Legally operating marijuana businesses throughout the U.S. still don’t have a way to use the banking system. Businesses are still paying bills and taxes with cash and money orders. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to fix that. The Massachusetts Democrat is leading an effort to help those businesses have access to banks.
To reduce the dangers for these cash-operating businesses, Warren has drafted a letter—with nine other senators—to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, according to Boston.com. The letter calls on the agency to adopt guidelines allowing banks to offer services to legally operating marijuana businesses and vendors.
Warren sees letting the $7 billion industry use banks as having several benefits. Warren said, “You make sure that people are really paying their taxes. You know that the money is not being diverted to some kind of criminal enterprise. And it’s just a plain old safety issue. You don’t want people walking in with guns and masks and saying, ‘Give me all y our cash.’”
The letter is under review, according to a spokesperson for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. There are 301 banks that are willing to work with marijuana businesses nationwide, which is up from just 51 in 2014. The U.S. Department of Treasury gave permission to banks to choose whether to do business with marijuana-related businesses, with conditions in place.
Access to banks has long been a concern for legally operating marijuana businesses. According to Warren, less than 3-percent of the country’s banks will work with marijuana businesses.
Taylor West of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), said, “What the industry needs is a sustainable solution that services the entire industry instead of tinkering around the edges. You don’t have to be fully in favor of legalized marijuana to know that it helps no one to force these businesses outside the banking system.”
Sam Kamin, marijuana regulation studies and professor at University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said, “The stumbling block over and over again is the federal illegality.”