have been introduced to deal with this issue, and that the Court should abstain from making any judgments on the matter. They have also argued that Congress has the ultimate authority in deciding this matter, not a federal judge.
While there have thankfully not been any reports of cash heists in Colorado, the concern now is that dealing with large amounts of cash many be a threat not just to the safety of business owners, but also to the public as well. In a court filing by Fourth Corner Bank last summer, it was said that “the public is at risk in having hundreds of millions of dollars of cash flowing about the streets of Colorado.” Many nervous pot shop owners are now relying on armed security.
Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, people who handle proceeds from pot sales must follow federal guidelines to the letter or risk being implicated in a federal racketeering case.
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