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House votes to allow marijuana businesses use banks

Marijuana shop
Marijuana shop
Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

The republican led House of Representatives voted yesterday to allow legal marijuana businesses to use banking services. The inability to use banks has been a serious issue for both recreational and medicinal marijuana shops in states that have legalized its use.

This is a major victory for business owners in a major growth industry who, up until now, have had to do business with cash transactions only. This has led to serious concerns about the safety of marijuana workers who must transport the cash.

Not only that, but taxation rules have been penalizing these same businesses for not having bank accounts. Other IRS rules do not allow them to deduct certain business expenses that are necessary to run their businesses.

The federal government has made it clear that they are more than willing to profit from the sale of marijuana through taxation, but they are unwilling to relax restrictions that make running those businesses difficult and cumbersome. With marijuana legalization expanding throughout the states, the federal government has been forced to make a move if they want to keep getting their share of the pie.

"They are operating just in cash, which creates its own potential for crime, robbery, assault and battery," said Representative Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. "You cannot track the money. There is skimming and tax evasion. So the guidance by the Justice Department and the guidance by the Treasury Department is to bring this out into the open."

In other words, the feds are perfectly happy to allow states to legalize pot as long as they give them a cut. But the federal government seems unlikely to legalize it any time soon. The White House webpage states that they are in favor of keeping it illegal, though President Obama himself has said it is a states’ rights issue and will not interfere.

Republicans have been historically less pro-pot, which is why this vote is so surprising. The vote was 236-186, with 46 republicans joining in the yes vote, though seven democrats did vote no. Most citizens are very strongly in favor of ending the prohibition of marijuana; some polls have the numbers at nearly three quarters of the population.

The treasury department has already been moving toward allowing the businesses to use banking services anyway, but the vote is still an indication that marijuana is becoming much more accepted, even in the halls of congress.

"Whereas the federal government once stood in the way of marijuana reform at every opportunity, the changing politics of this issue are such that more politicians are now working to accommodate popular state laws so that they can be implemented effectively," said marijuana advocate Tom Angell.