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Senate Committee OKs Basic Banking Services for Billion-Dollar Marijuana Industry

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The Senate Appropriations Committee took a 16-14 vote Thursday to approve a measure that would make it easier for marijuana businesses to obtain basic banking services with financial institutions. The amendment, proposed for the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015, was authored by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

The amendment would prevent federal funds from being used to prohibit or penalize financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses in states where it is currently legal to sell or produce the product. This will make it much easier to obtain legitimate financial records instead of having marijuana businesses use old-fashioned cash and bookkeeping methods.

Banks are currently reluctant to provide any depository or basic banking services to these businesses over concerns for public safety. However, forcing these groups to exclusively conduct business “under the table” makes it challenging for many states to monitor their transactions and collect taxes.

This critical step to allow businesses to have access to financial institutions’ banking services is a responsible way to allow states to regulate the growing marijuana industry. This will allow marijuana businesses to operate in the same way as other legal businesses or commercial entities.

According to Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, Colorado’s marijuana industry is on track to rake in nearly $1 billion in revenue in 2015 alone. To deny these companies banking services forces them to store large amounts of cash and it raises significant concerns for public safety. It is because of reasons like these that various federal, local, state, and law enforcement officials support the measure.

Four states allow marijuana to be sold for recreational use, and 23 states and the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana. An additional 16 states have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychotropic component of marijuana, proven to effectively manage epileptic seizures that afflict children.

Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), and Steve Daines (Montana) sit on the Senate panel and voted for the amendment, whereas Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was the only panel Democrat to oppose the measure.

Photo Source: The Denver Post

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