State Politician Proposes State Pot Bank

By Tom Bacon

Even if fledgling Washington State pot entrepreneurs carefully follow all the new laws governing their business, they still have a huge problem. Unlike the corner bar, they can't deposit their receipts in a bank.

Banks - even state-chartered ones - are reluctant to accept money from marijuana operations for fear they'll run afoul of federal money-laundering laws. Washington's Governor Jay Inslee and Colorado's governor have prodded the U-S Department of Justice to relax rules which might snare pot growers.
There's no history of federal prosecutors going after banks for serving medical marijuana businesses, but bankers are still leery of having regulatory overseers clamp down on them.

Some people in the marijuana business are also reluctant to deposit large sums in bank for fear the feds might seize their assets. So, Seattle state Senator Bob Hasegawa thinks he has an answer. He and three other west side state senators are proposing setting up a state-owned bank or depository which could handle both state income and marijuana receipts.

His bill, to be introduced next spring in the state legislative session, would avoid federal oversight by having the state, rather than the F-D-I-C guarantee deposits. And any profit from the banking operation would be returned to the state. Alex Cooley, a Washington pot grower, said he'd welcome full banking services, partly because being forced into an all-cash system makes growers vulnerable to crime.

Hasegawa's bill would sweeten the deal by having the state depository help fund public works to enhance health, safety and the quality of life. He knows the idea is a long shot. But he said pot businesses need a solution.
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