More progress has been made on the marijuana legalization movement as Attorney General Eric Holder announced new regulations to allow banks to process money made from the legal marijuana business. Medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as their recreational counterparts in Colorado, have been dealing strictly in cash since banks have been reluctant to deal with a business still categorized as criminal on the federal level. They cited fears of losing their charters or, worse, money laundering charges, though they apparently have no qualms about working with Mexican drug cartels.
Dealing in nothing but cash definitely has its logistical headaches even from the government’s perspective. City halls and state capitols don’t want someone coming in with a briefcase full of cash handcuffed to their wrist just to pay their taxes. More importantly, though, there is the safety issue of having a building full of weed and cash, having people traveling with large amounts of cash on them, walking fish stuck in a barrel of bureaucracy waiting for some gang of new up-and-comers into the criminal life who want to test their chops on a robbery that won’t involve armored cars and the FBI before deciding if they’re really Ocean’s 11 material.
"There's a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash - substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited - is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective," said Holder.
This latest announcement clears the only obstacle that could have potentially kept the dominoes from falling. With public opinion overwhelmingly favoring legalization along with prominent politicians including the President admitting that marijuana is safer than alcohol there was already not much standing in the way toward eventual legalization. Obama refers to the recreational legalization in Colorado and Washington as experiments, but with this major obstacle out of the way we may not get much in the way of long-term data before the other states start falling.
Oregon and Alaska have qualified to get it on the ballot this year with California as a possibility, according to Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He predicts that if they fail to get on the ballot for 2014, these states will join Massachusetts and Maine in 2016.
Missouri has activists collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would add an amendment to the state constitution legalizing the regulation and taxation of marijuana. They have to collect 320,000 signatures by May 4th to see this on the November ballot. It’s unclear what to expect from this.
As Missouri goes, so goes the nation. Missouri has traditionally had trouble picking sides on the big issues. On any given issue the Show Me State may fake right then come in left, or vice versa. In the Civil War Missouri gave allegiance to both the Union and the Confederacy. More recently, they passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage or the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states, then decided to allow members of gay unions that were federally recognized to file their state taxes jointly, as well.
Marijuana, like other issues, is also fairly split in Missouri, but the debate has been going on since the nineties. It might just now be time. Nationwide polls show a good sized majority favoring legalization. Let’s see if Missouri mirrors that this November at the ballot box.
You can do it, Missouri! May the Fourth be with you.