Politics Blog

Feds still have no answer on banking problem for Washington pot industry

The opening of state-sanctioned recreational marijuana stores is still at least a half a year away in Washington, so there's still a lot of time to fix this. But as of now, federal regulations would still exclude marijuana businesses from access to banks.

At a U.S. House hearing on Thursday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to contemplate the prospect of a billion-dollar-a-year industry operating without bank accounts, checks or credit cards--just wads of cash. Cash for employees. Cash for the landlord. Cash for office furniture. Cash for taxes.

""It is in fact, sir, an open invitation --- it is setting out the welcome mat to organized crime and disorganized crime," Heck told Lew.

Lew said the situation was challenging for federal officials.

Rob Hotakainen of McClatchy News Service reports here.

Meanwhile, Colorado is fast-tracking the marijuana industry, hoping to have some stores open in January. That state's voters approved legalization of recreational pot at the same time as Washington state. Here is an earlier report, also from Hotakainen.

Based on this report, it looks as though Colorado is speeding up the process by allowing existing medical marijuana dispensaries to convert to recreational sales. In Washington state, federal prosecutors have called the existing medical marijuana businesses "not tenable," and federal agencies have raided those businesses in the past year.

In this more recent dispatch, the AP reports that the availability of legal marijuana may be spotty in Colorado in the first few months, as entrepreneurs deal with the red tape.

Child-resistant packaging is just one of the problems they confront.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/12/12/211481/lew-all-cash-pot-stores-pose-serious.html#storylink=cpy