Inslee, Ferguson ask Congress to change banking laws for legal pot business

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sent joint testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws and urged Congress to do something about opening up the use of banks to the legal pot industry.

In their testimony, the two state leaders thanked President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for their recent guidance on federal enforcement priorities and outlined how the state plans to address those priorities.

"At the same time," their testimony said, "certain aspects of federal law are making it difficult for entrepreneurs seeking to enter the regulated marijuana market and comply with (Washington state's) Initiative 502. Most importantly, business owners attempting to comply with Initiative 502 are having great difficulty accessing banking services, because federal law can impose regulatory and criminal penalties on banks that accept money they know to be proceeds from drug sales, even if those sales are legal under state law.
"This situation unfortunately undermines federal priorities, because it means that legitimate business owners acting in full compliance with state law may still need to operate on an all-cash basis. This will make it more difficult for the state to audit their books, track their income, and differentiate those acting within the law from those possibly using proceeds from regulated marijuana sales to fund illegal activities. We are additionally concerned that by operating on an all-cash basis, licensees may become a target for theft and burglary, thereby creating additional public safety challenges.

"We encourage the Department of Justice to provide federal banking regulators further guidance in this area. We would also ask you to consider legislation such as H.R.2652—
the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2013, which would allow banks to accept deposits from legitimate marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law," Inslee and Ferguson said in their written testimony.