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Washington State Looking for Pot-Friendly Bank

Posted on September 27, 2013 by News Admin

Washington state is looking for a bank to handle their finances - including large sums of money collected from recreational cannabis sales and licensing.

Banking has been a problem for some time now for medical cannabis dispensaries and other businesses that are tied to medical cannabis funds. Basically, since marijuana is federally-illegal and banks are insured by the federal government, major banks have steered clear of marijuana businesses. But this latest move by the state could finally push the issue to a head.

Currently, Bank of America handles the state finances - including medical marijuana money. According to state treasurer Jim McIntire, it isn't a problem.

"I'm not too worried about it," McIntire tells the Daily Olympian. "It's actually one of the advantages of having Bank of America as your contractor. It's unlikely, I think, that the federal government would raid them. And they're big enough to look out for themselves on this."

But Bank of America's seven-year contract expires in June of 2014, which means the state is obligated to take proposals from other financial institutions. The catch this time is that the state is expressly asking for accounts dedicated to marijuana funds - most likely in the form of large cash deposits since dispensaries likely won't have bank accounts themselves.

So, basically the state wants a bank that will work with them, but not necessarily from the people the state is taking money from. Keeping state marijuana accounts separate from other state accounts would help prevent the feds from seizing all state assets.
Tax estimates for Washington show that as much as $3.2 billion in additional revenue could be seen over the next decade due to cannabis sales.

There is hope for marijuana banking, however. Back in July, Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter introduced legislation that would address the conflict of federal and state laws. Perlmutter's plan would allows banks, credit unions and other "depository institutions" to hold accounts with cannabis businesses.

"We need to address the public safety, crime and lost tax revenue associated when these legal and regulated businesses are operating in a cash-only system," Perlmutter said at the time. "We also need to provide financial institutions assurance that they can make their own business decisions related to legal, financial transactions without fear of regulatory penalties or criminal prosecution."