U.S. Rep. Denny Heck is urging passage of legislation he is co-sponsoring that would enable banks to do business with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses without fear of federal penalties.
Heck represents Washington's 10th District, which includes Olympia and portions of Pierce County.
Voters in Washington and Colorado have struck down state laws against growing, distributing and selling marijuana for recreational use. State-sanctioned marijuana stores are already doing business in Colorado, and are expected to be operating in Washington by midyear.
But marijuana remains a federally-prohibited drug, and federal banking laws impose serious consequences on banks involved with illegal drug sales. Unless that changes, marijuana businesses would have to operate on an all-cash basis: No bank accounts. No checks. No credit cards.
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Federal officials say they are studying the situation, but Heck says it is time for action.
"Every week that passes without new guidance ... is another week the regulated marijuana markets in Washington and Colorado must operate on a cash-only basis," Heck said in a press release. "The potential for tax evasion, money laundering, and robbery is lingering over what voters want to be a safely regulated industry."
The legislation co-sponsored by Heck and Colorado's U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter says federal agencies may not take action, or even threaten to take action, against banks doing business with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.