Cannabis has been legalized in some form in 23 states now. However, marijuana businesses are not allowed to deposit their earnings in a bank because of federal banking laws. The issue has been a huge burden to Congress, but a solution may be on its way. A change in the new financial services spending bill would prohibit the federal government from squandering money on punishing banks that accept money from legal marijuana businesses. This would lower the ability of federal agencies to penalize the financial institutions.

Being able to have access to banks would end up lowering the cash-only businesses’ risk of being robbed by letting consumers pay with debit and credit cards, the probability that the business could be used to launder money and resolve the issue of trying to pay taxes with cash.

“Forcing businessmen and businesswomen who are operating legally under Oregon state law to shuttle around gym bags full of cash are an invitation to crime and malfeasance,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, said. “It’s time to let banks serve these legal businesses without fearing devastating reprisals from the federal government.”

Merkley’s state has already legalized recreational and medical marijuana, so he is aware of the issues. In fact, the Senator introduced a bill that would make banks that accept marijuana businesses as clients immune from federal prosecution. Unfortunately, though, the bill has not been able to pass through the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for the last couple of months. Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said on Tuesday that he is not planning on bringing the bill up for approval in his committee. Therefore, Merkley decided to find a way around it. By using the financial services appropriations bill, Merkley was able to allow banks to serve marijuana businesses. Spending bills are usually “must-pass” legislations.

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