Inslee, Ferguson Tell Congress To Fix Banking Rules So Legal Marijuana Can Work

WASHINGTON: Governor Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson want Congress to fix the banking rules or (at least) give banks confidence that they can take money from state-licensed marijuana businesses without fear of federal prosecution. The duo sent that message in a three-page letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to get on record in its hearing tomorrow morning at 11:30 on “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” In addition to listing the ways Washington is meeting the Department of Justice’s eight criteria for staying out of our marijuana hair (read: not sue the state to stop its legal market), the two wrote:

… certain aspects of federal law are making it difficult for entrepreneurs seeking to enter the regulated marijuana market and comply with Initiative 502. Most importantly, business owners attempting to comply with Initiative 502 are having great difficulty accessing banking services, because federal law can impose regulatory and criminal penalties on banks that accept money they know to be proceeds from drug sales, even if those sales are legal under state law. This situation unfortunately undermines federal priorities, because it means that legitimate business owners acting in full compliance with state law may still need to operate on an all-cash basis.

In other words, business owners and their employees are at tremendous risk of robbery and violence; and, troubling to state regulators, a cash system makes “it more difficult for the State to audit their books, track their income, and differentiate those acting within the law from those possibly using proceeds from regulated marijuana sales to fund illegal activities.” Inslee and Ferguson mailed in their testimony, but King County Sheriff John Urquhart will be carrying the torch for regulated legal pot to D.C. in person. “I supported I-502 last year because as a former narcotics detective, I can say with full confidence that the War on Drugs as been a failure,” Urquhart said in a news release announcing he was called to testify at the hearing. “There has to be a better way. And as far as marijuana is concerned, the citizens of Washington have decided legalization for personal use appears to be that ‘better way’. Law enforcement needs to respect their decision.”

Final Written Testimony of Governor Inslee and Attorney General Ferguson…

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