Money and marijuana: Still no action from feds, Washington's Heck reports

Staff writerJanuary 9, 2014 

Washington Democratic Congressman Denny Heck today issued a statement concerning financial institutions and the business of legal marijuana.

Heck's office reported:

“It has been over a year since Washington voters approved I-502. Since that time, officials in our state have worked tirelessly to uphold the will of the voters and implement this law safely and efficiently. Soon, Washington’s regulated marijuana industry will begin operations.

"The hundreds of legitimate marijuana businesses that will open in the coming months will, however, lack one of the most basic tools small businesses need: consistent access to banking and financial services. These business owners are unable to utilize these services because of federal laws and policies which have not been updated to reflect changing state laws in Washington, Colorado and around the country.

"I am the lead co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation which would resolve this issue. Additionally, federal authorities are working to provide new guidance on this issue that will, ideally, provide clarity for how these legitimate businesses can access banking and financial services. I applaud the thoroughness of federal regulators as they consider this new guidance.

"Every week that passes without new guidance, however, is another week the regulated marijuana markets in Washington and Colorado must operate on a cash-only basis. The potential for tax evasion, money laundering, and robbery is lingering over what voters want to be a safely regulated industry.

"Confusion over what is and is not allowed in these regulated markets will also continue to grow until new guidance is issued. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that some credit card companies are accepting payments from legitimate marijuana businesses in Colorado, despite this practice being banned by the credit card companies’ own rules.

"As the regulated markets in Washington and Colorado continue to evolve, it is urgent federal regulators come to a resolution on this issue as soon as possible.”

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