Federal Reserve Blocks ‘Marijuana Bank’ in Colorado

COLORADO: Marijuana-related businesses in Colorado are so profitable that the government doesn’t know what to do with all of the tax revenue they’re generating. But business owners face a more immediate problem: Where to stash their own profits when banks won’t take it.

Because marijuana is a federally banned Schedule I substance, most banks have been reluctant to accept deposits from industry businesses. A  clumsy and ambiguous set of guidelines from the federal government, which at least seemed to indicate that banks working with dispensaries operating legally under state law would be shielded from money laundering prosecution, didn’t help.

Now the Federal Reserve is muddying the waters further with a court filing against the Fourth Corner Credit Union, which was established specifically to handle Colorado’s marijuana cash, according to NBC News:

The credit union can’t open without clearance from the Federal Reserve, which said in its filing that “transporting or transmitting funds known to have derived from the distribution of marijuana is illegal…”

The Federal Reserve said in the latest filing that bankers won’t be led away in handcuffs for taking marijuana money, but they don’t have the right to put that money in the Federal Reserve system.

By pushing for approval from the Fed, it was “as if Colorado enacted a scheme to allow trade in endangered species or trade with North Korea,” the filing says.

The Social And Political Responsibility Of The Legal Cannabis Industry

By David Rheins

This week nearly 100 women gathered at a restaurant in downtown Seattle to listen to local politicians and activists discuss their role in shaping Washington’s emerging legal marijuana industry.  The “Power of Politics” was organized by the Marijuana Business Association’s Women’s Alliance for its many women-run cannabis businesses, including sponsors Eden Labs, Washington Bud Company and Cannabis Basics.

Laughter, tears, passion, and personal herstories – there is something undeniably powerful about a gathering of women who turn out to talk about politics. The energy and determined strength that emerges when the community focuses on an issue of concern is palpable, and when those 100 women represent nearly as many legal cannabis businesses – the energy they create can transform the political and cultural landscape.

For while ostensibly the vote and the voice of every woman – and every man – are equal in importance to our representatives in government, those in the know will attest that the opinions of business owners speak loudest of all to politicians. For small and entrepreneurial businesses represent jobs, and jobs represent votes and tax revenues, and those are the things that elect and re-elect politicians.

The Marijuana Business Association (MJBA) believes that as the first generation of cannabis business owners and operators we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to positively shape the emerging marketplace and our local communities.  The new industry that we are building already represents millions of dollars of tax revenues and thousands of jobs and will only get bigger. As the first crop of business operators in the country’s fastest growing industry, we speak with loud voices.

After 75 years of prohibition and propaganda have demonized cannabis and its consumers, industry participants must be involved in the political process – as individuals through our political donations, votes and vocalizations, and as business leaders in the manner in which we conduct our trade.

The MJBA does not endorse any individual political party or politician, we see it our role to host the forums for cannabis businesses to gather, parse, discuss, distill and build consensus around relevant policy issues.  We facilitate discussion and of dissemination of relevant business intelligence and market data through our media properties like MJNewsNetwork and Marijuana Channel One, and professional education events like the MJBA Women’s Alliance “Power of Politics.”

The first legal cannabis businesses and the people who operate them are inherently political.  Each day we open our doors for business – planting, processing and selling the plant, or otherwise supporting the cannabis economy – we effect social change.  Every participant in the new legal cannabis economy is a revolutionary, changing public perceptions at every consumer touchpoint.  Each new brand identity that we create makes a political and cultural statement.

Post-prohibition culture is beginning to emerge one legal state at a time. The tone and ethos of that culture is being set by the first crop of legal cannabis brands. It is being shaped by the company cultures that we create, and in how we compensate and treat our employees. We are establishing our social values in the quality and purity of the products that we build and market, and in the manner in which we treat our customers.  Our success and sustainability as an industry will be dependent upon how we conduct ourselves as ethical businesses respectfully serving the needs of our local communities.

Marijuana Business Owners Have No Dock To Bank Cash

COLORADO:  The year began with one of the  nation’s biggest ATM sponsors refusing to allow its machines to be in businesses with ties to the marijuana trade, and it ends with the  first credit union of its kind at the precipice of opening its doors.

For the recreational marijuana trade, the roads into and out of 2014 are a study in contrasts, where the initial lockdown against access to banking services appears to be cracking, even as the drug remains illegal under federal law.

The industry’s biggest hinderance to calling the first year of legal sales in Colorado a huge financial success — more than $300 million in sales in recreational sales alone — has been the absence of a place to put all that cash.

A lack of banking — from deposits to the simple act of writing a check to pay an employee — was the biggest challenge for every pot business .

Marijuana Dispensaries Will Be Cash Businesses Unless Banks Let Them Be Customers

MASSACHUSETTS:  As nine dispensaries prepare to open in Boston’s suburbs to dispense medical marijuana in 2015, several have yet to find a bank that will take their money because the drug is still illegal on the federal level. “As a federally regulated financial institution, we abide by federal law and do not bank marijuana-related businesses,” said Mark Pipitone, a spokesman for Bank of America. While 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana nearly two years ago, dispensaries are scurrying to find a bank to accept deposits, which would allow them to avoid having to accept cash for their products and allow them to pay bills with checking accounts. The prospect of an all-cash business touches the nerves of the new medical marijuana entrepreneurs.

Pot Holders

WASHINGTON: On Valentine’s Day, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a memorandum clarifying the government’s advice to the nation’s banks about how to deal with the booming cannabis industry. It wasn’t exactly a love letter.

Sure, Treasury outlined a series of guidelines for “assessing the risk of providing services to a marijuana-related business”—but was that meant to be taken as advice to banks for getting into the weed game, and why would Treasury be telling banks how to get into the weed game if there were risks?

Most bankers and “potpreneurs” shrugged. The memo made clear that the manufacture and distribution of marijuana remains a federal crime, under the Controlled Substances Act, which means bankers who knowingly grant checking accounts or loan money to anyone in the cannabis industry risk federal prosecution for money laundering or conspiracy. Pot growers and dispensers worried they would still be hauling around bagfuls of cash, and claiming they operate such legitimate enterprises as sports bars and strip clubs when they really sell cannabis. Treasury’s letter wouldn’t change anything.

Except it has. That memo may have offered little more than tacit approval of banks’ getting into business with Mary Jane, but it was enough of a wink and a nod to convince at least a couple of brave (or desperate) banks or credit unions to stick their necks out and roll the dice, if not the doobies.