In the wake of perhaps the most important (or at least most talked about) marijuana policy announcement by the federal government in quite some time, and a day after the Senate met to talk about easing up its marijuana policies, palpable excitement fills the air.
And that’s because the biggest news from yesterday’s meeting relates to medical marijuana and banking–and that, if Senator Leahy gets his way–banks will actually start working with dispensaries and treating them like normal businesses (imagine that!).
Short-term, this means armored trucks–which the feds recently banned from helping marijuana collectives– will again be allowed to pick up money from dispensaries once again. Long-term, the repercussions are unknown, but if you want to be optimistic and start looking at the future: it could mean that sooner rather than later dispensaries will take credit cards and debit cards from customers. Leahy was firm in his assertion that something’s rotten in America and change must come:
“We’re hearing that DEA agents, in what seems like a big step away from reality, instructed armored car companies to cease providing services… it creates a problem. We could have some robberies!”
Now, this may not seem like a big deal to the untrained stoner–but it really would be. Medical marijuana–not just recreational marijuana–is and has only been a cash only business. If you roll into a dispensary without cash (or any in your debit card), you’re shit out of luck. That’s why, if you head to a dispensary between 5 and 7 PM on the first and third Friday of every month, you’ll see lines out the door.
People simply can’t buy weed unless they’ve got straight cash, homie. Which is truly a pain in the ass and a severe inconvenience to patients in need who cannot live a safe and serene life without their plant. For dispensary owners, it would not only allow them to help their customers even more (and much easier)–it would allow them to utilize banks like a Car Wash or Pizza owner would. Rather than laundering money or depositing it in St. Lucia, they might actually be able to use normal banks like normal, law-abiding citizens.
Simply put: if this hope becomes a reality, the businesses within the marijuana industry would become far morel legitimate, as would the entire dispensary-patient transaction. No longer would industry heads have to worry about the IRS going to town on their assets and wondering if their cash money will get from point A to Point B safe and sound.
Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The only thing that moves slower than stoners is the government’s stoner policies. And the government does not exactly have a history of living up to its word on weed. Changes like this do not just happen “like that,” especially when banks were told this in the past:
“Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financing laws.”
The same man who said that a few years ago–Attorney General James Cole, is also responsible for the following comments which indicate this process is going to take some time, and banks won’t be running with open arms to dispensaries any time soon:
“There are no perfect solutions here. … We’re at the point we’re trying to find the best of the imperfect solutions before us.”
The relationship between the government and marijuana and dispensaries is a clusterfuck of a threesome that, thanks to nearly 20 years of federal deference, is going to take a lot of time to clean up. So while we wish you could walk into a dispensary today, hand your credit card to your budtender, and walk out a happy customer with proper meds, odds are against it happening anytime very soon.
Still, if yesterday’s hearing wasn’t just a bunch of politicians blowing smoke up each other’s asses and Senator Leahy actually gets his way, then the medical marijuana business model might just start resembling other, legal business models and become far more professional.
And a whole lot less sketchy. Cause whether they like it or not, it’s happening.