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The pot industry and banks

Banks, being federally regulated, are prohibited from dealing with businesses that deal with cannabis, right? Not quite. Guidelines (not rules or laws) for banks permit banking cannabis customers provided they exercise rather draconian supervision over their customers. And some smaller community banks and credit unions have stepped up to the tasks involved to provide some basic services in the interest of public safety.

Most of the industry in Washington have banking services, at least to permit them to pay their taxes to the state without driving to Olympia every day with a car load of cash. In fact, it’s managed to work well enough that the state doesn’t accept cash payments any more. These guidelines from the fed specify what the banks have to monitor to permit this, and those guidelines point to the Cole memo. Which has now been rescinded.

While some states (WA, OR, NV, CO) don’t face extreme obstacles in moving cash around to pay taxes, California’s problem is much bigger. And Alaska and Hawaii face having to move tax payments through federal air space and waters.

Rescinding the Cole memo is really stupid. The few banks willing to absorb the hassle (for a price, of course) are actually the eyes and ears for the feds for “suspicious” activity. Without them, the feds are not in a position to do the monitoring of the cannabis industry.

Unfortunately, the solution to the conundrums lies with Congress, and then the executive without a grip on reality. The states are doing a damn fine job right now, and they should be able to continue their efforts without the feds interfering.

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