The Boston Globe reports that several of the medical pot dispensaries that are poised to open in Massachusetts in the near future are having trouble finding banks that will take deposits from them:
As nine dispensaries prepare to open in Boston’s suburbs to dispense medical marijuana in 2015, several have yet to find a bank that will take their money because the drug is still illegal on the federal level.
“As a federally regulated financial institution, we abide by federal law and do not bank marijuana-related businesses,” said Mark Pipitone, a spokesman for Bank of America.
“Banks are taking a very cautious approach to this customer segment because of the potential repercussions from regulators, the federal government, and especially the Department of Justice,” said Paul Evangelista, a vice president at Century Bank. Evangelista said Century Bank has met with representatives from dispensaries, but has not decided if it will accept their business.
The difficulty that dispensaries are facing in obtaining access to banking services presents a big safety problem. If dispensaries are forced to do business on a cash-only basis, they could become targets for robberies. Their patients could too, with one dispensaries telling the Globe they will be charging $300 an ounce for pot.
If any cash-only dispensaries end up getting robbed, we will probably see pot prohibionists claiming that pot itself was somehow responsible, but this situation is a reminder that most "drug-related" violence is really a byproduct government controls which push drug transactions into the black market.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in January that dispensaries should be able to use banks, but it apparently hasn't helped the dispensaries in Massachusetts yet. Furthermore, if the federal government only respects medical pot, they will still create problems in states where pot is legal for recreational use. Colorado and Washington have already legalized pot and a number of other states are likely to follow suit in the near future.
Here in Massachusetts, the Marijuana Policy Project, which pushed for legalization in Colorado, is now working to get legalization on the 2016 ballot. A recent Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll found that a majority of Massachusetts voters support legalization.
If the feds don't end their war on pot once and for all, and do it soon, we'll probably be having this conversation again in a few years.