Banks do not want to touch the money of legal weed dealers, not even with tongs. As a means of getting rid of the penetrating scent of marijuana and to fool bank employees, the dollar bills are soaked in air freshener.
Banks do not have to be afraid of the state of Colorado. Last year, its population voted in favor of legalizing the cultivation and sale of marijuana, so providing services to this sector is permitted. However, the problem is that the federal government, as previously, still considers the drug illegal.
Fear that DEA agents would raid stores that were opened on Jan. 1 did not become reality. The Department of Justice let them know that it has other priorities. However, banks argue that the government could change its attitude at any moment. The banks could instantly become guilty of financing crime syndicates, which may result in astronomical fines.
As a result, the weed business in Colorado certainly flourishes, but nearly all payments are made in cash, as they were when it was underground. This annoys everybody. Customers cannot use their credit cards the way they are accustomed to. Shops cannot collect their turnover electronically or drop off the cash from their registers at the bank on the next block. And the government, which is counting on millions in tax revenues, has difficulties tracking the money flow.
The problem would be fixed permanently if Congress in Washington changed the rules by legalizing marijuana everywhere, or at least by exempting banks in states where the drug is legal.
However, one can wait a long time for new legislation in Washington, which is why Colorado will soon take the matter into its own hands: A new law will allow the founding of credit unions, a kind of savings bank, which provides financial services to its members. This way, weed dealers can go to their own “weed banks” for money deposits, transfers and loans.
Yet, one problem remains: Those in the market for weed will still have to pay with cash. Credit cards are typically issued by national companies, such as MasterCard or Visa. And they do not want to burn their fingers on a legal joint just yet.