WASHINGTON: When more than 1.7 million Washington residents voted to make marijuana legal for adults last November, most probably didn’t give much thought to how that would work.
Some may have wondered who would grow it and who would sell it. A few may have questioned how those businesses would set up and operate.
But the discussions likely tended more toward Cheech & Chong than Dun & Bradstreet.
As the state tries to create a legal industry that hasn’t existed before, it finds more questions than answers: How will legal marijuana grown in Washington be tracked and kept from “leaking” into the black markets in surrounding states? How will its chemical content be tested and labeled? How will it be packaged to discourage use by children?
Among the biggest questions: How will those new businesses finance their operations or pay their bills with money that might have to be kept out of the national banking system?
Several federal laws, including the Bank Secrecy Act and the Patriot Act, have severe restrictions about accepting money from drug operations.
“You can’t transact financial matters with marijuana proceeds,” said Scott Jarvis, director of the Washington Department of Financial Institutions.
Currently, medical marijuana operations in the state are having increasing trouble establishing or keeping bank accounts, said Ezra Eickmeyer of the Washington Cannabis Association.
No bank account means no credit, debit or check purchases by customers and no checks or electronic transfers to pay state taxes or fees. Legal marijuana, like its black-market counterpart, could be an all-cash business.